This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Zachary⚡’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
The Godfather Part 2 Analysis (AFI TOP 100 CLUB!!!)
So I feel like my first Godfather reviews were pretty confusing and possibly too jokey to some people. My excuse is that I was a bit too excited that day because I just saw Good Time and I finally saw The Godfather Part 2. So here I am clearing the air.
The first two Godfather movies are very long in their run-time. A long run-time can give an introduction to how our characters felt in the film, if every scene is dynamic or important. Given how dynamic and important each scene is in The Godfather and in Part 2, it further intrigues and engages the audience to continue with the experience and enliven the slowly passing time. However, despite both Godfathers’ sprawling and epic nature, both are completely different.
The first Godfather explored the concept of family. I did not explain this in my first review (because I was lazy), so I’ll just explain it now. I believe my main points can be explained through the opening shot. The first Godfather opens with a huge wedding party. And we are introduced to the family: the Corleone family. It’s this sense of brotherhood and camaraderie that is displayed. Doing favors for each other, having respect for each other. This makes an audience member more inclined to support this family regardless of what these favors entails. And displaying these two traits, does a pretty interesting study of family. Not only are we studying the Corleone family, but we are studying how families themselves are constructed given the parallels between a typical American family and the infamous Corleone mafia family. The family drama, the love for the mother, the wives cooking in the kitchen, the men going out to their jobs. It’s representative of the very typical family structure. So therefore, we see our families in this mafia family. It’s uncanny and plain, but ultimately we feel empathetic.
In examining the structure of family, The Godfather shows how the mafia itself has a very patriarchal structure. Coppola asks us to investigate this dynamic further when he introduces children into the frame. I noticed while watching, that when the Corleone’s were discussing something about the family itself, a child would walk into the frame. Now the frame is composed with a child and a man. This shows a clear juxtaposition. Childhood innocence vs adulthood masculinity. It’s this juxtaposition that makes an audience more self-aware of the certain structure of the family. Almost like a wake-up call. It probes us to analyze the family itself. How the women are subdued in cooking and typically unimportant roles while the men engage themselves in more important roles. And these important roles are considered masculine such as fighting, killing and so on and so forth. I feel Coppola analyzes this divide very well by making the characters either inherently masculine or inherently feminine contrasting the two. The Godfather comes off, to me, an examination of the construction of family, and how a family works and how it functions and what it entails eventually questioning the construction of our own.
The Godfather is definitely a story about the family itself making it more of a personal glimpse of this dangerous family and simulatenous charting the epic fall of Vito Corleone and the rise of Michael. It feels confined because it focuses a lot on the family’s changes, but I appreciate it for that.
And how is this different from The Godfather Part 2?
The Godfather Part 2 is less focused on the family, and more focused on juxtaposing the defining socio-economic concepts of the early 1900s and the 50s of America. It seems like The Godfather Part 2 is more infatuated with analyzing a time period, than the actual family.
Let me first talk about how The Godfather Part 2 analyzes the early 1900s. America is displayed as a beacon of hope. A place where immigrants can escape to and ultimately escape their own troubles. May it be famine or even the mafia, which is why Vito runs away from Italy. You see the faces of the immigrants entering Ellis Island, monumentally gazing at the Statue of Liberty. They now have liberty and they appreciate that. The Godfather Part 2 allows us to examine the immigration process, not only letting us see Vito’s perspective, but also allowing us to examine the glorious sets and the bureaucracy itself. As you know, Vito becomes a very well-known figure, becoming a strong willed Don. How did he succeed to this level? It’s because the times were simple. It was carefree. You could get away with murder and all sorts of crimes. And freedom. So much freedom. The immigrants were with each other and felt more connected creating a lot more success in the Italian community and also in the Mafia world. Again, we see this sense of brotherhood and camaraderie inside the Italian community. It was a time of simplicity and success was easily reachable with hard work.
Now let’s enter the 50s, a time of political instability. The family is growing and growing faster. And therefore, they need to be financially active so they enter the international market exploring Cuba and whatnot while also remaining top dog. Quite the juggling act. Compared to the 20s, where things were simple and small scale, the 50s seem to present more complicated problems. The government is more solid, the police is more aware, cars are changing, and with the changing times: the family begins to grow apart. Now that the Italians have assimilated with American culture by the 50s, there is a loss of brotherhood and camaraderie that we saw in the 20s and in The Godfather itself. The family is skewed apart by their loss from the now changing Italian culture in America. The Godfather Part 2 displays the slow death of not only the family, but the death of their culture now lost in assimilation into American’s multi-cultured basket.
And how did this happen? Why is the family struggling, both personally and physically? Because they need to adapt with change. The adaptation of the Italians resulting in assimilation, caused their culture to be at loss. Michael’s decision to grow the family and cut the more personal “Italian” ties is adapting to the atmosphere, yet losing his roots. It becomes the more evident, when Michael is taking favors from people who are not Italians and not his friends or brethren; a scene similar to the opening scene of The Godfather. When Michael cuts his more personal ties, it’s the final nail in the coffin. The Godfather Part 2 is an examination of the death of culture through assimilation and adaptation.
We question, “Why do they adapt and assimilate, why did they sacrifice their culture and ultimately their more familial roots”. It’s because of the changing times. The political state, social state, and economic state caused this change. With concepts such as political corruption, economic strife, and socialism being thrown around through dialogue and in a lot more of a subtle level, not only introduces the complexity of the 50s compared to the early 1900s, but also brings reason to the family growing apart. You could interpret that the now stronger government, caused more problems for the mafia family itself. Another theory could be that the rising economy caused industries to grow. With the desire to make their products more accessible, they spread the idea of American culture further. T.V spreads these ideas further through commercials allowing people to be subdued in their products or American culture. Eventually, losing their true ethnic identity and assimilate to a collective American identity. And this is what I love about The Godfather Part 2: any concept is acceptable.
In the end, Coppola presents these two different times and allows us to question: how did this happen? What caused this schism or shift? Coppola’s brilliantly framed shots allows an audience to digest the scene and form their own conclusions.
The reason why I find The Godfather Part 2 better than the first, is because Coppola not only creates visually astounding and near perfectly framed shots, but also clearly allows any audience to compare and contrast both times. The Godfather focuses more on the personal aspect of the family while The Godfather Part 2 explores the ramifications of time and the culture. To me, it’s more of an affecting story than The Godfather’s examination of the Corleone family. Sure The Godfather had a lot other different themes and ideas it explored, but I feel like The Godfather Part 2 has a larger scale. The Godfather may reveal the construction of family and may have an in-depth analysis of such, but The Godfather Part 2 explores something beyond a family unit: the change of culture and how it affects the people around us.
What I love about the first two films, is that it never seems subjective in its approach. It proposes shots that typically shows a scene in the most objective way possible allowing an audience a lot of room to analyze each scene and form their own different opinions. And in doing so, Coppola, allows us to experience the epic-ness, stakes, and character changes of this famed family in an objective and unbiased format allowing the audience more power.
I hope this makes my thoughts on the first two films more concise. I am sorry if my reviews did not make any sense since they were more like jokes.
I have a bunch of Woody Allen reviews that I am ready to submit, but I shall release each one periodically.