I have seen this film several times, all the way through or in parts. Frankly, I have mixed emotions about it because, when discussing it, I want to be fair and focus on it as a discrete film, judging it on its own terms; however, for me at least, that is impossible because it is the third of three Godfather films and its two predecessors are masterpieces. I cannot exclude vivid memories of scenes and even comments from films I first saw 18 and then 14 years before seeing this one for the first time in 1990. OK, that's my challenge. I finally decided to try to rate it on its own terms, hence the Three Stars. What it has going for it includes Pacino's talent, several plausible conflicts, brilliant cinematography, and a tone of melancholy which is consistent throughout the narrative. After years of broken promises to wife Kay (Diane Keaton), Michael has almost completed a process by which to extricate himself and his family from organized crime. However, his marriage has ended, mortal enemies remain such as Altobello (Eli Wallach) and Joey Zaza (Joe Montegna), his negotiations with the Vatican encounter unexpected complications, and finally, his physical health is poor as pressures and tensions in his life intensify. It is no wonder that he suffers a diabetic attack in his kitchen ("Just when I think I'm out....") from which he never fully recovers.
However, the film has several problems. One concerns the lack of a primary plot to give the narrative cohesion. There are hundreds of individual episodes in The Godfather and Godfather Part II (as in other films such as Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago) but they are coordinated effectively. Not so of the episodes in this film. Sofia Coppola's performance as Mary Corleone has been savaged by most critics. In fact, she is reputed to be a late replacement for Wynona Rider, had no prior acting experience in films, and was given a role as trivial as Anne Archer's in the three Jack Ryan films. I will not join others in bashing her. Another of the film's flaws is director Coppola and the three screenwriters' failure to do more with the role of Vincent Mancini (Andy Garcia). So many missed opportunities as Garcia's great talents are under-utilized, especially when on-screen with his obviously exhausted Uncle Michael. The illegitimate son of Santino ("Sonny") Corleone, Vincent is only occasionally allowed to show some of his father's passion, providing energy which this film desperately needs and otherwise lacks.
The jumpy plot and underdeveloped characters are, in my opinion, this film's major weakness but it has several fine moments as when Vincent challenges Zaza, when Michael meets with Cardinal Lamberto (Raf Vallone), the deadly sequence as the performance in the opera house proceeds to its conclusion, and the final scene when Michael reflects upon his empty life. Judged only on its own terms, Three Stars. Let's all hope that there will be no Part IV.
on January 28, 2000
Some critics complain that Sofia Coppola was inexperienced for such a big role. I disagree. Ms. Coppola's inexperience helped her play the character of Mary more convincingly. While it is true she sometimes seemed rather "valley girl," this shouldn't be surprising. Michael did his best to shelter her from the harsh realities of life in the Corleone Family, and the upbringing and guidance from her father came across in her portrayal of Mary.
Another criticism is Michael's quest for redemption... that such a notion does not square with the character in Parts I and II. Again, I disagree. Recall Michael wanted nothing to do with the Family Business in Part I. His father had hopes he might become "Senator Corleone... Governor Corleone," but this was not to be. Michael had to step in for the sake of his family. This necessity does not change the fact that at one time he was a good son, who simply wanted to become a math professor, marry, and have a family. In Part II, he obviously put this notion behind him, but there must have been a part of the "old Dartmouth Michael" lurking somewhere deep inside.
In the years following the end of Part II in 1959, Michael took steps to legitimize the Corleones by getting out of illegitimate businesses. That done, he sought forgiveness for the wrongs he'd done. Had he not been betrayed in Part III, he would have likely found the redemption and peace he sought on a personal level. In addition, the Corleone Family would have been the legitimate family enterprise that would preserve and protect future generations of Corleones, as well as reform Vatican finances. This would have fulfilled his father's dream.
Some say the opera scene was too long. I disagree, and think it was both moving and beautiful. We're watching scenes from a violent opera that had a sub-theme of revenge. At the same time the opera is being performed on the stage, a real opera is about to take place in the audience. The music from "Cavalleria Rusticana" is perfect for this film - especially the final, moving scene in the courtyard of Michael's villa.
