Mario Puzo's The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone
*½/**** Image A Sound A+ Extras D
starring Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, Andy Garcia
written by Mario Puzo & Francis Ford Coppola
directed by Francis Ford Coppola
by Bill Chambers I wasn't a fan of 2019's Apocalypse Now: Final Cut, but I'm OK with it existing because Apocalypse Now is Francis Ford Coppola's Great American Novel, and I don't think he'll ever truly finish writing it. I don't care that he recut The Cotton Club, either, especially since his intentions with that one were to give the movie back to its Black performers, who got marginalized in the theatrical version of a film designed to celebrate the Roaring Twenties from inside the Harlem jazz scene. And I enjoyed the bloat of The Outsiders: The Complete Novel, though I'm bummed it knocked the original cut out of circulation--the real scourge of these variant editions. Alas, The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone (hereafter Coda), Coppola's shortened remix of the famously flawed conclusion to the Godfather trilogy, finally tested my patience for his compulsive tinkering. The Godfather Part III's problems were always foundational, the result of a studio's impatience and parsimony and a filmmaker's baffling interpolation of his own dynasty into the fictional one he helped create, and these are bells that can't be un-rung. To believe that a new edit was the magic bullet is to blame the heroic Walter Murch--who discovered the movie hiding in The Conversation's hot mess of footage back in the day--for the picture's shortcomings. (Patently absurd, in other words.) It's interesting to me that in 1991, The Godfather Part III was upgraded to a so-called "Final Director's Cut" in which Coppola and Murch tried to solve the issue of too much Sofia Coppola by adding more of her, reinstating most notably a rooftop heart-to-heart between Michael (Al Pacino) and Mary Corleone (Sofia) that resurfaces in an abridged form in Coda. (Sadly, the 170-minute Final Director's Cut permanently resigned the 162-minute theatrical cut to the dustbin of history.) Sans Murch, Coppola sentimentally snips a few of Sofia's more girlish line readings, as if it's not too late to spare her from ridicule--as if those weren't the endearing parts of her uncomfortable performance.