In the midst of trying to legitimize his business dealings in New York City and Italy in 1979, aging Mafia Don Michael Corleone seeks to avow for his sins, while taking his nephew Vincent Mancini under his wing.
The continuing saga of the Corleone crime family tells the story of a young Vito Corleone growing up in Sicily and in 1910s New York; and follows Michael Corleone in the 1950s as he attempts to expand the family business into Las Vegas, Hollywood and Cuba.Written by
Keith Loh <email@example.com>
In a scene set in 1960, Tom Hagen says that nobody could kill the President of the United States and Michael Corleone replies that anyone could be killed. Of course three years later, President John F. Kennedy was killed, and there are some theories that the Mafia was involved in the assassination. See more »
During the "Little Italy" parade in the long shot a white man opens a window and looks out. Clearly with his big Afro and mustache, he is part of the 1970's, not early 1900's. See more »
The godfather was born Vito Andolini, in the town of Corleone in Sicily. In 1901 his father was murdered for an insult to the local Mafia chieftain. His older brother Paolo swore revenge and disappeared into the hills, leaving Vito, the only male heir, to stand with his mother at the funeral. He was nine years old.
[gunshots and screams]
[subtitled from Italian]
They've killed the boy! They've killed young Paolo! They've killed your son Paolo!
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Closing credits state that this film is "Based on the Novel "The Godfather" by Mario Puzo." In fact, only the scenes showing the young Vito have any basis in the novel. Everything dealing with Michael Corleone and his family in Las Vegas was created for the film, with the exception of the character Deanna Dunn. See more »
In the German theatrical version, all Italian dialogs from the young Vito Corleone's scenes were dubbed into German, as well as the English and Spanish dialogs from Michael Corleone's scenes. The original Italian language for this footage has been only restored for the movie's DVD release in 2002. See more »
Nino Rota's musical score plays an even greater role in this equal but different successor than it did in the predecessor. Yearning, lamenting, stimulating bygone ages, see how infectiously Nino Rota's music affects our sentiments for the savage events on screen. It is the pulse of the films. One cannot imagine them without their Nino Rota music. Against all our realistic deduction, it guides us to how to feel about the films, and condition us to understand the characters within their own world. Throughout the Corleone family's many criminal actions, we understand that one doesn't have to be a monster in order to live with having done them.
In what is both a dual expansion of its predecessor and a masterpiece of juxtaposition in itself, we see Michael Corleone forfeit his remaining shreds of morality and become an empty shell, insecure and merciless. As his father quietly knew in his latter days would be so, Michael has lost sight of those values that made Don Corleone better than he had to be and has become a new godfather every bit as evil as he has to be. The score, with its tonal harmony, its honeyed and emotional aesthetics, is sad, and music can often evoke emotion more surely and subtly than story. Consider several operas with ridiculous stories and lyrics yet contain arias that literally move us to tears.
The devolution of Michael Corleone is adjacent with flashbacks to the youth and young manhood of his father, Vito, played with paternal, home-loving subtlety by Robert De Niro. These scenes, in Sicily and old New York at the turn of the century, follow the conventional pattern of a young man on the rise and show the Mafia code being burned into the Corleone blood. No false romanticism conceals the necessity of murder to do business. We don't look at Vito as a victim of his environment, but a product of the depiction of the resorts to which the Italian culture had turned, initially to both protect their homeland and protect their livelihood as immigrants who came to America to be paid less than the blacks.
The film opens in 1901 Corleone, Sicily, at the funeral procession for young Vito's father, who had been killed by the local Mafia chieftain, Don Ciccio, over an insult. During the procession, Vito's older brother is also murdered because he swore to avenge his father. Vito's mother goes to Ciccio to beg for the life of young Vito. When he refuses, she sacrifices herself to allow Vito to escape. They scour the town for him, warning the sleeping townsfolk against harboring the boy. With the aid of a few of the townspeople, Vito finds his way by ship to Ellis Island, where an immigration agent, mishearing Vito's hometown of Corleone as his name, registers him as Vito Corleone. From this very opening, and the events that gradually follow, we see that Vito's damnable early experiences have enhanced his sense of family, and his experience of revenge as a necessity was passed on to Vito's sons.
The life of young Vito helps to explain the forming of the adult Don Corleone. As his unplanned successor Michael, his youngest child, transforms, we hark back to why, when his true desire is to make the Corleone family completely legitimate, he feels that he must play the game by its old rules. His wife says, "You once told me: 'In five years, the Corleone family will be completely legitimate.' That was seven years ago." What we have are two all-too-real narratives, two superb lead performances and lasting images. There is even a parallel between two elderly dons: Revenge must be had.
I admire the way Coppola and Puzo require us to think along with Michael as he feels out fragile deliberations involving Miami boss Hyman Roth, his older brother Fredo, and the death of Sonny in the previous film. Who is against him? Why? Michael drifts several explanations past several key players, misleading them all, or nearly. It's like a game of blindfolded chess. He has to envision the moves without seeing them. Coppola shows Michael breaking under the burden. We recall that he was a war hero, a successful college student, forging an honest life. Ultimately Michael has no one by whom to swear but his aging mother. Michael's desolation in that scene of dialogue informs the film's closing shot.
So this six-time Oscar-winning three-and-a-half-hour gangster epic is ultimately a dreary experience, a mourning for what could've been. It is a contrast with the earlier film, in which Don Corleone is seen defending old values against modern hungers. Young Vito was a murderer, too, as we more fully understand in the Sicily and New York scenes of Part II. But he was wise and diplomatic. Murder was personal. As Hyman Roth says, "It had nothing to do with business." The crucial difference between the father and son is that Vito is cognizant of and comprehending the needs, feelings, problems, and views of others, and Michael grows in the very opposite direction. Whereas the first movie was a taut ensemble piece, this second part is a more leisurely film that closely studies only these two characters, neither of whom share scenes with each other. Everyone else is periphery.
It must be seen as a piece with the consummate mastership of The Godfather. When the characters in a film truly take on a simulated environmental existence for us, it becomes a film that everyone who cherishes movies to any extent should see at least once.
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