I'd say Part III is the "third best" of the series, but it is worth owning and watching, over and over again. The film should have received some academy awards, and I'll never understand why it didn't.
on April 30, 2006
I stayed away from this film for a long time, doing a dumb thing: listening to the well-known film critics.
When I finally got around to it, I was very surprised. It was a good film. Not great, not intense as the first two Godfather flicks, but definitely a lot better than advertised.
Many people said this was filled with anti-Roman Catholic propaganda, but I didn't it find that way. Yes, the "Vatican bank," whatever that is, was portrayed as not on the up-and-up, but it was a little confusing to follow, maybe too confusing to get offended! Actually, there were some positive things, religious-wise, with Al Pacino's character, who sought forgiveness for his past sins and made a few very profound statements such as, "What good is confession if it isn't followed by repentance?"
Anyway, Pacino's acting talents are the main attraction in the lower-key, more cerebral Godfather film. There isn't that much actionbut when it occurs, it's pretty violent. As with the other two films in the series, it's nicely photographed with a lot of nice brown tints.
Finally, director-writer Francis Ford Coppola took a lot of flak for putting his daughter in such an important role but I thought she (Sofia Coppola) was fine and - like this film - unfairly criticized.
on September 15, 2009
The Godfather Part III suffers from the marvels of the first two films. Brando, De Niro, Caan, Duvall, and many other stars are absent. The Mafia is no longer the central part of this story. And it's actually hard to understand this film without watching the first two films. But does that mean it fails to be a movie overall? Of course, not.
Despite being the weakest in the trilogy, The Godfather Part III makes for a powerful conclusion to this epic saga. It's now 1979, and Michael Corleone is diagnosed with diabetes. He's separated from his wife, and his children are estranged. For years, Michael has felt guilt from not only isolating himself from his own family, but also having his brother Fredo killed. Now, he wants to go perfectly legitimate with his risky business. As you can see, this has now become a tale of redemption and forgiveness.
Francis Ford Coppola does what he does best here. He moves the story along, with some interesting and powerful elements that have not been found in the first two films. The script is still brilliant the third time around; I don't think you can improve anything here. The music sounds reused, but they still become an important aspect in every scene that requires it.
Of course, we cannot forget the cast (whether good or bad). Al Pacino is as amazing as ever. He's still superior in the first two films, but here, we get to see more emotion and more skill. The last two scenes are especially powerful; it still gets me a bit teary-eyed. Diane Keaton is still spectacular as Kay; same goes for Talia Shire as Connie. Andy Garcia becomes a welcome addition in the cast. He's perfect as the late Sonny's son, Vincent. It's very amusing to see Joe Mantegna as Joey Zasa . . . especially if you try hard not to envision him as Fat Tony. Donal Donnelly as the Archbishop can be best described as extraordinary: he's believable alright. B.J. Harrison as the Corleones' new adviser isn't really as great as Robert Duvall in the first two films, but he can still manage to make us appreciate his performance. Finally, we come to Sofia Coppola as Mary. Countless people find her dull and wooden, easily the worst performance in the entire trilogy. While I do find her wooden, she really makes it more authentic. She is oblivious to what's going on in her father's business; she's more of a simpleton rather than an expert in the Mafia business. And I think Sofia pretty much fits that personality here.
It's true that The Godfather Part III is not in the same league as the first two classic installments, but this is still a fitting conclusion, and it is an extraordinary movie. Just make sure you've seen Godfather I and II before you see this one.
on December 14, 2008
The first time I saw it, I felt disappointed. Several viewings later, I thought it wasn't so bad -not as good as the first two, but not bad. Last night I saw the trilogy non-stop, and yes, it is THAT bad. Here's what's wrong with it:
1.- Tom Hagen. He's crucial and he's missing. There's no Godfather III without him. And if Paramount didn't want to pay Robert Duvall whatever he wanted to reprise his role, they should quit show business altogether. Instead we get George Hamilton! What were they thinking, the penny-pincher idiots!
