My Film Notes: Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone (Part IV of a Trilogy)

Mario_Puzo%27s_The_Godfather_CodaMario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone is a 2020 director’s cut of The Godfather Part III, the 1990 American crime film written by Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola, and directed by Coppola, which wrapped up the story of The Godfather saga. It completes the story of Michael Corleone, a Mafia kingpin who tries to legitimize his criminal empire. The original film stars Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, and Andy Garcia, and features Eli Wallach, Joe Mantegna, George Hamilton, Bridget Fonda, and Sofia Coppola. It had a limited theatrical release in December 2020, followed by a home media release for digital platforms.

When originally released, despite getting mostly positive reviews, The Godfather Part III was deemed as an unfit continuation to the previous films which did not to live up to its predecessors. Both Coppola and Puzo initially planned to make the film an epilogue to the previous two rather than a direct continuation. The original title they had wanted for the third film was Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone, as the word ‘coda’ means epilogue, but Paramount Pictures rejected the title and insisted on calling the film The Godfather Part III.

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Part III, acknowledging that first film would reach its 50th anniversary in 2022 and his interest on making new versions of his films after turning eighty years old, Coppola approached Paramount Pictures head Jim Gianopulos and discussed the possibility of making a new, shorter cut more faithful to the original vision both he and Puzzo (who passed away in 1999) had in mind for the third film, along with the original title plus new shots and music, a request which Gianopulos granted.

The new cut of the film does not make many large changes. Both the beginning and ending scenes are changed, as well as some recut scenes in the middle. The most radical change is that the film does not end with the literal death of Michael Corleone, but instead his spiritual death as he sits alone in Sicily after the death of his daughter, consigned to a life of misery and regrets. The total runtime of the recut version is 158 minutes compared to the original’s 162 minutes. (Source: Fandom)

Further reading: How ‘The Godfather Coda’ Allows Francis Ford Coppola to Redefine His Biggest Disappointment.

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