Friday, February 27, 2015

The Godfather Part III

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola and written by Coppola and Mario Puzo that is based on Puzo’s The Godfather novel series, The Godfather Part III is the story of Michael Corleone’s attempt to gain legitimacy away from the world of the Mafia as he makes a deal with the Vatican bank only for things to go wrong as it involves an illegitimate nephew who wants to help Corleone in getting rid of his enemies. The third and final part of The Godfather trilogy, the film is an exploration of Michael Corleone’s attempt to find redemption as he also copes with guilt over his past actions as Al Pacino reprises his role as Michael Corleone as he’s joined by Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, Richard Bright, and Al Martino reprising their famed roles from previous films. Also starring Andy Garcia, Sofia Coppola, Joe Mantegna, Bridget Fonda, George Hamilton, John Savage, Donal Donnelly, Helmut Berger, and Eli Wallach. The Godfather Part III is a compelling yet flawed film from Francis Ford Coppola.

Set in the late 1970s, the film revolves around Michael Corleone’s attempt to detach himself from the criminal world as he had reinvented himself as a philanthropist while leaving his other business to other people where it begins to fall apart. When an opportunity arises to buy shares from one of the world’s biggest banks in the Vatican’s Immobiliare, Corleone sees it as a chance to become a fully-legitimized businessman. Still, elements of his past dealings with the Mafia come back to haunt him as his enforcer Joey Zasa (Joe Mantegna) has been running Corleone’s territory into ruins forcing an illegitimate nephew of Corleone in Vincent Mancini (Andy Garcia) to wanting to get control back. Once it becomes clear that there are those trying to get rid of Corleone not just over the deal but for other reasons, Corleone decides to have Vincent take over but with Vincent to disconnect himself with his cousin in Corleone’s daughter Mary (Sofia Coppola).

The film’s screenplay plays into not just Michael Corleone’s attempt to be part of society and make himself legitimate but also carry the guilt over the way he rose into power. Especially as the demons of his past would return in ways he didn’t expect as he is facing new enemies who play by different rules as well as those whom he thought were his friends. The chaos that emerges in Corleone’s life forces him to look towards Vincent for help as well as the advice of his sister Connie (Talia Shire) and longtime bodyguard Al Neri (Richard Bright). It is around the same time that Michael makes amend with his estranged ex-wife Kay (Diane Keaton) after pushing her away from his dealings just as Michael is seeking redemption for his past actions and sins. Still, Corleone copes with issues regarding the Immobiliare as well as the involvement of his old family friend Don Altobello (Eli Wallach) who is the most interesting character in the film. An old man that may seem weak and frail but it’s just a front for who he really is.

It’s among the interesting aspects of the script but there’s elements in that script that involves real-life events such as the death of Pope John Paul I as well as the Papal banking scandal of the early 80s definitely becomes too overwhelming and not as fleshed it for the main story which relates to Michael Corleone’s attempt for legitimacy and redemption. Another aspect of the script that doesn’t work involves the relationship between Mary and Vincent where it does border into the world of incest since the two are related to the Corleone family as Vincent was the illegitimate son of Michael’s eldest brother Sonny as Vincent bears reminders of the father he never really knew. It’s among some of the weak aspects of the script as well as the missed presence of a major character in the series in Tom Hagen, whose character is revealed to have died, as the only connection that is presented in the film is his son Andrew (John Savage) who is a priest that helps Michael in dealing with the Immobiliare.

Francis Ford Coppola’s direction is quite interesting as it’s set in three different places such as Rome, New York City, and Palermo, Sicily as it plays into a world that is changing but things are far more ruthless as they when Michael was ruling the Corleone family. Yet, Coppola retains the look of its predecessors while aiming for something that is rich but also play into a world that is changing where Michael Corleone is unaware that he is on his way out. Coppola’s compositions are still potent in the way he frames some of the drama as well as play into some of the film’s violence which is quite brutal in the way characters are killed and such. Some of the drama has Coppola use some unique medium shots and close-ups as it includes a very mesmerizing scene where Michael makes his first confession in many years to Cardinal Lamberto (Raf Vallone) who is one of the few good men in the world. It’s a scene where Michael Corleone finally reveal his sins as it is also this brief moment where the man could find redemption.

It’s among these very keen moments in the film that works while some of the elements in the film as it relates to Vincent’s attraction towards Mary are among some of the things in the film that doesn’t work. Even as Coppola isn’t able to really do anything new as the film’s climax at an opera house does have an air of theatricality in a montage that does play as a homage to elements of films of the past. Yet, it’s aftermath does have an air of tragedy as it plays to not just the sins of Michael Corleone but also the fact that all of his attempts to get those closest to him away from that dark world aren’t exempt. Especially as he realizes that the world of legitimacy that he thought he was going into is a far more treacherous world than the world of crime. Overall, Coppola creates a very captivating though very uneven film about a mobster’s attempt to find redemption and atone for his sins.

