Saturday, 13 August 2011

The Godfather Part II: Memories

There is a very strange feeling one feels when watching the second installment of the mafia saga. It is a masterpiece in filmmaking, however I do not enjoy it as much as the first one. I prefer the New York setting of the first movie, the events in the narrative, and the performances by James Caan and the incomparable Marlon Brando. Aside from this preference, the second film is still one of the greatest films ever made. Here are just a few of my thoughts on the picture...

One of the most common replies I get from people when I ask them if they have seen or if they like The Godfather Part II, is 'De Niro is in it'. I'm sure I am not alone when I say that I was cynical at first hearing that they cast someone to play young Vito Corleone. I thought, who on earth is going to make this believable? Brando has created such a unique character, only Brando can do it. But of course, I was totally wrong. De Niro gives the most mesmerising performance I have ever seen. Whilst retaining some of the mannerisms that Brando had made given the character i.e. touching his cheek, low, husky voice, he also made it completely his own. By combining Brando's older Don, with his own Younger Don, De Niro also managed to make the role his own, whilst merging a realistic and very believable similarity with Brando's. De Niro is simply spellbinding, not to mention looking his breathtaking best! He makes it impossible to take our eyes off Vito Corleone. He deserved his Oscar for this.

Al Pacino really portrays Michael Corleone superbly. We truly feel that this is a man who did not want the life he is now living, who is trying to escape the evils of what his life involves, but who is constantly pulled back in darkness by enemies and even, his own family. He brings the character of Michael Corleone to a whole new level, and the scene where he finds out that his wife Kay has had an abortion, is full of force. We can see the rage building in his eyes, to the point where even we want to run out of the room.

My favourite scene in the film is when young Vito and his family are returning from their holiday in Siciliy and there is a very brief shot of them all on the train. Vito is holding Michael in his arms, and tells his son, 'Michael, say good-bye'. It is an adorable shot. In the first film, it is clear the entire way through that Vito did not want Michael to get involved in the business, but knew that he was the only one of his sons who could do it properly. He could see himself in Michael alone. And that shot of them on the train, as well as a previous shot of Vito holding Michael as a baby telling him he loves a lot shows it seemlessly. There is a fatherly-son bond emphasised in this film between Vito and Michael and it is beautiful to watch.

One scene that really caught my notice, but didn't at first because I was too exicted for Brando to make an appearance (he doesn't by the way), was Michael's flashback of his father's birthday on the day of the Pearl Harbor attacks. The whole family are sat around the table awaiting their father's return. It is here that Sonny says how much he disagrees and despises those who fight in wars for a country that isn't in their blood, to which Michael responds that he has already enlisted in the marines. Sonny is furious and even Tom, lovely sweet Tom is massively disappointed. The only one that congratulates Michael and goes to shake his hand is Fredo. The sad thing is, that even though Fredo betrayed his brother terribly, he stuck by Michael and gave him his support when no one else did at this particular moment. I found that scene particularly moving for it occurs just after Michael has Fredo killed. At first I was really gutted that Brando doesn't appear in the final scene, but looking at it now it's better without him. We don't want to see his father's reaction.

The image of Michael sat at the table alone whilst his family all greet the father in the other room, then dissolving to the memory of Michael and his father on the train leaving Sicily, then fading to an older Michael- is much more powerfuly. Silver streaks running through his jet black hair, dark circles under his eyes, and a tired look in his eyes- we see that Michael is again alone, with no support.

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