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THE GODFATHER PART III

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, Andy Garcia, Eli Wallach, Joe Mantegna, Bridget Fonda, George Hamilton, Sofia Coppola
Director:  Francis Ford Coppola
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Paramount
Length:  170 Minutes
Release Date:  October 9, 2001

"Would you like to make your confession?"

"Your Eminence, it's been so long... I'm afraid I'd take up too much of your time."

"I always have time to save souls."

"I'm beyond redemption."

Film ****

It is the year 1979, and we've come to visit the Corleone family for the final time. 

The Godfather Part III is an integral part of the entire saga...so much so, that it cannot stand on it's own, yet when viewed as a whole with its prior installments, seems like a chapter the story cannot do without.  The parallels come full circle.  In II, we see both Godfathers, Vito and Michael Corleone, in their prime...both men lean and hungry and unafraid.  In Part III, we see Michael (Pacino) as we saw Vito in the original; on the other side of life, faces ravaged by their deeds, shadows of what they once were, remembering what was most important to them but lacking the ability to preserve them.

Decades after promising his then wife Kay (Keaton) that his family would go straight, Michael finally seems on the verge of making it happen.  The Corleones, under his direction, have forgone their interests in gambling and other shady enterprises, and as the picture opens, the one time Don is even being given an award by the Catholic Church for his humanitarian enterprises.  Later, we a large sum of money "charitably" changing hands between the family and the Church.  Money can buy just about anything, including respect...but as these films have shown time and time again, the sins of the past always return.

The Corleone family has outlived its ability to function.  Those lucky enough to live to old ages like Michael either try to hang on or let go, and neither seems possible.  Michael chose his destiny a long time ago, and that destiny has dictated his life ever since.  Even older, frailer and weakened by diabetes, he will once more have to face the consequences of his lifetime of choices.

His future is represented by two characters:  his daughter Mary (Sofia Coppola), who may be the living symbol of everything decent he's ever tried to be, and his nephew Vincent (Garcia), the hot-headed bastard son of his brother Sonny, who, unlike Michael at his age, wants everything that being a Corleone means...with a vengeance. 

Two characters, two distinct and different futures.  Only one will carry on the family name, and providence itself may choose what Michael's ultimate legacy will be.

Pacino, who has made Michael his own since the early 70's, is in absolute top form.  We see every year of the decades of Michael's life that was not shown on screen between parts II and III.  As an actor, he feels Michael's pain, qualms of conscience, and flashes of strength...his performance creates some of the film's most lingering images.

Garcia has made a career out of playing fierce-tempered Italian American characters, and there's a reason for it:  he's great at it.  His role as Vincent is probably his most memorable one since The Untouchables.  As for Sofia Coppola, enough has been made of her father's decision to cast her despite not really being an actress.  She has proven where her true talents lie as writer and director of the brilliant The Virgin Suicides.  Winona Ryder, the original casting choice, might have given the role more impact than she...I think that's enough said.

The real star of the picture, of course, is Francis Ford Coppola, who once again creates the world of The Godfather that audiences know by heart.  It is less enclosed than before; time has a way of making the cracks show in just about everything.  The Corleones couldn't keep the outside world away forever.  But their world still exists, from the whispered order to the surprising acts of violence that shatter the silence and remind us all that these are characters we saw choosing their fates many years back...and now their fates are coming to collect.

The finale in Sicily, which pays homage to Coppola's own baptism massacre sequence of the first film, shows perhaps the last remnants of the Corleone family under Michael's control staking one last claim as Michael's son makes his operatic debut.  Sicily was where Vito Corleone was born, and it is here that Michael has his last moment of triumph...a triumph that is short lived, as once again, dominos he set in motion as a young man continue to topple, and despite the man he once was, his power cannot stop the events he set in motion. 

The Corleone family will continue, of course, but so will the weakening we've witnessed with the passage of time.  It will be a shell of its former self.  Vito built an empire, and Michael ran it to its fruition.  What Vincent will inherit will be the mere remnants of a kingdom...perhaps a reminder about what becomes of all those who live by the sword.

Video ***

For the most part, this anamorphic transfer is good, but with some problems worth noticing.  Again, Gordon Willis' terrific cinematography makes for a difficult video presentation, and some scenes near the beginning, along with a crucial dinner scene between Michael and Kay, show the effects of their contrast.  Grain is evident, along with some unexplained shimmering of background details.  Most of the picture looks quite good, however, with distinct and memorable color and lighting schemes well rendered, and with good levels of detail even in darker settings.

Audio ***1/2

Part III may enjoy the best audio mix of the set, with a much cleaner, clearer center stage that renders the dialogue with slightly more fullness.  The surrounds get some use in key action sequences, plus the opera finale, and come into play during quieter scenes for ambient effect.  The .1 channel gets a little more use than in the first two films as well.  Overall, it should be stated that this picture probably features the best music of the three films, with Carmine Coppola's beautiful, haunting melodies underscoring the emotions and drama of the picture.

Features (see The Godfather DVD Collection)

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