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Tag: Francis Ford Coppola

QuickView: The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone (2020)

“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 conversation (which originally appeared around 40 minutes into the film) immediately establishes the film’s 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.

8/10

QuickView: Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (1991)

Hearts of Darkness poster

“My movie is not about Vietnam… my movie is Vietnam.”

Francis Ford Coppola

It may sound like a directorial delusion of grandeur but there are very real parallels between the unorthodox production of Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (loosely based on Conrad’s Heart of Darkness) and the Vietnam War itself, as he acknowledges “there were too many of us, we had access to too much equipment, too much money, and little by little we went insane.” With a front row seat to this insanity was Eleanor Coppola, his wife, who shot footage of the production over its gruelling 238 days of principle photography in the Philippines. A symphony of disasters ensued that would be unbelievable if they were not documented, with Coppola facing ruin if he failed to complete the self-financed film. He gradually adopted the role of Kurtz, the story’s mythical figure whose magnetism convinces others to follow him despite his evident madness. The documentary goes a long way to explaining the convoluted, largely inscrutable ending of Apocalypse Now, Coppola having abandoned the script entirely by this stage. My view is that the cinematic brilliance in the preceding hours is severely undermined by its failed conclusion. As a result, the continually riveting cautionary tale of Hearts of Darkness is actually superior to Apocalypse Now itself.

9/10

"A film is a petrified fountain of thought."

(CC) BY-NC 2003-2023 Priyan Meewella

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