2.- Michael Corleone. Not the same guy. Sure, Al Pacino plays him, but unfortunately, he forgot everything about the character. Michael Corelone doesn't "love public speech"; he's a soft spoken, cold blooded, silent maniac who feels a fish out of water at weddings, first communions, baptisms, New Year's Eve, anything except funerals. A guy that seldom talks and never reveals his emotions. Here, he's a gregarious and bombastic party guy who yells all the time, talks all the time, curses, dances, mingles, counsels all the time. He's more Tony Montana than Michael Corleone. Not the same guy, I tell you. The hairdo doesn't help, either.
3.- Mary Corleone. Too ugly. Sorry; no offense, but that's it. Her character is a princess; it deserved a knockout beauty. Or... the part should have been changed to an ugly duckling in love with her handsome relative, a S.O.B. who uses her to climb to the top while fooling around on the side. But such as it is, both the part and the actress are simply not believable. And Ms Coppola can't act, by the way. I'm glad she turned out to be a magnificent filmmaker.
4.- Vincent Corleone. Too remote. Sonny's bastard boy. Mmmmmm, I dunno...too many heirs in front of him in line of succession. What happened to them? Coppola doesn't mention. Andy Garcia makes a terrific Corleone, but his part seems implausible. The obvious role was for him to play Connie's boy, Carlo Rizzi Jr, who happened to be Michael's first godson! Then everything falls into place: Carlo hates his godfather for having wacked his dad; Michael has a weak spot for him for the same reason, Mary has a fatal crush on her weasel cousin, he gets far too ambitious... see what I mean?
5.-Don Altobello. Altowho? Where was him in the previous films? If he was Connie's Godfather, why wasn't he at the wedding? And how come he knows Don Luchese? And who is Don Luchese? As for the actor, Eli Wallach plays the part with gusto; a coniving Sicillian Tuco. I loved it!
6.- The Vatican plot. Too murky, too preposterous. Coppola wanted to exploit the Banco Ambrosiano affair? Fine with me. Pope John Paul I strange and sudden death? Fine with me. Wanted to say that the Church is a bigger, meaner mafia than the mob itself? No problemo. But the Immobiliare thing gets far too confused, and one senses Coppola doesn't know where he's going or wants to. For such grand statements, he should have refined his story to perfection. By the way, both Pope Paul VI and John Paul I died in 1978, not 1979. Holy Blooper!
So there you have it. A movie made merely for the money, by people who have grown to hate the previous two. Not a good start by any standard. I heard Coppola was so fed up with the Corleones, he wanted to make "Abbott & Costello meet the Godfather". Well, if his heart was really into it ...Harvey Korman was around, Buddy Hackett was around, Marlon Brando was around ...he should have made it instead!
on April 9, 2001
The Bad: When they lost Winona Ryder and went hardline against Robert Duvall, they were dead before leaving the starting gate. I deducted one star for Coppola LEAVING his daughter in the film, when you know he realized her lack of ability early on. HELLO Francis ? Your daughter is GODAWFUL AND RUINED YOUR FILM!! Ryder, who was in her prime as an actress, could have elevated this tripe to Oscar status. A second star deducted for a ridiculous dismissal of Robert Duvall. If the producers were so distraught over Duvall's role demands, they should have wrote him into the script up to the helicopter hit. Now, that would have added an extra measure of depth, not only to that scene, but to the entire film. Duvall was the only character (left alive) that was missing from the first two films. I should deduct another star for some slow paced, crap editing, but I won't. The Good: Most fans don't appreciate this, but Coppola wove fiction and non-fiction expertly with the Immobilare/Vatican bank plot. The helicopter hit was a nice touch, as was Al Pacino as aging, remorseful don and Andy Garcia as fiery Vincent. Plus, the ending is one of the saddest most gut-wrenching in film history.
I confess it! "Godfather III" is one of my favorite movies. All right, it has less-than-perfect moments, but it also has memorable ones, such as the touching confessional scene between Michael (Al Pacino) and the Cardinal (Raf Vallone) in the cloister, and the reconciliation of Michael and Kay (Diane Keaton) in Don Tommasino's dining room.
