Full disclosure time, people: I’m one of those oddballs that actually enjoyed the much maligned The Godfather: Part III. Director Francis Ford Coppola’s beyond epic trilogy of the Corleone family and their dalliance with organized crime throughout the turbulent 20th century remains to this day an absolute must-see rite of passage for any self-respecting film geek, with the first two films in the series pulling off a massive one-two punch by winning the Oscar for Best Picture for both entries. So it came as no surprise to anyone when the capper to the trilogy took more than its fair share of brickbats and poison pen letters; how could Godfather: Part III possibly compete with its well-loved and doted upon brethren? Between losing Robert Duvall (Duvall reportedly wanted a heftier fee than Paramount was willing to shill out) and having to replace actor Winona Ryder at the last minute, the movie was perhaps destined to please very few and that’s exactly what happened. Although the third film was nominated for a number of big awards, it pretty much got shut out of any significant wins, its one crime being that no film, no matter how brilliantly written, directed, acted and produced could ever hope to stand alongside the twin pillars of 1970s American cinema – Godfather and Godfather: Part II.
One of my fondest film memories comes from my time living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. During a late-night Subway run, I found myself in line with a group of film fans. I’d never encountered these people before and it wasn’t long before we were discussing movies of every stripe and caliber while awaiting our late night munchies. Somehow, after all of these years the particulars escape me, we landed on Coppola’s The Godfather: Part III as a topic of discussion and it was not long before we had all ferreted out – wearily at first – that each one of us was a bona-fide card carrying member of The Godfather: Part III fan club. We excitedly reveled in just how ingenious and, well, epic the tail-end opera scene was and how it elicited in all of us such feeling and emotion for Pacino and his conundrum of wanting out of the mafia but not being able to escape his dark destiny, at the expense of his own family. It was an unlikely moment of bonding and one I’ve never forgotten for it proved to me one thing – There were other fans of this third installment, critics and Film Comment readers be damned; it was a magical epiphany.
Hollywood is a town where second acts are sometimes a welcome thing (witness the overdue return of actor Shia LaBeouf) and now, with the recent announcement of a director cuts of Zack Snyder’s JLA and the expected fan reaction of said news, comes the announcement per our groovy movie cousins over at Variety of director Francis Ford Coppola returning to the editing bay to cobble together an all-new cut of the sequel most fans unfairly love to hate, Godfather: Part III. Unlike JLA, however, Godfather: Part III is being granted by Paramount Pictures an actual theatrical run which will showcase not only a new edit, but also an entirely different ending.
In a statement, Coppola said that “Mario Puzo’s The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone is an acknowledgment of Mario’s and my preferred title and our original intentions for what became The Godfather: Part III.For this version of the finale, I created a new beginning and ending, and rearranged some scenes, shots, and music cues. 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 and I’m thankful to Jim Gianopulos and Paramount for allowing me to revisit it.”
For those that are suckers for such info (such as Yours Truly), the legendary auteur and his production house American Zoetrope worked straight from a 4K scan of the film’s original negative in order to, one frame at a time, properly restore the new cut of The Godfather: Part III.
This is Coppola’s latest tinkering with his renowned canon of film: Last year he released a new cut of his film The Cotton Club on Blu-ray (strangely sans a Blu debut of the original theatrical cut) and he presided over a new cut some years back for his war classic Apocalypse Now.
Paramount will be re-releasing The Godfather: Part III in theaters this December followed by a Blu-ray/DVD and digital debut shortly after.