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September 18, 2008

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bill

I've long considered giving this movie another whirl. My main problem with it has always been that the second film completed the tragedy, and the third film just dragged it out and diluted it. Also, a guy gets stabbed with a pair of glasses.

JJ

"...a list of rejected ideas before they settled on the Vatican concept"

Such a list does indeed exist and was published in The Godfather Companion. They were mostly dreamed up by Paramount during the period in the late 70s and early to mid 80s when it seemed like Coppola would never return to the series and they were trying to carry on without him. Some of my favorites include:

--A sorta proto-American Gangster with Eddie Murphy as a Harlem drug lord and Sylvester Stallone as Micheal's son.

--One focusing on Micheal's son where he works for the CIA and assassinates a Fidel Castro character.

--Micheal as a Howard Hughes like recluse.

--One script that began with a black limousine pulling up and somebody saying, "Do you know who's in that car? That's Micheal Corleone, his consigliere Tom Hayden, and his estranged wife Kay! They're all togethor again for the first time in years!" The limo is then immediatly blown up by a car bomb. Micheal's son seeks revenge and Paramount avoids having to pay Pacino, Duvall and Keaton for even a cameo.

In conclusion, I'll point out that when Coppola and Puzo DID decide to make the third one, they seem to have combined the P2 scandal (I suspect their primary source was a book called "In God's Name: The Murder Of Pope John Paul I", published in 1984) with what was originally the second to last scene of Godfather II, and where in like the origins of much of the third film. GII originally ended with a flashforward to 1973 or '74: Connie is taking care of Micheal, and a grown Anthony comes to visit them. A bit of this idea remains in the final film (look carefully at the last shot of II and you'll that Pacino has been aged to look at least 10 years older then he does otherwise), and some of Connie's dialouge ("When I look at that lake, so cold, I think of poor Fredo...") was used verbatim in III.

And the last lines are so haunting, and clearly shows where Coppola wanted to take these characters:

"The LEAVES are blowing. MUSIC begins.

Micheal and Anthony walk across the grounds togethor, talking about things we cannot hear."

Zack Handlen

I've seen this a couple times, and that "fantasy" idea is compelling--after all, this is probably the movie-est of the Godfather trilogy, and the one that feels the least timeless and the most awkwardly self-conscious. The Michael of GIII seems more like a proto-Soprano figure, less the tragic monster of the first two films and more a thug with pretensions of grandeur. It's not terrible, but it just feels kind of cheap.

As for Sofia Coppolla, I still think she's a problem in the film. I can buy "naturalist," but she sticks out from every other performance. You could argue that because of her status as a relative innocent, she _should_ stick out, but while I can see that intellectually, watching the movie she just knocks me back every damn time. It doesn't help that by the end she represents nothing less than Michael's soul--I can't imagine any performer carrying that sort of weight easily (and Winona Ryder certainly wouldn't have been that much better), but here it's just embarrassing.

Campaspe

Such a great series of posts (and comments!), and fascinating ideas about what's good and bad in part III. (I always thought the "our whole marriage is an abortion" line in P2 was a clunker as well.) Sofia looked great and her performance had its moments, mostly when she was able to use her obvious tentativeness as an actress for the character. More than what Kael called her "gosling gracelessness," what grates for me is Sofia's Valley-Girl voice, at its worst in her final line: "Daddy?"

That last montage in Part III is a killer, truly moving. Though I guess the post where I discussed the end of Cameron's Titanic in relation to Back Street already outed me as a sucker for that sort of thing.

bill

"Daddy?" is brutal. And unfortunately it's my strongest memory from the film.

Glenn Kenny

I'm quite gratified these posts are getting such a good response. I hasten, then, to add that I couldn't have done them without the input from my friend Joe, with whom I've been talking movies since—God help us!—back around third grade, over 40 years ago.

Zack Handlen

"Our whole marriage is an abortion" is a line that could've come directly from a Puzo novel. And fun as those novels can be, that ain't a good thing.

Oh, and I've been digging the heck of this series. The blog in general, natch, but this is some fascinating stuff.

Mark

I understand your points Glenn but I still feel Godfather Part III is of a piece with the other two films.

I feel the closing shot of II is the perfect lead-in to III, for the first time since the beginning of the original Godfather we see Michael as a human being instead of a monster. It seemed natural to me that Michael would want to somehow regain the person he was before he made the decision to kill Sollozzo and McCluskey, especially in his twilight years.

