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Parent Issue
Day
6
Month
January
Year
1975
OCR Text

THE GODFATHER PART II is an epie of modern and mammoth proportions. Everything about it is big - the music. the imagery, the ideas and implications, and the sevejity year narrativo time span. The breadth of scope wields an unquestionable power over the viewer. For hours afterwards, one feels the grip of its imagery and music, but dozens of other films leave this lingering sense. TP HE GODFATHER PART II tells you everything THE GODFATHER left I . out. The first film told'the story of a modern criminal family, and how its leader the Don exerted influence over his enemies and associates. The second film takes the story and the family back to its Sicilian origins at the turn of the century, then traces the story through two more generations to its entrenched criminal power througliout America, and its linkup with political and corporate power figures. If THE GODFATHER leftyou wondering how the Mafiosos could be so vicious yet calm, then this second film will explain the specific psychology of their economie motivations. THE GODFATHER PART II is definitely a "message" movie. Is it too much second guessing to presume that director associate writer Francis Ford Coppola, as an Italian-American, seeks to explain how and why crime was the means to real American success for some Italian-Americans? He takes us back to turn of the century Sicily to see how violence came to the Don - as a nine year oíd boy he saw his mother and brother shot down in a Mafia attempt to entirely elimínate his family. He escaped to America and as he grew into manhood learned that he could establish a criminal network of "protection" for the people of Little Italy. His first murder was a somewhat benevolent gesture for all the residents, for he killed a man who was sucking the economie blood of the community. All his later gestures, movements of economie consolidation and "protection," were clothed in a sense that he was doing what was right, and he was doing it for Italians. In both films the Don adopts a self-important language tone when he announces his decisions. His son Michael learns his style, rehearsing it carefully, and delivers his addresses with that same sense of Roman eloquence. Of course it is impossible to not compare the two GODFATHERs. The first was one of the greatest of gangster films, so one would naturally expect even more f rom the second. GOD- FATHER II is perhaps handicapped by the obvious absence of Marión Brando, the actor who made the Don into an table man, a real gangster yet one who managed to infuse his profession with elegance and solemnity, and a man who kept his sanity by keeping a great distance between the sancity of his family and the often ugly world of his business. GODFATHER lis Don is played by Robert DeNiro, a magnificent actor best known for his memorable role as the crazy punk of MEAN STREETS. DeNiro grew up in Little Italy, and plays the Don as a man who really does know crime well. Yet one cannot help but miss the stature of Brando, and the thought continually recurs that Brando skipped this movie because the repetition, elaboration and melodrama of GODFATHER II is somewhat below him. Marión Brando's absence does tip off a train of thought about the manifest inferiority of GODFATHER II. Without the presence of this actor of Olympian proportions, the film's tendencies toward melodrama and self-indulgence become more visible. Three hours and twenty minutes is an achingly long time for any film. To undertake such a time span can only mean one of two things: either it presumes to teil a lot of significance, or, like an older Andy Warhol film, it is geared towards audience partici pation. Certainly GODFATHER II acts on the premise that it has a lot to teil. The film has specific goals, and probably all of these are achieved throughout the three hours and twenty minutes. It tells you what sort of pressures acted upon miuratus io America; it explains how the u.ip between criminal and corporate errferprise gfew increasingly smalleí (hroughout this century; and ü relates how an individual powei figures, such as the Don oí Michael. helieves he ntUSl BCt WÍth vinlence to maintam lus power. These presumptions are laid oul ín very much of a documentary form. Tlie historica] shots are rich in the boifibastic colorfulness of oíd 1 ittle ltaly. The sequences in Lake Tahoe communicate a strong sense ot' the garishness of wealthy Fifties' America. 1 lie Havana section eommunicates quite direetly the gap between the rich and the poor, and the sources of the Revolution thai immediately followed Michael's frantic escape trom the island. Not only are the visuals quite true to form, but the individual men are drawn quite obviously from real people. Hyman Roth, so excellently played by Lee Strasburg, is a direct paiallel lo Meyer Lansky, the infamous Jewisli gangster who tried to (lee lo Israel, but they wouldn't let him in. The Don himself is modeled alter Joe Columbo. The senators ' and corporate presidents who do business wilh Michael are distinctly modeled after their archetypes of our too real world. Thai realism isexcrutiatingly fascinating. Coppola unwinds a saga of crime that is true to our Watergate consciousness. Crime al this high a level and at this period of time is no longer small time protection within the limited confines of Littlc Italy. Michael's arm of influence reaches out to embrace that of other major power centers - politics, and corporate capitalism. And as Michael's father's partner Pentangell so strongly objects, cooperation is now with non-Italians. It is no longer the old pure question of ethnic protection that the Don practiced. Michael is in the Big Time, and the wealthy and corrupt are Italians, Jews. and Wasps. The movie leaves one with an often pondered question: to be rich in America, is it essential to be violent and completely self-serving? Crime breeds strange bedfellows. EARTHQUAKE is the story of the big one that could hit California. It is set in Los Angeles, and Charlton Heston is the super hero. The sound is projected in "sensurround," which is no more than the addition of three large low-frequency speakers at the center of the stage. During the earthquake scènes, these speakers are gunned up to a point at which the bass amplifïcation makes one feel that you are in fact in an earthquake. If you know this much, there is not much need to see the movie, unless you are very interested in special effects or hedging on a decisión to move to California. Godfather II takes the family back to its Sicilian origins, then through two more generations to its entrenched criminal power in America, and its linkup with political figures.