Kunga Sagar’s review published on Letterboxd:
As read in the history books, DP Gordon Willis was of course recognized for his groundbreaking work on the two Godfather films, winning best cinematography for- oh wait, he wasn’t even nominated and The Towering Inferno won instead. He would further change cinema with more collaborations with Diane Keaton, lighting up the screen with Annie Hall, Interiors and the most iconic New York movie Manhattan, but it’s like really guys, not even a nomination? The Academy is basically Hyman Roth here. Or Littlefinger, for my HBO fans. Speaking of tv, Danny Aiello’s ad libbed “Michael Corleone says hello” line brought back PTSD from Game of Thrones’ Red Wedding scene (“Lannisters send their regards”). Also Michael in the courtroom is Kendall in Succession’s season 2 finale. Don’t blame me for partially spoiling, y’all shoved the Luke Skywalker reveal in The Mandalorian down my throat, this is payback time. Anyways, on to the magic of the movies.
Francis Ford Coppola makes the consensus best American film, and what does he do afterwards? Make a Blow Up inspired offbeat thriller, The Conversation, that doesn’t have a hint of ‘big director trying to make more bank.’ Much to his contempt, he returned to The Godfather saga and made a sequel (and prequel) that not only matches its brilliance, it manages to dive deeper into its world with a darker and at times more truthful depiction. Coppola is flexing at this point, mesmerizingly staging and writing each scene so that they each feel like their own short film. Nino Rota’s score cuts through my heart every time, especially in the fresh faced Robert De Niro scenes that are so melancholic in its portrayal. For as much as the score is pretty, it can just as menacing during the assassination scenes. De Niro deserved his Oscar (and the way his assassination scenes are shot deserves awards), but no John Cazale nomination? He breaks my heart and stomps on it every time, I don’t care if three Godfather members were already nominated, throw in Robert Duvall and make it a starting five all-star lineup. There’s not a single filler scene, the editing and pacing justifies the film’s length and its flashback structure. The film is worth studying for detail in its shot composition alone, it makes me tear up how ethereal some scenes are.
Bruno Kirby’s young Clemenza is hilarious, as is Michael V. Gazzo’s Frank Pentangeli, both serving as terrific foils to calm and cool Vito and moody and somber Michael. Al Pacino terrifyingly electrifies the screen as usual. I’ve yet to see Art Carney in Harry and Tonto, can’t comment on there, but man did the Academy hate Pacino in the 70s. He’s a cold motherfucker in this, but there’s traces of the old army boy Michael, as well as the feelings he’s really hiding. Truly a tragic character. His scenes with Kay and Fredo? Flawless. The first movie makes you want to emulate him and by the end of the second you have contempt for the guy. Lee Strasberg acting class material. Speak of the devil, his Hyman Roth shirtless look? Iconic. Gangster shit. Dominic Chianese, a.k.a. The Sopranos’ Uncle Junior, portrays Johnny Ola with such warmth that you almost don’t notice the underlying sleeze. I can notice something new in every performance (and filmmaking techniques for that matter), like how deep did they really go here? Is it just an illusion? You know the acting is good when the whole review could’ve just been about that.
I’m glad Marlon Brando didn’t show up for his cameo, the final scene works better. Besides, how can you ever top the Robert Towne written scene between Vito and Michael? There’s nothing new about praising The Godfather films, we’re all taught at a young age to believe that they’re the best “old” films ever, but Part II is as modern as it gets; it’s weird at times, it’s unpleasant, and far from a romanticized version of mob life. Don’t ask me to choose between the two, I worship both for different reasons. The film manages to be ‘can’t take your eyes off the screen’ entertaining and a worthy successor. It’s rare when you have this many artists coming together at their peak to create a piece that makes you realize why we look to art in the first place. Escapism? Sure, reflection upon reality? Yes, but why not both? Such as the flexibility of art, to please the eyes and ears, make you feel and reflect, and comment on the world outside of your screens.