I don't really have a problem with Sofia either, she seems like the sort of sulky teenager you'd come across in real life. I've never really been a fan of Winona Ryder so I didn't really miss her in the part.

OK, so big parts of the film don't work (the Vatican subplot/the Garcia/Sofia romance) but there's enough going on for me to rate it more highly than most seem to.

Damon

Had Michael been brutal for the first hour... Hell, had he arranged the helicopter shoot-out, and then become pussified by his awareness of his own mortality when he ends up in the hospital that would have been something. But defanging Michael from the start makes me feel like the the director put too much of himself into his MC. "Forgive me, love me!" Has no bite, and so the final tragedy, which cuts to a symphony of overacting (Cue Pacino: silent scream, cue Diane Keaton, cue a horribly overacting Andy Garcia "No. No!") and the idea of the sins of the father coming home doesn't stick as it should. Sofia Coppola unfortunately became the focus of distaste, when it's really Garcia who gives the film's worst performance. He's so terrible.

Mark

Damon - I don't know, I always felt it was the killing of Fredo that was the shock that woke Michael up. Showing Michael killing people after that would have no point or impact, it would only be downhill after the ultimate crime of killing his mother's son. Having Michael only beginning to think of repenting after his diabetic stroke would seem too forced. It's much more natural if it eats away at him over the decades since the killing of Fredo. My two cents anyway.

Aaron Aradillas

The "our marriage is an abortion" line never bothered me. It always felt like something the naive, over-privileged WASP Kay would say if you didn't cut her off. My description of her only applies to Part I and the first half of II. Her awareness of exactly who and what Michael is gives III a lot of its momentum. Michael realizes that his choices have cost him a better life. Realizing he diesn't have much time left, he tries to seek redemption. But God (or fate) has already determined his outcome.

The key line of the entire series is from that opening sequence of I where Michael tells Kay, "That's my family Kay, not me."

(My favorite line from Kay in III has always been "I don't hate you, I dread you.")

And, Glenn, Michael isn't dumb, he's tired. He kows what's in store for him the moment Garcia's Vincent bites the ear of Montenga's Joey Zasa. (The quick reaction shot of Michael says it all.)

malt

I'd say part III is not half as bad as critics saw it at the time of its premiere, and it somehow becomes a much more emotional experience seeing it with Coppolas commentary where it becomes clear that he sees it as some sort of self-portrait. But my point is something else: after the discussions about the merits of the restoration of the frist two parts I have to say that the third movie looks terrible, its overall impression is that of raw meat. You can even see it in the stills above that look reddish in a way that can't be the intention of willis. or am I completely wrong?

Tony Dayoub

Glenn,

Rather than think of GIII as Michael's "daydream", as your friend Joe points out, I'd like to think of it the way FFC seems to be blatantly presenting it as... a grand opera. I mean the melodrama is right out of "Cavalleria Rusticana", and maybe FFC is commenting on how these characters have moved away from the realism he had endowed them with in the seventies.

Twenty years after GII, FFC is likely acknowledging not only how the Corleones have become American myths as you state, but caricatures in much the same way, the cumulative experiences of FFC and Pacino in particular have led them to become caricatures of their former selves.

From a gentler angle, the Corleones are now just as archetypal as the characters one usually finds in opera, with emotional dynamics writ just as large, their villains just as flamboyant, their "heroine", Mary, just as innocent, and their "heroes", Michael and Vincent, just as boorish. The Vatican roman-a-clef is also reminiscent of opera's similar use of real events as a backdrop.

Bill,

"My main problem with it has always been that the second film completed the tragedy, and the third film just dragged it out and diluted it."

It's arguable that the second film completed the tragedy. As indefensible as Michael's actions are in GII, I know many people who admire the cold business-like efficiency he displays in running his family (and his "family"). I grew up in a poor section of Miami, full of gangs, and many of these gangbangers (for better or worse) held Michael Corleone and/or Scarface in very high regard. I think GIII really completes the tragedy because it makes the consequences of his criminal lifestyle more obvious (admittedly, maybe too obvious) in ways that GII only hinted at.

While subtlety is admired by most of us cinephiles, a great deal of the public need the more obvious stylistic flourishes of GIII to get the point.

