The Godfather: Part II (4 of 4)

“I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart!” –Michael Corleone

Almost as quickly as The Godfather was recognized as a masterpiece, Paramount wanted more from Coppola. An amazing change of mind on Paramount’s part after much real-life drama with Coppola during the filming of the first movie. Coppola had put so much effort into the first film, that he needed complete control over the sequel. So Paramount gave him that–complete artistic power (and large percentages of the profits). It was the offer he couldn’t refuse, if you will. The result? Part II won even more Oscars than its predecessor bagging six including Best Picture and Best Director, and even challenged a masterpiece in its achievements.

The movie actually tells parallel stories. One, a prequel, the story of Don Vito Corleone’s rise to power upon first coming to America. The other a continuation of Michael’s descent into destruction caused by the organized crime world.

Robert De Niro, who won the Oscar for his supporting role, plays the young Don Vito. The film tracks him quickly from  his boyhood through the birth of his youngest son Michael before trailing off. The two time-lines are inter-cut through specifically identified defining moments in both the father, Vito, and the son, Michael, as they grow their power. Killings and deals are viewed back and forth–an obvious allusion to the similarities in their lives.

As promised to Kay, Michael is attempting to make the family business legitimate. But the five years have passed, in fact it’s been seven, and the “family” is still criminal and driven by violence. Michael’s casinos and hotels are doing well, but the FBI and state governments are tightening their grip. Through an old business connection to his father Michael joins forces with a Jewish hotel and casino/club owner, Roth, in Havana, Cuba.

While dodging assassination attempts and stepping further into the control of even more profitable enterprises, Michael gets caught in an investigation by a federal committee to expose him as the head of the Corleone crime organization. His freedom protected only by the brother of an old Italian gangster formerly employed by his father.

Back home, his family life dwindles quickly as he suffers a betrayal from his older brother Fredo, a divorce from his wife and the loss of a child from an abortion. The movie ends as he keeps his unspoken promise to Fredo and makes the call necessary for his own brother’s murder.

The Godfather: Part II is every bit as good as the first film. Its detail is truly remarkable. Characters that were vivid and fleshed out in The Godfather are real in comparison. The greatest agony of the power gained by Michael and the flashbacks to his father’s early days are cyclical displays of evil. The paths the father and son choose ultimately lead to death, and maybe not physical death. But the death of relationships, of marriages, of brothers, of friendships and of families entirely. The loyalty that Michael and his father so strongly desired is the one thing they can’t gain, even among their own bloodline.

The same praises could be sung of all the technical achievements of the first film. The tone and consistency in the color-schemes, sets and costumes is unsurpassed. There are as many, if not more, memorable scenes as the first film: the New Year’s party in Havana, the lake where Fredo is killed, and the towel-wrapped pistol of Vito’s first merciless assassination and seizing of power all the way through his roof-top disposal of the gun smashed into pieces.

The movie’s greatest mark of accomplishment is that in all that happens, all the twists and betrayals and murders and dysfunctional family dynamics, it never looses sight of its application. Every sculpted scene in this gangster movie landmark is a working illustration towards the absolute and terminal depiction of the loneliness profited from greed. Maybe Matthew 16:26 could have given insight to the Corleone family had their religious spurts been more than a façade. “For what does a man profit, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?”

Which do you think is better, The Godfather or The Godfather: Part II (and why)? Who is the better Don Vito, Brando or De Niro? Which was the better era for organized crime Vito’s or Michael’s? Comment in the sidebar!

<—–Over and Up

Tyler

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  1. I propose everybody to watch The Godfather: Part II, I viewed this movie yesterday and I think it is very fine.

    • Adam
    • March 23rd, 2011

    The godfather beacuse In my view it has more intenseity but there both awesome movies everybody is entitled to thier own views.Brando beacuse he has the cunning he didn’t want to get Micheal involved beacuse he was trying to do what’s best.Micheals beacuse once Vito died thus ending his era Micheal was able to kill the heads of the 5 family and mo green make the move to Nevada and do countless other things.

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