Films of Shame chronicles my impressions of movies I should have seen before now, but haven’t. I’ve already taken Citizen Kane and The Shining off my list. Next will be Annie Hall, and I’ll round off the series with Taxi Driver.
The Godfather Part II is one of only two movie sequels to have won the Best Picture oscar. (Bonus points if you can name the other). Although it could equally described as a prequel, since a good part of the movie is spent in the company of the early life of Vito Corleone, played by Robert de Niro. The rest of the movie is spent with his youngest son Michael Corleone as he attempts to follow is his father’s footsteps as the new Godfather.
It’s been about six/seven years, since I saw The Godfather, and I chose not to watch it before seeing what is considered to be one of the greatest sequels, if not movies, of all time. As an eighteen year-old, I remember thinking the original was good but felt a little bulky in places, such as when Michael goes off to hide in Sicily. Perhaps my views would best be summed up by this clip:
It’s fair to say my movie tastes have changed a lot since then, since there was nothing bulky about the sequel, and if I had the chance I would probably give my eighteen year old self a slap across the head and tell him to watch what’s really happening.
Perhaps my favourite scene in the movie was when De Niro in is early days as Don Carleone is asked by an old widow if he would speak to her landlord about her recent eviction. De Niro then asks, in the nicest way possible if the landlord would reconsider. He refuses initially, but after speaking to some of the locals, he returns the next day, clearly shaking with fear about the mistake he almost made.
The scene perfectly sums up the world The Godfather inhabits, and the disconnect between his persona, and the myths and legends that surround him.
It also perhaps sums up the difference between Vito and his successor, Michael, who while feared and respected, perhaps lacks the glint in his eye his father had.
The great thing about The Godfather is that there’s so many scenes that will probably be favourites for lots of other people. Scenes that say so much with so little. Since, it’s the smiles, raising of an eyebrow, or significant look that all speak way more than the dialogue ever attempts to.
Like all my favourite stories, I think it succeeds because of its ability to force the viewer to lean in and investigate the world further. We become a member of the Corleone family, as we’re forced to learn the language they speak and the what words, phrases and gestures really mean. If like me you haven’t seen all 390 minutes of the first two Godfathers, then surely that’s an offer you can no longer refuse…