Damon

I get the forced, I just feel the shock of Michael having no teeth at all and already at the point of wanting redemption from the Church at the begining gives the character nowhere to go, and that's the biggest problem - for me - with the film besides Garcia's character, which was the Paramount "maybe there's a a fourth" bone. I guess I would have liked to see Michael's quest for redemption been hollow, and then shattered by the death of his daughter.

Dan Coyle

I'd just like to point out that Michael's scream at the end is truly one of the Greatest Moments In Overacting History. For months after I saw it I did the "silent scream" in front of a mirror. I can only imagine what it was like for Coppola in the editing room, trying to keep himself from bursting out laughing.

Also: The final moments would be greatly improved by the Curb Your Enthusiasm theme song.

Damon

EVERYONE overacts in that scene. And it cuts to everyone. It's a masterpiece of bad, after the only sequence in the film that comes to life.

Mark

I love the silent scream moment - only spoiled by playing the scream out loud at the end of the shot.

Campaspe

Aaron, that's a good defense of the abortion line, the best I've heard. Keaton is so good in PII that she comes thisclose to selling it. But I still think it's making something explicit that the audience had already sussed quite well.

I also love Tony's idea of PIII as a full-dress, mythic coda to the first two films. First two times as tragedy, the third time as opera?

So often movie blogs (and I include myself here) focus on the lesser-known or undiscovered. It's such a pleasure to read these posts and threads and get fresh thoughts on beloved movies you thought you knew too well.

Which prompts me to ask: am the only one who sees a deliberate echo of the final shot of The Searchers when Michael shuts the door on Kay in PII?

Stephen Bowie

You know, I could never get past Duvall's absence either. I'm glad it's just that simple for some other folks, too.

Chris

"Part II survives without Castlellano's Clemenza, but attempting a Godfather film without Duvall is a serious error."

According to Walter Murch, Part III was originally meant to be about Tom Hagen - in that he would go the way of Sonny and Fredo, leaving Michael alone at the end, "like a fairy tale." And then, I guess, Duvall asked for too much money...

Dan Coyle

IIRC, Duvall was unhappy that he wasn't getting paid as much as Pacino, so he turned it down.

I remember when The Godfather video game came out in 2006, it sold so well Paramount was actually toying with the idea of doing another movie. I've played that game; it basically posits you as a hitman/underboss flitting in an out of the first movie's events. You get to see Luca Brasi "sleep with the fishes", you get to kill Tessio, you try to save Sonny before he gets shot up.

Brando, Duvall, Caan, and Vigoda all allowed their likenesses and recorded voice work for the film; Pacino had already granted his likeness to the Scarface: The World is Yours sequel game and declined to participate.

It was a pretty fun, if repetitive game. Shooting Abe Vigoda in the head, well, that was worth the price of admission alone.

The sequel is skedded for 2009, and more about expanding your empire than the second film.

So there's not Vito's mom saves her son quicktime event.

JJ

What?! So you don't have Vito hopping over the rooftops Super Mario Bros. style to get to a first person shooter stage where you kill Don Fanucci?

Darn.

Also, a "return to Sicily for slaughter" stage would be cool. You kill lots of old Mafioso and eat plates of pasta for health points.

You could also play from the perspective of Hyman Roth, a dead hooker, Roger Corman and Fredo.

Mr. Peel

The problem with the whole idea for Part 4 which would have gone back and forth between Sonny and Vincent was that, whether or not you liked Andy Garcia in the role, did anyone ever really care one way or another about Vincent Mancini?

What would Part III have been like if Nicolas Cage had played the role?

This reminds me that when Part III played on TV it was expanded into two nights and as part of an extended "Previously on The Godfather..." sequence which opened it, the flashbacks were shown along with outtakes of Pacino sitting in the chair at the end of Part II, as if he were thinking of the events of the two films. We see him sitting, smoking a cigarette, etc. It says something about how much I love these films that I was able to find such simple, needless footage completely fascinating.

EOTW

This post is great and the comments, too. Love the idea of the limo blowing up. That would've been genius! In the end, the third film should never have been attempted. It's a dark stain on the memory of two masterpieces.

Gerald

Personally, I enjoy G3 very much. I liken it to Antigone: though not up to Oedipus Rex or Oedipus at Colonnus, it expands on the themes of fate, justice and tragedy visited on generations in a fitting coda rather than an equal chapter.

Getting back to the Restoration - does anyone know if the deleted scenes underwent any clean-up at all?

