Thursday, March 31, 2011

Godfather Part III

Coppola, 1990, 170m 

The film came seventeen years after part 2 and twenty years have advanced in the story. A tense, furrowed and diabetic Michael Corleone desperately seeks to erase the past and buy respectability for the family. The series could well serve as a model for the depth of in-family ties, with the scepter of fratricide thrown in. The film starts with a ceremony where the Vatican confers a distinction on him in return for a donation of a hundred million (dollars, of-course). But then he is tied up in the knots of the past and the harder he tries and the higher he goes the dirtier and messier it gets. He is haunted by the murder of his elder brother which he ordered. His wife Kay has been separated since long.

The chain of evil and corruption leads right up to the papacy and the poisoning of a newly elected pope. This is yet another feast of killings, each served with the love , artistry and craftsmanship of a master chef. The movie is further spiced with a love interest in the infatuation of Michael's daughter Mary, played by Coppola's daughter Mary, for her ultra-violent first cousin and future Don Vincent. All three films break free from the dark brown interiors which set the pervasive mood, with tracts in the beauty and charm of the sun drenched Sicilian landscape, with it's quaint and weathered villas and timeless gardens and vineyards, a land of olives and tomatoes.

The film is marked with pageants and ceremonies like the first two. The murders, mostly of rival crooks, are events of victorious jubilation, to the accompaniment of music, fireworks and crowds. Murder in Coppola's films is cathartic more than foul, nor really so serious, any more than in Hitchcock or Agatha Christie. Michael's remorse seems comical at times (like a poor cousin of Macbeth) as though the movie had tired of it's own genre.

On the whole, comparisons aside, the film is an engrossing conclusion to the series. Unfortunately there does not seem room for yet another sequel, although the movie does leave a third generation Godfather , the illegitimate son of the late headstrong Santino of Part 1, whose temper cost him his life, on the loose. But if ever there were to be one, I'm sure it would do well, since the Corleones are as addictive as Harry Potter.


Jack L said...

I didn't like this one at all, of course compared to the others it's disappointing but I don't even think it's a good film by itself.
I mean what the hell was that helicopter attack scene?
And Sofia Coppola was terrible, Winona Ryder (who was cast in the role first) would have been much better.

I didn't think this film was necessary, it sort of contradicts everything about the others and was obviously an attempt to make more money.

S. M. Rana said...

It was like a reunion with old friends and having followed him so far, how could one bear not to know what became of Mike and his faithfuls? He's really gone up the staircase and now he's thinking of Cardinals and Popes!Vincent as the Smiling Terror was a nice invention. Sofia, represent a third generation of immigration, and buxom attractiveness, was no eye sore. Michael's remorse could have been more restrained with less of slobbering.

It had me glued, though it wasn't always clear who was killing whom and why.

Nathanael Hood said...

I have no shame in saying that I loved this film.

It helped that I saw all three films within the period of one week, so I didn't have to wait 17 years between the last two films. I think the long wait is the main reason why most people don't like it. They had 17 years for the first two films to develop reputations as two of the greatest films ever made. So after the first two films developed such an overpowering mythology and following, ANY film released after 17 would have been poorly received.

And that's a shame. I think that the third film was just as good as the first two.

And I didn't mind Sofia. Honestly, I think that her performance suited her character perfectly. Even though she was a member of the family, she was detached from its criminal element, so she was essentially an outsider in her own home. So it made sense that her performance was so awkward and out out of place.

As for the helicopter attack...I think that it proved how much the structured and (somewhat) honorable methods of the old Mafia guard (like the two Don Corleones)had deteriorated. Don Corleone would have never dishonored even his greatest enemy by killing them in such an over-the-top and disrespectful manner. Don't get me wrong, he would kill him...but not in such a bombastic and insulting way. The helicopter attack was a literal changing of the mafia guard from the old ways to the new, modern ways that lacked respect and dignity.

I could go on, of course...I have actually considered doing a critical thesis explaining why this film is amazing and yet it is so hated.

S M Rana said...

At last we agree 100%!

I also would say that the third one was a worthy successor of Parts 1 and 2 and no less enjoyable.

Sofia with her innocent attachment to her dad and infatuation with the next Don to be was one of the attractions--like her father, she is a victim of the family history. As Kay cynically remarks, the Sicilian thing has been going on for two thousand years and was unlikely to ever stop.

I agree, the helicopter episode was very un-Sicilian, showing no dignity or respect, neither for the victims nor the profession.

For that matter the newest Don also had elements more of Bond and one wonders what kind of patriarch he would evolve into and what kind of end would be his fate. Brando ends on a note of triumph, playing with his grandchildren.

Nathanael Hood said...

What? We agree?!?

I...I don't know how to feel about this...

Greg said...

I thought this a solid film until the very end, which was terrible. The build to the climax was good, the climax itself horrible. And then the coda, which was not good. So, a solid film, minus the ending.

S. M. Rana said...


Which part of the end? The opera part was complicated, the sequential killings lacking the aesthetic quality of the bloodshed in the earlier parts. Michael's daughter's killing was quite powerful, and the puppy presiding over Michael's collapse was tragically apt, unlike the more dignifie demise of GF1, in the grandson's playful company.

Greg said...

Pacino screaming on the steps of the opera house after the death of his daughter (too melodramatic), and then his falling out of his chair at the very end. You found it powerful; I found it a bit of a dud.

The opera sequence up to that point, on the other hand, was quite good.

S M Rana said...

Let me refresh my memory.

1. Pacino's screams, while melodramatic, are not disproportionate. Call it nemesis for the brother's murder.
2. Dying in the company of a whining puppy seems poetic justice, and an evaluation of his life. Buddhism has a theory that the way we die mirrors the summum of one's life.
3. The operatic sequence is a kind of antithesis of the triumphant baptismal sequence of part 1, but is not a patch to the liturgical grandeur and triumphant coronation which the latter betokens. That was a triumphant assumption, this the retributive hell. The series concludes on a Catholic note.