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Al Pacino Season at the BFI; The Godfather: Part II's Cinema Release

19/02/2014 18:34 GMT | Updated 19/04/2014 10:59 BST

Forty years after its original release, Coppola's masterpiece The Godfather: Part II is to screen in UK cinemas. Park Circus's release of The Godfather: Part II (restored in 4K) returns to the big screen from the 21st of February, opening at BFI Southbank and selected cinemas nationwide.

For film lovers such as myself, who only got to view this iconic Coppola classic on a small computer screen, this is a golden opportunity to busk in the unfading magnetism of this cinematic milestone in a full cinema screen glory, just as Francis Ford Coppola intended.

Al Pacino fans can revel in his mesmerising portrayal of Michael Corleone, considered by many to be the actor's finest role. Besides many iconic performances and dialogue lines that have filtered through into mainstream culture, The Godfather: Part II also features a particularly captivating Robert De Niro as a young Vito Corleone, laying the foundations of the family dynasty which decades later, Michael Corleone goes to extreme lengths to protect. Whilst asserting himself as the Don that his father hoped he would never become, Michael expands the family business, revealing chilling cruelty as he fiercely sweeps aside all those who stand in his way.

This 4K restoration of The Godfather: Part II is part of a wider Al Pacino retrospective taking place at the BFI Southbank until March 20th. A truly magnificent cultural feast which includes undisputed 70s gems The Panic In Needle Park, Scarecrow, Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon, through the 80s Scarface and Sea Of Love, 90s Glengarry Glen Ross, Carlito's Way, The Scent of A Woman, Heat and Looking For Richard among others, coming to a close with Christopher Nolan's 2001 Insomnia.

"Our programming team had long been considering the idea of a Pacino season" says Geoff Andrew, Senior Film Programmer at the BFI, "undoubtedly a major American actor of the modern era. It really was just a question of doing it sooner rather than later and then deciding on which films we should screen in the tribute. .in curating the season, I simply tried to focus on the best films, the best Pacino performances (often but not always the same titles), and those films for which he won awards or which are seen as somehow landmarks in his career. I also wanted to include a couple of the films he had directed himself.

I ask Geoff to comment on how Pacino's film career is intertwined with cinema history, noting the actor's impeccable choice of scripts and collaborations with iconic directors (Francis Ford Coppola, Stone, Lumet, Jewison and De Palma among others.

"Yes" agrees Andrew, "Pacino has worked with some of the most important and interesting American directors of the modern era. Indeed, his swift rise to stardom in the early 1970s coincided with that of the 'movie brat' directors who were highly instrumental, in various ways, in Hollywood's transition from the old studio system, where stars and directors had been under contract to particular studios, to something very different and, at least for a while, more artistically ambitious. Through his relationships and work with directors like Schatzberg, Lumet, Coppola and De Palma, Pacino was a vital part of that reinvigoration of American cinema, and it is arguable that  he stimulated many of those directors to do their finest work".

I comment on actors' universal admiration of Pacino's "respect for his craft" but also, his on screen charismatic presence. "Acting can be taught, much like anything else" reflects Geoff Andrew, " but 'presence', or charisma, or star power, or whatever is surely not so much something that can be taught as it is a gift. Pacino is special because he is a great actor - and one who takes the demands of that profession very seriously, as can be seen also in his fondness for stage work and Shakespeare and in the films he has directed - AND a star with great presence. I don't think 'presence' or professional seriousness are in any way peculiar to the 70s, but I do think - for the reasons touched on above - that Pacino was around at the right time, given the way other people were thinking about new directions for American cinema during those years".

In conclusion, I ask Geoff Andrew which Pacino films/scenes have made an impression on him personally. "My own personal highlights" replies Geoff, "would have to include: the conversation with Diane Keaton in The Godfather where he explains the way his father makes offers that can't be refused;  the end of The Godfather Part 2, after the murder of his brother, where we can see simply from the look in his eyes that Michael Corleone's earlier ideas of trying to lead a life 'straighter' than that of the rest of his family have been eroded by an obsession with protecting the family's power at any cost; and various scenes in Heat, of course, not least the one where his cop Vincent Hanna finally sits down to have a brief chat over coffee with the master thief he is trying to trap (played by Robert De Niro)".