The Godfather: Part II

The Godfather: Part II ★★★★


Third full viewing (I think), and how the tables have finally turned. Score down from 82 (and at one point before I started using Letterboxd, I'd have considered this a 5-star film); still think it's pretty great, but the older and more learned I get, the more its flaws become apparent to me. This time, I kept thinking about how awesome a three (or even two-and-a-half) hour "prequel only" would've been, keeping the entire events of the film contained to the pre-GODFATHER Vito days, devoted solely to his rise to glory on Ellis Island. And yeah, I get that the film is purposely employing the prequel/sequel helix as a narrative barometer of Vito and Michael's glaring differences as Don of the Corleone family -- the former a man of utmost integrity and (relatively) decent intentions, the latter a solipsistic megalomaniac, paranoid and egocentric, willing to protect his self-interest at any and all costs -- but there's just so much of the old-Michael stuff that's muddled and ugly : lots of purposeful convolution that isn't really necessary for a 200+ minute movie. Its deepest valley occurs during the final hour's legal proceedings where it starts to feel like Coppola's just elongating things for the hell of it. Not to imply it's without occasional greatness, though : Fredo's Kiss of Death continues to give me all kinds of body-wide chills and the closing pageantry showing Michael's decision to join the Marines -- the only portion of THE GODFATHER PART II that crosses chronologic paths with the first film -- might be my favorite moment of the whole trilogy. And for whatever it's worth, I think Pacino is twice the actor here than he was just two years prior, and De Niro does an impeccable job of patching the massive hole created by the absence of the series' most identifiable character. For the first time I guess I realize -- despite the still massive length -- how much more intimate and succinct THE GODFATHER is compared to its rather messy follow-up. That's the curse of being an oft-hailed masterwork, though : criticisms tend to come down a little harder. (But really, imagine a world where the same director releases this and THE CONVERSATION in the same year.)

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