Just when you thought you were out… he brings you back. Francis Ford Coppola has chaired various editorial remixes of Apocalypse Now, and now he’s done the same with his beloved 1990 The Godfather Part III: with new editions and a new title. He and co-writer Mario Puzo removed the stigma of the “three which ones” by renaming him The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone, but, at 158 minutes (compared to the 175 and 202 minutes of the other two films), he is. barely short enough to be a coda and in no way functions structurally like a coda. Rightly or wrongly, that’s exactly what the original title said: Part Three, Act 3 in the life of Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), who in his sixties is trying to get into respectable business by bailing out the Vatican financially embarrassed. bank. He thus becomes a businessman of enormous power, somewhere between Faustus and Mephistopheles, but also a vulnerable target for dark conspirators.
There are a number of small changes to the original film, the biggest being the one at the very end, which might confuse those wondering about this new title: The Death of Michael Corleone. This change could imply that his real death was the emotional or spiritual death that occurred on the steps of the Palermo opera house, or even much earlier than that.
Michael is brought back into mob violence apparently because he’s embroiled in a feud between Joey Zasa (Joe Mantegna), the boorish boss of the casino he sold, and his nephew Vincent Corleone (Andy Garcia), son of the late Sonny, starred in G1 by James Caan. Naturally, Michael sides with Vincent, with terrible results. But it’s not just that. Michael realizes that the supposedly legitimate world of business and politics he aspires to his entire life is just as brutal as the mob, and Michael comes to play a key role in brazenly fictional versions of two real events: the death of the Pope. Jean-Paul in 1978. Me and the 1982 murder of Vatican-linked banker Roberto Calvi.
This movie was derided at the time as shark-jumping mess: jerky, convoluted, anti-climactic with a disappointing performance by director Sofia Coppola’s daughter as Michael’s daughter, Mary. It definitely looks stifling compared to Scorsese’s GoodFellas, which came out the same year and was much more vibrant, compared to Coppola’s rather majestic and consciously Shakespearean tale. (Amusingly, Scorsese’s mother, Catherine, made appearances in both films.)
Well, critical revisionism is in order. Admittedly, many scenes in this film are obvious retreads of key scenes from the premiere: the first set of the party’s backdrop, in which Michael receives visitors to his sanctuary, as well as the final sequence, in which shots of blood -cold are interspersed with a public exhibition. . But they want to be “mirror” events, full of irony and ominous omen. This movie has ambition and scope: maybe the real-world conspiracy theory feels forced, but it lends a sort of surreal liveliness to Michael Corleone’s endgame. Michael’s daring ‘confession’ scene with the later cardinal Pope John Paul I is scandalous in a way, but also melodramatic in inspiration.
And Sofia Coppola is not that bad. She brings a mopey callow yearning, as well as unresolved sexual tension to her forbidden romance with her cousin Vincent. (And sure enough, she’s proven herself as a director on several occasions since.) I’m not sure what the Coppola re-release does for Godfather’s third film, but it’s worth the trip.
• The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone is in theaters December 5 and 6 and available on digital platforms from December 8.