And why didn't anyone make the effort to finally add those few remaining deleted scenes (that we already knew of)?

By which I mean, these ten, which were in - like the others included - the 1977 version for television called "The Godfather Saga", G1 & G2 re-edited by FFC and Barry Malkin into chronological order and adding those 'deleted scenes':

1. The opening credits to “Saga”, with the empty Don’s chair, then many dissolves of scenes of the now-abandoned Tahoe compound leading to a reflective seated Michael - reportedly from the aborted flash-forward to older Michael ending G2;

2. A longer opening trimmed from the scene of Fanucci threatening the theatre-owner, in which Fanucci first lulls him into false cameraderie by making mild complaints about the style of music, 'singing' his preferred style;

3, A longer opening trimmed from the scene of Snra. Colombo begging Vito for assistance with her landlord, in which Comare begins to plead her friend’s case until Vito gently-but-firmly shushes her so Columbo can speak for herself. (Nice character ret-conning);

4. Following Bonasera's exit in the first scene, Vito whistles at Sonny - who has been scoping the wedding through the window (looking for Lucy Mancini) - and chiding him for not paying attention to business;

5. In a trim from the scene of Brasi on the way to meet Sollozzo, Luca watches for the nightclub's neon sign to be turned off, indicating he was checking to see that his fake-ratting meet w/ Bruno & Sollozzo was ‘after-hours’ and private;

6. A quick shot of Michael driving into the compound's driveway - finding it chained and heavily guarded by lots of "new faces" (as his was to them) - returning home after learning of his father's shooting. A gruff muscle shoves his face into Michael's window and demands 'who are you?", then Rocco Lampone, recognizing him, steps up to escort Michael into the house. (Rocco has quickly risen in rank since making his bones on Paulie - after this scene, he is seen later in the inner-circle meeting when they plot Michael's revenge.)

7. Bonasera is shown getting ready to return his favor to Don Vito. Bonasera tells his wife who is helping him get dressed that maybe he will be asked to be an accomplice to murder by hiding the body. He natters on worriedly, 'cursing the day' that his wife became good friends with Comare Corleone (evidently how he came to Vito's acquaintance. [It's a minor scene, sure - but it enrichens the whole Bonasera subplot: The opening with him begging Vito for 'justice' - which he does receive (even if not murder) - then this scene of him eschewing his debt to Vito and wanting no further association with this 'criminal' - then the payoff of seeing Vito in the state he's in, begging Bonasera to use all his powers to make him look presentable for is mama.]

8. In a scene trimmed from the end of the “Michael assumes leadership” meeting, Vito (indicating Al Neri) notes that Michael has found his “Luca Brasi”, and Michael responds that they’ll “need him now”; they walk out into the garden. They put a 'longer' cut of the scene in the deleted scenes last time, but not the longest cut available, which was a very nice exchange (which also expands on Al Neri's role) and interplay between Brando and Pacino. Unfathomable decision.

9. There was an additional montage of shots, including shots of Michael and the full Hagen Family, trimmed from Anthony’s Communion, from before Fredo and Deanna’s car's arrival.

10. From the Communion party, there was a scene of Rocco assigning men to protective patrols at the boathouse (which is the only place where the mafia business is conducted at the compound) Anthony running away from Kay and up to the boathouse, stopping short and sort-of-scared when a bunch of assorted men inside turn to look at him, and then running back to Kay, into her arms and they hug each other. [Oddly,this scenario was alluded to by an older Anthony in G3, iirc].

I dunno... worthy of further inquiry? Or am I just too nutty?

croatoan

I've always thought that Michael Corleone died (of natural causes) sitting in the chair at the end of Godfather II. The first two movies are his arc from an innocent outsider to a soulless monster who destroys his family in the name of saving it, and killing Fredo is the last move that finally kills his soul.

The major problem Godfather III has is that it's completely unnecessary since the narrative theme was already finished in the closing shot of Godfather II.

I like the interpretation of III as an opera; it may change my stance from pretending it never happened to trying to see it on its own merits. (But then, if we shouldn't compare it to the first two movies, it shouldn't have "Godfather" in the title.)

