The Godfather Part II (1974)
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Written by Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo, based on the novel by Mario Puzo
Cinematography by Gordon Willis
Starring Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, and Robert DeNiro
I was not a fan of the first Godfather film, and less so of its sequel. I enjoyed the intercutting of the young Vito’s storyline with Michael’s, and the sheer scope of the saga is impressive in itself, seeing as it encompasses at least two whole generations of the family. The mise-en-scenes, as usual for a Coppola production, are detailed and lifelike, and he invites you to read these images like a book.
Unfortunately, the episodic storyline was more about a place, a time, and a bunch of interrelated themes about America than it was about any of the characters. As he himself has noted, he is playing into the audience’s pleasurable sense of having “insider” knowledge of an exclusive organization. For some reason, however, that insider status didn’t thrill me the way it should. I realize that Al Pacino is a great actor, but his brooding demeanor felt one-note at times, and the more blatantly superficial character actors were a breath of fresh air. His explosion of anger against his wife was a welcome view of Michael as a human being rather than a “business” man and “family” leader, but ultimately his relationship with Kay felt less important than the ostensible political intrigue meant to drive this film. I don’t want to pigeonhole a classic or attempt to force it within my own expectations, but I couldn’t help feeling that The Godfather Part II lacked the immediate and subversive aesthetic that I’ve come to associate with 1970’s film as a whole.