The Godfather: Part II

The Godfather: Part II ★★★★★

When I first watched The Godfather Part II, I liked it a lot. It has since grown on me and, for the first time, I can't quite choose which is the best between the first and the second. Almost everything about both films is practically perfect.

If screenwriters Coppola and Mario Puzo had decided to make the film a pure continuation from the first one, it would be nowhere near as revered or even as effective as it is in reality. The four (or five) extended flashbacks detailing Vito's life are exquisite, giving the film even more heft than it would already have had, and have an affecting simplicity and symbolism that perfectly counterbalances the convoluted, often hectic goings-on of the main storyline. They look stunning, as well.

Al Pacino is once again on top form. Drawing on his performance from the previous film, Pacino strips away any remaining shreds of sympathy and plays Michael as a pure villain who by the end, through his alienation of those around him, has got his comeuppance without realising it (or choosing to acknowledge it). What's interesting is that his father, the person arguably responsible for Michael's terrible ways, is played by Robert De Niro as a far more sympathetic (if still violent) person.

It is very hard to know which of the characters to take sides with during the film, as they are all as bad as each other, and we can criticise the less morally reprehensible characters for the poor decisions they make. But characterisation isn't everything; one has to admire the production's ambitious scope and scale which doesn't bloat the film for a second. Once again Coppola shows off his affinity for lighting and staging (he was clearly most at home directing small groups of people in rooms). Nino Rota's music is arguably finer than his work for the first film, too.

The Godfather Part II is indisputably the greatest cinematic sequel of all time, both adding to the legend originated by its predecessor and enhancing it by creating the illusion of two films happening at the same time. Meditative and solemn, it is a rich experience to say the least.

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