The Godfather Trilogy

gof2The Godfather (1972), The Godfather Part II (1974), The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone (1991/2020) – 4K UHD

Whatever I have to say about these three films is likely utterly redundant, but here’s a few observations for whatever they are worth.

Conventional wisdom seems to have it that The Godfather Part II is one of the greatest sequels ever made (true) and that its  also a superior film to the original, which is something I don’t agree on- I much prefer the first film. Watching these films in succession over a long weekend, while Robert De Niro is very good in Part II, he’s no replacement for Marlon Brando, who strikes such a powerful presence in the first film that his (admittedly inevitable) absence is keenly felt in the second.  I think the first film benefits hugely from its more focussed narrative, too.

I felt such a powerful sense of time and place watching the first film, especially here on the recent 4K UHD release.  The art direction, the cinematography, it all seems impeccable. Its something carried over with Part II and its two timelines.

Watching Part II, I wondered what it was like for the returning cast and crew making the second film after the first film had proved such a critical and commercial sensation.

That sense of time and place though, is something that for me,  The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone struggles with and it really hurts that film.  Other than a shot including the twin towers of the World Trade Center, and a few incidental details of vehicles being driven, I can’t say I was ever really convinced that what I was watching was taking place in 1979, which is a distinct failure considering how well the first film convinced that it was set in 1946-1955. Instead, Coda feels set adrift, somehow outside of time, hence losing some of it grounding. Perhaps a part of that is a result of the gap in the timeline (twenty years between Part II’s 1958 and Coda‘s 1979) and the similar gap between the films being shot (Part II in 1973 and Coda in 1990) reflected in both the recurring cast and the absence of others. Its right that characters can change over intervening years but no matter how good Al Pacino is (and he’s very good in Coda, often riveting to watch, and quite incendiary in places) I’m not really sure he absolutely convinces, that he feels right as the older Michael Corleone. To be fair, its  more an issue of the writing, but the older Michael feels too… mellow, maybe? He’s lost that lizard coldness that was so fascinating about him. The film suffers from some casting choices, too- Andy Garcia is okay but lacks the cinematic presence, the weight, his character needs, and the less said regards Sofia Coppola’s turn the better. The casting in the first film was excellent and  Coda definitely suffers by comparison.

I should point out I watched Coda for the first time here, and while its the third version of this film, I much prefer its original,  theatrical version – I don’t know if I’m alone in this, but thankfully the boxset contains the theatrical cut as a bonus 4K UHD disc and that’s the version I shall return to in future. Coppola, as evidenced by his repeated tinkering with Apocalypse Now, can’t quite leave his films alone, it seems.


3 thoughts on “The Godfather Trilogy

  1. It feels like an age since I watched any of these, but I think I too slightly preferred the first movie, and I’m not generally the biggest fan of Brando.
    On the third film, I have only ever seen the theatrical version. I liked it well enough at the time – it’s not up the first two, but it’s not a bad movie as such. You have a point about it not really capturing the flavor of the time it was set in and it does feel somehow more of a 1990s picture than a late 70s effort.

    1. Yeah the third film was a major let-down in that regard. It really failed to have a sense of time and place, and even now, thirty years later, it feels contemporary, as if its occurring in the noughties or even more recently than that. A strange film. Not bad -Pacino is very good, and Garcia has his moments- but its not a patch on the first two films. Coppola’s idea for a fourth Godfather film (he mentions it in the films commentary) sounded very interesting but he added that Puzo’s death put an end to any more Godfather movies.

  2. Pingback: The Weekly Summary # 10 – the ghost of 82

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