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Keith Tse


  • Writer's pictureKeith Tse

Masterpiece (2)

The Godfather: Part II is widely considered the best sequel of all time and one of the best movies ever made, on a par with its predecessor (Part I). Last time I mentioned how paradoxical it was that a masterpiece such as The Godfather: Part I had actually gone through a very tumultuous production during which no one knew what was going on and could not possibly have realized that they were in the process of creating an all-time masterpiece. The making of Part II, on the other hand, is allegedly a much smoother process in that according to the director (Francis Ford Coppola) there was none of that non-sense in the casting as all the original cast members reprised their roles (with the exception of old Clemenza, but that is a different story with a possibly devious twist) and there were minimal fuss from the producers who did not doubt or interfere with Coppola’s artistic decisions and hence gave him maximum freedom to do whatever he wanted. This is hardly surprising, since after the seismic impact of Part I, all the members and participants of Part I finally received the trust and respect they deserved and Coppola could for once helm the production with maximum control. The end product is certainly astounding, since Part II brings the story of Part I to a beautifully tragic resolution, which is made more remarkable by the comparison and contrast between the lives of Michael Corleone and Vito Corleone, played impeccably by Al Pacino and Robert De Niro respectively, when they are both at prime age. In a later interview, however, Coppola famously said that he never intended to do a sequel on The Godfather: Part I. He claimed that he had been so disappointed and fatigued by the production of Part I that he never wanted to touch the material again. He also actually claimed that he had hated doing Part I and the whole gangster genre and he had never had wanted to do Part I in the first place, let alone Part II. Rather, he wanted to do The Conversation, another fine film of his starring Gene Hackman and John Cazale (the actor who plays Fredo, whose performance is Part II is just breathtaking), which had been his goal all along and the agreement reached between him and the producers was that he would have to do The Godfather before he could do The Conversation, so he reluctantly consented to do The Godfather: Parts I and II which turned out to be his masterpiece.

It is truly remarkable how unintentional the making of The Godfather: Parts I and II was. The first one was a production disaster and a total administrative mess (for which see my previous blog), yet it turned out to be a landmark in world cinema. The second was never intended to be made, since the director (and presumably others) was so wearied by the first one that he did not want to do a second one, but it became one of the best cinematic art forms of all time. While I have always believed that passion and interest are crucial in one’s intellectual and artistic development in that it is my belief that one has to truly love and appreciate something in order to do well in it, I am also really intrigued by the paradox of human achievement, since often the greatest human achievements are not intentional but accidental. Sure, there have been famous cases of groundbreaking work that was achieved by sheer unbending human will and persistence (e.g. Thomas Edison’s invention of the light bulb and consequent discovery of electricity- god knows how many times he failed, and god bless him for not giving up, or the world we live in now would be VERY different), yet there have also been examples of great work being created due to the lack of effort or conscious pre-meditation. In the case of The Godfather: Parts I and II, the circumstances were such that no one really wanted to do it, yet by a stroke of fate, chance and luck they turned out to be two of the greatest movies of all time. I suppose it all boils down to the two-edged nature of human will which can either make you or break you. It is well-documented in sport psychology that huge determination can lead to excessive amounts of pressure and obsession, and while the former can certainly improve one’s performance, the latter have been argued to undermine it. Making a conscious and determined effort to do well can certainly take you far in achieving your goals, but sometimes having no such pressure at all may actually be the catalyst and missing link in one’s road to success. Funny, eh?

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