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Friday, May 29, 2015

The Godfather Part II (Francis Ford Coppola 1974)


Based on a screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo, partially based elements of his novel The Godfather which didn't make it into Part I whilst others were written specifically for the sequel, The Godfather Part II still stands as one of the greatest sequels ever made and the first to ever win an Academy Award for Best Picture. Bringing back the entire original cast, except for those characters that didn't survive the first film, and adding a young Robert De Niro in a career defining role as well as director of the famed Actors Studio Lee Strasberg, The Godfather Part II extended its scope and arguably topped the original, which is a masterpiece in its own right.
Whilst playing off the youth and rise of a young Vito Corleone (De Niro) as a migrant in early twentieth century New York against the moral downfall of his son Michael (Al Pacino) as he becomes the head of the Corleone family after the events of the first movie, The Godfather Part II sees the family business grow as the family moves their business interests into Las Vegas as well as Cuba. But Michael learns that power comes with a price as his marriage with Kay (Diane Keaton) slowly disintegrates under the pressures which come with leading a large crime syndicate and some of his seeming allies turn against him and use those close to him to do so.
Turning in his third masterpiece in a row in two years (after the first Godfather and The Conversation), Francis Ford Coppola did the seemingly impossible by turning in a movie which rivaled and possibly even exceeded the very high standard set by the original. Robert De Niro is fantastic as the young Vito Corleone (played by Marlon Brando in the first film) and The Godfather arguably truly started his career as one of the top American actors of his generation (although he had made Scorsese's Mean Streets the year before) and the screenplay was nothing less than ambitious by being both a prequel and sequel to the original film, perfectly paralleling Vito's rise against Michael's moral fall. Special mention should also go to Pacino, whose portrayal of Michael is nothing less than stunning and still a career highlight. The Godfather Part II was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, winning six including Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actor and Adapted Screenplay. Possibly the ultimate gangster film, The Godfather Part II once again proved a critical darling as commercial behemoth and one of the best films to have come out of Hollywood. Must-see cinema.