I especially enjoy the Italian locations, and since I spent the `80s in Italy, amidst rumors about what was commonly regarded as the suspicious death of John Paul I; the scandals of the Vatican Banco Ambrosiano (with the banker Calvi hanging from the London bridge); the P-2 scandals in the highest posts of the government, not to mention numerous assassinations of judges in Sicily, the background of the story--the last half of which takes place in Sicily--rang true for me. Furthermore--and more importantly--Coppola's brilliant use of recurrent visual and thematic imagery renders the film outstanding not only on its own merits but also in respect to the first two films. Besides the well-discussed use of oranges whenever a catastrophe is imminent, Coppola constantly juxtaposes themes of religion and death, replicating the events of the story--the biting of the ear; the religious procession, the veiling of the head--with those of Mascagni's magnificent opera about death, revenge, and religion in Sicily: "Cavalleria Rusticana." Coppola intersperses scenes of the opera with scenes of actual vendetta, as the plans of Vincenzo--the new godfather--are carried to their violent conclusion. The part I love the best, though, is when Coppola transfers the tragedy taking place onstage in the opera, outside onto the steps of the opera house--life imitating art. That final choreographed scene, staged to the heart-rending music of Mascagni, gets me every time (Please pass some more Kleenex tissue!).
Al Pacino's silent scream on the steps of the opera house embodies the mask of Greek tragedy. And tragic irony renders "Godfather III" particularly powerful, when the film is viewed in the context of the whole. For instance, the preservation of the family is the device that moves the plot of the entire trilogy. The crimes committed first by Vito Corleone and then by Michael are committed in order to keep the family safe, even though the meaning of 'family' becomes distorted from its original significance during the course of the trilogy. In "Godfather III," however, the aging Michael, who is trying to become a pillar of society in order to preserve his immediate family, accomplishes the very opposite of what he intended. The final scenes of "Godfather I" and "Godfather III"--both set in gardens--emphasize the tragedy. Whereas Vito Corleone dies in the garden, alone except for the youngest member of the family--his toddler grandson--at his feet, Michael Corleone dies in the garden, alone--except for a dog at his feet. Classic examples of tragic irony!
I wish that Coppola would reprise his "Godfather Saga" which he made for television in the seventies. He reshuffled the scenes so that the narrative ran in chronological order from the funeral of Vito's father in Sicily at the beginning of "Godfather I" to the shooting of Fredo at end of "Godfather II." In combination with this particular format, "Godfather III" would make an especially effective tragic finish to the trilogy. The entire saga would then recall the Greek dramatist Aeschylus's trilogy. The original saga of family and its disintegration through revenge and murder, "The Oresteia" depicts the fall of the House of Atreus, just as the Godfather trilogy depicts the fall of the House of Corleone.
When I once made this observation to my daughter, she gave me a sarcastic look and said: "Mom, you're over-educated!"
on November 6, 2008
Mario Puzo's fascinating characters, together with fine acting and directing, made Godfather I & II masterpieces. Puzo was a real story teller. The dialogue was brilliant and unlike any movies before them. I never tire of watching them.
It doesn't appear that Puzo contributed much to the screenplay. Neither our love of the characters nor the amazing acting talent can overcome the lack of a consistent story line, the painful near reconciliation of Michael and Kay or the retread feel of the movie. Sophie Coppola is no actress, but Talia Shire as Connie was terrible. It was not really Shire's fault: Coppola takes the flighty, feminine Connie from Godfather I and turns her into an unconvincing, interfering "Godmother" -- ordering killings, etc. Al Pacino, as has been the case in the latter part of his career, overacted the part of Michael and essentially changed Michael from a serious, unsmiling, calculating, cold-blooded gangster/killer to an outgoing, expressive, gregarious, repentant philanthropist. The transformation, although years in the making, is not believable.
While expectations were high and unreachable, this movie is abysmal.
on October 3, 2008
I can't rave enough about this film. A stellar cinematic achievement. Its only fault is being the third part of the trilogy. It can't compare to the other films. I and II consistently rank among top ten films ever. This isn't in the top ten films ever. Certainly, it ranks amongst the top 20 percent. (I'd probably put it in the top one percent of all films. Too much has been made of this film to re-rank or replace it among the other two.
