Friday, March 29, 2013

The Godfather, Part II (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)

****
USA
Um, has anyone seen this recently?
It is not the greatest sequel, or the greatest anything. 
It doesn't expand on the original, thematically or otherwise, and it certainly doesn't add any psychological layers: it just picks up the ones that were perfectly palpable in the first part, then repeats them hysterically and ad nauseam.
It is clunky and bloated and erratic and more than a little bit pretentious. The timeline shifts are not only arbitrary but often absurdly misjudged.
The cast is filled with names that inspire gushing awe, but the performances range from the uneven to the faintly embarrassing. Pacino is initially magnetic but quickly runs out of variations on 'eerily malevolent'. De Niro comes up with two completely illogical accents (Corleone grew up in Sicily - why does he pronounce 'tre' as 'tree' and 'padre' 'pad-ray'? And if he's gonna try grapple with Brando's iconic half-voice half-wheeze, why must he pile a disappearing-reappearing Italian-a-stereo-type-a accent on top? This is by far the sketchiest performance from this, his strongest period).
Keaton is intriguing when in the background, but still hasn't learned to be comfortable when in the foreground. Only Cazale comes up with a coherent character and is granted the film's sole genuinely moving sequence.
But ultimately the most vital carryover from the original is Gordon Willis' photography, which even makes sepia tones feel atmospheric and non-lazy. 
Had it been in any way possible to view this film outside of the context of its electric, monumental predecessor, I wonder if I wouldn't be a little more impressed. But at the same time, the main reason it's any fun at all - and I should emphasise, it's still loads of fun - is the afterglow from Part I. The main pleasure here ultimately comes down to the opportunity to re-enter a beguiling and fully formed world, already invested in characters that would otherwise merely amount to one-note caricatures.
 

Also, this is very likely the last review I will put up on this blog, at least for a while. But I am now posting ratings at http://letterboxd.com/ykantgoranrite/ Come hang out!