“Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.”Michael Corleone
Releasing a new cut of the heavily criticised The Godfather Part III after thirty years will strike many as wishful revisionism from Francis Ford Coppola. Although I would not describe myself as an apologist for Part III, I have always said it had very different intentions to its predecessors, something that becomes evident with the restoration of its originally intended title. It remains far too long for a musical “coda” or epilogue; the total runtime is reduced by only four minutes, though this belies the number of changes, with scenes trimmed throughout the film to improve pacing. The tonal changes, however, are the result of nuanced restructuring of the material. Opening with a plea from a cardinal of the Vatican Bank to Michael Corleone, the resulting the conversation (which originally appeared around 40 minutes into the film) immediately establishes the themes: Michael’s desire for redemption through legitimising the family business and absolution for his past crimes, particularly the guilt he feels over his brother’s death. Two irreparable problems persist: the absence of Robert Duvall’s Tom Hagen (whom Mario Puzo had intended to provide a moral counterpoint to Michael) and the poor casting of Sofia Coppola as Michael’s daughter — her awkward performance may not warrant the level of derision it received, but it undermines the emotional crux of the film. Coda is a definite improvement, then, but it is unlikely to result in any drastic change in people’s views on the final entry in the saga. The last notable change is the truncated final shot, which serves to clarify the title: the death of Michael Corleone is not him slumping in his chair in the original cut, but the death of his dream for legitimacy and redemption, leaving him as isolated and alone as he was at the end of The Godfather Part II.