To: Glenn Kenny
From: Joseph Failla
Sept. 18, 2008, 3:31 a.m.
I agree, with the first go round with the Godfather films on DVD in 2003 we were left wanting, so these new editions should be more highly anticipated than rhose recent "upgrades." Since Godfather III was made so much later, it dosen't seem to be in need of the extensive restoration effort that went into the first two.
Although it wasn't necessary, Godfather III was still the film everyone wanted to see made with the possible exception of Coppola who struggled for years to find a satisfying concept (it would be interesting to see a list of rejected ideas before they settled on Vatican intrigue). But the main problem for me is I no longer recognize the characters as the same ones from the previous movies. Michael Corleone asking for redemption is not credible after the willing self destructive choices he makes in the first films. He becomes so insulated (submerged if you will) from any kind of human feeling at the end of Part II, much like the predicament Charles Foster Kane finds himself in; there's no going back.
Many of the dramatic high points of Part II are also muted in the third, with character arcs that continue in very unlikely ways. Regarding Michael and Kay; when he slams the door shut on her, it's with a finality that ends their relationship permanently. How would Michael ever forgive Kay for what she did to their unborn Sicilian child? And speaking of children, it was clear they were under his control, but now they rebel whenever possible. Was son Anthony's only other option to a life in crime to become an opera singer? And what of Connie? Over the course of three films she goes from daddy's little girl, to lush, to dragon lady. The death by poison cannoli sequence is a low point. Part II survives without Castlellano's Clemenza, but attempting a Godfather film without Duvall is a serious error. And Pacino's oft quoted line "Just when I thought I was out..." didn't become quite the catch phrase it was intended to.
But I've got to admit, even though it asks a lot, if I watch Godfather III separately from the first two it seems like less of a belated curtain call, and gains some stature as a decent later period Coppola film. It has more in common with the type of films he was making at the time (The Cotton Club, Peggy Sue Got Married, Tucker), than the 70's classics it refers to by name. It's looser, played broader and is more ambiguous, coming off like one of Michael Corleone's brooding daydreams, rather than fact. Like a character says in a Sopranos episode, "Godfather, I've seen that movie two hundred times. Godfather II, was definitely the shit. The third one... a lot of people didn't like it. But I think it's just misunderstood."
To: Joseph Failla
From: Glenn Kenny
Sapt. 18, 2008, 7:58 a.m.
I've seen Part III twice, first in a theater and again on the 2003 DVD, and always found it perched halfway between an embarrassment and a peculiarity, if you will. Some of the impassioned defenses of the film that popped up in the comments section of our last exchange encouraged me. Maybe a look at the film with fresh eyes will show me something new, I thought.
Things got off to a reasonably good start. The picture looks good. It's interesting to see cinematographer Gordon Willis using new tools—finer-grain film, for instance. He's still going for that dark, burnished look, and I suspect that in this case he could often get it without having to push the equipment to its limits. Tellingly, Part III us barely mentioned in Emulsional Rescue, the well-done mini-doc about the restoration that's one of this package's extras. So I presume it didn't need much work.
So, anyhow, there I'm watching, and there's Sofia Coppola, and no, I don't think she's "that bad." There's something very natural and endearing about her awkwardness, to the extent that one can believe that what she's giving is in fact a realized performance. Also, I'll admit it, I thought she was absolutely hot. Oh, dios mio, the eyes, the lips...
But soon enough my troubles began again. I'll tell you exactly when. It's when Diane Keaton delivers the deathless line, "You know, Michael, now that you're so respectable I think you're more dangerous than ever."
Hey, whaddya know? EXPOSITION! And CHARACTER INFORMATION! All in one sentence that actually beats "Just like our whole marriage is an abortion" for the prize of Most Risible Piece Of Dialogue In The Whole Godfather Series. In a walk.
I don't blame Diane Keaton. I can't blame Diane Keaton for anything, not even Something's Gotta Give or those Oreal commercials. I think she lost Kay somewhere in the middle of Godfather II, took some bad advice, and resorted to playing her as a contemporary character—a more pissed-off Annie Hall. She's similarly lost here.
Michael's soul may be dead at the end of Part II, but he's not, and maybe that leads into the questions Coppola wanted to address in this film—if life goes on, how do you live with yourself? But this Michael, played here by an actor who long ago had decided that loud was the new quiet, has none of the quiet intelligence of the old Michael. So instead of a study of a malevolent lion in winter, we get the unintended lesson that being evil and getting old makes you kind of dumb and boorish.
I do kind of dig the whole Vatican theme, and it's kind of fun to spot all of the a clef elements—the hanging from the bridge is lifted from a page in the strange life of "Vatican banker" Michele Sindona, for instance—and while the final thirty minutes do represent a superbly sustained piece of filmmaking...it's filmmaking that features caricatures of fictional figures who have, for better or worse, become American myths. That's why I think your suggestion that it plays like a brooding Michael Corleone daydream—a lurid, brooding Michael Corleone daydream, one in which a dessert staple brings death...
...and in which a once-beloved and protected sibling has turned into Lucretia Borgia...
...and much, much more—is one of the more ingenious and convincing defenses of the film I've seen.