Glenn Kenny

Gerald, I don't think you're nutty...but by the same token, I also now have an even better understanding of why Martin Scorsese eschews the idea of "director's cuts" and revealing deleted scenes! "Unfathomable decision," you say of the trimming of the "MIchael assumes leadership" scene. Which you're only in a position to do having seen it, because Coppola allowed it to get out there, weaving it in to one of his television re-edits, making it a home video extra. It's almost as if such stuff colors our impressions of what is, finally, the finished film, allows us to "play" filmmaker and second guess the filmmakers. Which, of course, we could not do, were the filmmakers not so "sharing" in the first place...

DrBB

Gerald--here I was ruing that this thread had died days ago, and a fresh post appears. One more or less on the same target I was wanting to comment on: the strengths/weaknesses of the Godfather Saga version. Having watched it recently on TBS or one of those, I was very much aware of all those scenes that I'd not remembered from the original G and GII. I know I'd seen the Saga version before, years and years ago, but I didn't recall all this extra material, and very much enjoyed it.

Here's the thing, though, since we're also talking about the weaknesses of GIII: one effect of Saga's chronological order rearrangement was to make apparent the weakness of much of the newer material in GII--the Hyman Roth stuff, etc--they used to eke out the scenes from the Puzo novel that hadn't made it into the theatrical release of GI. To me that added stuff has much more the feel of "sequel-itis"--that sense that you're laboring to keep the thing going rather than blasting along on the original spark of creative ignition. I guess it's really subjective, but having seen both films some 20-odd times I find that when they show Saga over two nights on t.v., I still hate to miss the first night but don't much care if I miss the second. Kinda fails the re-watchability test for me. (Not but what GI itself shows a seam or two when you see it that many times.)

Guess what I'm saying is that even though it's much better than GIII, I sense the creative gas already starting to leak out of GII. I know I'm in disagreement with a lot of people on this, and maybe as a creative artist myself I'm hyper-sensitive to that loss of spark/energy/whatever that happens when you find yourself having to repeat something. In the first instance you Need To Get This Out, and in the second you're Trying To Keep It Going. There are certainly exceptions. Sometimes you can get away with two or three sequels (I'm a huge fan of Aliens). But often the better decision is to just not. In the case of GII the necessity of getting those great early-Corleone scenes out is obvious to me, so I'm happy to let the rest of it come along for the ride. But the necessity of doing GIII at all completely escapes me. Not a good call.

Gerald

Sorry for the resuscitation of the thread- wasn't sure this was on-point for Pt. 4... and I was tardy.

To clarify, GK - what I really intended to say was 'unfathomable' was the way FFC put a deleted scene in the 2003 set that was itself edited down from a longer scene - and the edit was of a scene of Pacino & Brando sharing the screen w/ nice dialogue. Why cut *that* out of a deleted scene - only a 20-second trim at that?

But I totally get your point re: making deleted scenes available at all (and god bless Marty, but he's succumbed to the trend too).

I actually respect FFC's edits overall. They were trims for time - as he asserts in his comments - and I agree with his choices overall. (He's also said on record that their re-inclusion was, generally, for the opposite requirement: to fill up the tv running time (a not uncommon trend for many films then - if you remember the days before time-compression and edits were made to make for ad-time available).

I appreciate them in Saga and their inclusion in the dvds because for the most part they deepen and shade secondary characters in the film. And for me, and likely anyone still reading, these are characters that - on at least one of our 20-or-more viewings - we've paid closer attention to: Al Neri, Rocco Lampone, Willie Cicci, Teresa Hagen, Bonasera, Comare Corleone, Calo & Fabrizio, etc. If you can identify *those* characters, then you really appreciate the few more seconds you get with them.

And I'll tell ya: the restoration - it finally arrived today and I'm loading it up for right after I hit 'Post' - looks like the performances of these literally 'background' characters will benefit most of all with the clean-up. Their expressions and 'little' performances will be far more discernable.

I'd like to get further into the "purpose" and enjoyable elements of G3, and also DrBB's intriguing notes of the illumination of the weaknesses of G2... but, dammit, these dvds are singing to me....

If y'all are still keeping this thread running, I'll certainly be right back.

MovieMan0283

Actually that risible line you quote is even worse, something like "...than when you were just a common Mafia hood." Ouch.

Dan Coyle, I have to say I couldn't disagree more. I found the silent scream to be one of the most powerful moments in any movie I've ever seen - and it virtually redeems the film single-handedly. Oh well. Pa-tay-toe, pa-tah-toe, I guess (though who the hell really pronounces it "pa-tah-toe"?)

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