The Godfather and The Godfather Part II are often hailed as two of the best American movies ever made, but the same can’t be said for The Godfather Part III. The sequel actually received fairly good reviews when it opened in 1990. It also did well at the box office and scored seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture. But over the years, Godfather Part III has become something of a punchline, with many zeroing in on the clumsy, strained performance of Sofia Coppola, playing daughter to Al Pacino‘s Michael Corleone. Now, after years of negative feedback, director Francis Ford Coppola has gone back and recut the film into Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone. Will this new cut fix the film’s notorious problems? According to co-star Diane Keaton, the answer is yes.
Before we dive into this, I need to get something out of the way: The Godfather Part III really isn’t that bad. Is it as good as the first two films? Oh, lord, no. Does it have problems? It sure does – mainly with casting (and not just Sofia Coppola – Andy Garcia, playing the hotheaded illegitimate son of James Caan’s Sonny Corleone feels out of place as well). But the movie as a whole has a lot going for it – Coppola’s filmmaking, coupled with Gordon Willis’ cinematography, is fantastic, and the story is appropriately operatic and bleak, concluding the saga on a dour note that confirms that for all his careful planning, Michael Corleone still ends up a damned, doomed man. Still, a pervasive negative cloud has hung around the movie for decades, and now Francis Ford Coppola is attempting to set things right with a brand new Godfather Part III cut.
Coppola has done this sort of thing before – there are several different cuts of Apocalypse Now, and he recently released a recut of The Cotton Club called The Cotton Club Encore. Now here comes the Godfather Part III recut, retitled The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone. “For this version of the finale, I created a new beginning and ending, and rearranged some scenes, shots, and music cues,” Coppola said. “With these changes and the restored footage and sound, to me, it is a more appropriate conclusion to The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II.”
One of the stars of the franchise, Diane Keaton, spoke with Variety about the new cut, and thinks it’s a much better movie. “It was one of the best moments of my life to watch it,” Keaton said. “To me it was a dream come true. I saw the movie in a completely different light. When I saw it way back, it was like ‘Oh, I don’t know,’ … But Francis restructured the beginning and the end and man, I’m telling you it worked.” Keaton also added that this new cut paints Sofia Coppola’s infamous performance in a much better light. “She’s what a daughter would be like if you had this guy as your dad, the head of a criminal organization,” Keaton said. “She was not so sure of herself and is kind of quiet. Kind of haunted. I thought she was fantastic.”
I’ve seen the new cut (look for my review soon!), and while I think it’s an interesting experiment, and it definitely makes the film a bit tighter (it’s shorter, running at 157 minutes compared to the theatrical cut’s 162-minute length), Sofia Coppola’s performance is still, well…not great. Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone opens in select theaters on December 4 before hitting Blu-ray and digital on December 8.
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