One of the shining parts of this film is its commentary. Much of the commentary on the first two films are self-promotional. "I was great," "The studio hated me," etc. This commentary humbles Mr. Coppola. He becomes a strong pawn of the studio. Also interesting is the skeletonized version of the plot Mr. Coppola discusses of Godfather IV at the end of the film, rolling into the commentary, suggesting a film paralleling Godfather II (the rise of Vito in the Corleone family vs. the fall of Vincent Mancini & the Corleone family).
Also interesting are the discussion of casting decisions due to self-excising from the film of a few actors. Remember - the character of Clemenza was killed off entering the second film, and replaced by a 'parallel' actor, as well.
Finally - the decision of casting Sofia Coppola - certainly seen as a gross abuse of power. This casting decision could be paralleled to casting Talia Shire in the first Godfather film. Certainly, it seemed to have worked in his favor. Too much criticism has been thrown upon her performance. She is more than competent, if not brilliant, in this role. She was even a far more experienced actress when cast in this film than Miss Shire was when cast in the Godfather. I don't see her as strikingly beautiful, but appropriately desirable. Certainly Miss Coppola has distinguished herself as an artist since.
Finally - the plot surrounding the dirty ascension of a pious man into the shoes of the Pope brilliantly paralleled a modern tale. It is the essential corruption and rejection of power and grace in a stunningly realistic tale. Even now, I shudder at the unmaking of a man who worked so hard to remake himself.
Mr. Coppola - I thank you for this story.
It goes without saying that "The Godfather" and "The Godfather Part II" are two of the greatest films ever produced. It is the very power, majesty, and near-flawless production qualities of these two epics that render it all the more tragic that "The Godfather Part III" turned out so badly.
There's no sugarcoating the magnitude of the cinematic disaster that "Part III" represents. Everyone knows how poorly the casting is, particularly the unfortunate last-minute insertion of Sofia Coppola into Winona Ryder's planned role as Michael Corleone's daughter Mary. Her wooden performance and awkward screen presence by themselves deal a near-fatal blow to the film's prospects for success. Other casting blunders include the inclusion of the bland George Hamilton as a replacement for Robert Duvall as the Corleone legal adviser, and the use of Joe Mantagna to portray the supposedly dangerous gangster Joey Zasa.
Even with these problems, any "Godfather" sequel featuring such talented performers as Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, and Talia Shire should at the very least prove decent. That the film turns out so horribly reveals that the production problems extend to the plot concept, the writing, and the direction. The main premise of the film, that an aging Michael Corleone wishes to legitimize himself and put his violent, corrupt past behind him is certainly plausible, as is the notion that a "next generation" of gangsters (i.e., Sonny Corleone's illegitimate son Vincent) might be waiting in the wings. The resulting story, however, is muddled and unsatisfying. It is suggested that shadowy, murky kinds of corruption rattle the walls of the Vatican; we are introduced to entirely new and heretofore unknown underworld factions, which don't poke their nefarious way into the plot until midway through the film. Overall, the story is a kind of multilayered mess with countless loose ends, leaving viewers confused and with way too many "Yeah, buts."
Perhaps even worse than the tortuous story line is the film's presentation and pacing. Whereas first-rate dialogue, camera work, and editing caused the previous two "Godfathers" to sizzle from start to finish, this film exhibits a staid, plodding quality that by the last forty minutes or so has slowed to a veritable cinematic crawl. I swear that during the gratuitous scenes in Sicily in which Kay and Michael sit endlessly at a table reminiscing about the old days it's all I can do to keep from falling asleep. Part of the problem, in fact, is that so much of the film feeds shamelessly off the energies generated by the previous two releases. The endless recollection, reflection, and hagiographic dredging up of old Corleone family homilies permeates and nearly engulfs the entire project, leaving little that is new or distinctive that can be identified with the "Part III" production.
The film does have its moments, including a powerful final scene ... But such moments are too few and far between. Overall, this is a bloated turkey of a production which demonstrates that the sixteen-year interval between "Part II" and "Part III" was simply too long to sustain the creative energy that rendered the original "Godfather" films so successful. Frankly, it would have been better for the moviegoing public, for Francis Ford Coppola, and certainly for his daughter Sofia had "The Godfather Part III" simply never been made.