Cinematographer Gordon Willis does amazing work with the film’s cinematography with its approach to low-key lights for the scenes at night while maintaining a sepia-drenched visual style that plays to the film’s interior looks for the scenes in day and night as well as maintaining something natural and low-key for the scenes set in Sicily. Editors Walter Murch, Lisa Fruchtman, and Barry Malkin do excellent work with the editing as it does have an air of style in some of the film‘s violent moments while creating some montages as well as some stylish dissolves to play into the drama. Production designer Dean Tavoularis and art director Alex Tavoularis do fantastic work with the set pieces from the New York City penthouse that Michael lives in as well as the look of Little Italy and the home of the Corleone family in Sicily.

Costume designer Milena Canonero does brilliant work with the costumes from the party dress that Mary wore at the opening party scene as well as the suits and dresses the characters wear in some of the posh events at the film. Sound designer Richard Beggs and sound editor Gloria S. Borders do superb work with the film‘s sound to play into some of the violence that includes the chilling helicopter attack scene as well as the moments in the opera house. The film’s music by Carmine Coppola is wonderful as his approach to lush string arrangements and somber horns play into the sense of melancholia that looms over the film along with some very offbeat cuts such as the use of the Jew-harp that serves as a theme for Don Altobello.

The casting by Janet Hirshenson, Jane Jenkins, and Roger Mussenden is terrific as it features small yet notable appearances from Catherine Scorsese as an old lady who likes Vincent, Raf Vallone as Cardinal Lamberto, Enzo Robutti as the an old-school mob leader in Don Luchessi, Vittorio Duse as the old Corleone ally Don Tommasino, Mario Donatone as the assassin Mosca, Helmut Berger as an Immobiliare accountant Frederick Keinszig, John Savage as Father Andrew Hagen who would help Michael with dealings of the Immobiliare, and Al Martino who makes a wonderful appearance as the singer Johnny Fontaine for the film’s opening party scene. Performances from George Hamilton as Michael’s attorney B.J. Harrison isn’t inspiring as Hamilton really does nothing to make his performance memorable while Bridget Fonda is wasted as a photojournalist in Grace Hamilton who sleeps with Vincent as she is nearly killed for that moment. Other small roles from Richard Bright as Michael’s longtime bodyguard Al Neri, Franc D’Ambrosio as Michael’s son Anthony, and Donal Donnelly as Archbishop Gilday are pretty good as they do serve purpose for the story.

Sofia Coppola isn’t as bad that many has said about her performance as Mary Corleone but it is still quite terrible as she is unable to sell the dramatic elements of her performance as she and Andy Garcia don’t really have any chemistry. Joe Mantegna is excellent as Joey Zasa as a Corleone enforcer who has caused trouble for the Corleone crime empire forcing Vincent to take action. Talia Shire is fantastic as Connie Corleone as she becomes more involved in the Corleone family business as she would encourage Vincent to take action. Andy Garcia is superb as Vincent Mancini as the illegitimate son of Sonny Corleone who attained his father’s fiery attitude as he becomes Michael’s protégé as he later copes with the role he is given as well as breaking off a relationship with his cousin Mary.

Eli Wallach is phenomenal as Don Altobello as an old family friend of the Corleone family who is a truly complex and fun character as this old man that seems like a harmless person but he’s really one of the most deceitful and cunning antagonists ever presented on film as Wallach is a major highlight of the film. Diane Keaton is brilliant as Kay Adams as Michael’s estranged ex-wife who returns to plea for Michael to let Anthony go while coping with his illness and attempts to find redemption. Finally, there’s Al Pacino in a remarkable performance as Michael Corleone as he brings a lot of charm but also a weight of melancholia to the role as a man who copes with the guilt of his actions as he tries to become a legitimate businessman only to realize how corrupt it is as he searches for redemption and atonement for his sins.

The Godfather Part III is a stellar yet underwhelming film from Francis Ford Coppola. While it does feature excellent performance from Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, Andy Garcia, Joe Mantegna, and Eli Wallach along with some fine technical contributions. It’s a film that has some unique elements in its theme of redemption but is boggled down by some uninspired storylines and other things that really hinders the film though it is still an engaging one. In the end, The Godfather Part III is a superb film from Francis Ford Coppola.

Francis Ford Coppola Films: (Tonight for Sure) - (The Bellboy and the Playgirls) - Dementia 13 - (You’re a Big Boy Now) - (Finian’s Rainbow) - (The Rain People) - The Godfather - The Conversation - The Godfather Part II - Apocalypse Now/Apocalyse Now Redux - One from the Heart - The Outsiders - Rumble Fish - The Cotton Club - (Peggy Sue Got Married) - (Captain EO) - (Heart of Stone) - (Tucker: The Man and His Dreams) - New York Stories-Life Without Zoe - Bram Stoker's Dracula - (Jack) - (The Rainmaker) - (Youth Without Youth) - Tetro - (Twixt)

© thevoid99 2015


Kevin Powers said...

Great review! Your reviews are so full and rich in detail.

The Godfather III is easily the most forgettable of the trilogy for me. But I still remember it begin "compelling," as you said. How can it not be with such a great cast and crew?

thevoid99 said...

@Kevin Powers-Thank you. I try to fill in a lot without revealing too much.