'Godfather Part III': longer, with a near-perfect Garcia

October 11, 1991|By Josh Mooney


Paramount Home Video

No retail price listed Director Francis Ford Coppola complained bitterly last Christmas when "The Godfather Part III" was released, insisting that the studio hadn't given him time to edit the film the way he wanted to. Now, the video release of the third chapter of Mr. Coppola's epic gangster saga includes an additional nine minutes of footage and is billed as the "final director's cut."

The added footage (which we can hardly call a major revision) helps tie up a few ends and fleshes out the story a bit, but they won't lead to a major critical or audience reassessment of this long-awaited sequel to two of the most significant films of the '70s.

The year is 1979 -- 20 years after Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) consolidated his power as the head of the Mafia in Part II. Now the aging don is trying to go legit, investing in Wall Street and banks instead of gambling and porn. But when the Corleone family gets involved financially with the Vatican, they can't know that the Catholic Church itself is mired in conspiracy.

Meanwhile, Michael looks for a worthy successor to head the family interests and settles on Vincent, the illegitimate son of his late brother, Sonny. Vincent, played to near perfection by Andy Garcia, is as hotheaded and ruthless as his dad (James Caan in the original film).

Mr. Coppola weaves the plot elements on three levels -- family strife, business troubles, international conspiracy -- together intricately, as usual, and yet he scrambles to make it all cohere and pay off.


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There are times when this behind-the-scenes/live performance feature film has the look and feel of D. A. Pennebaker's classic documentary on Dylan's 1965 British tour, "Don't Look Back": a rawness, an honesty, a sense that what you're seeing goes beyond what you've previously known or imagined about this performer.

Then, just as quickly, this slick, often enjoyable film can turn as crass and manipulative as its subject -- which never happened to the Pennebaker film. Madonna didn't direct this -- a talented young video director named Alek Keshishian did that dirty work -- but her hand is all over the results here.

Madonna is an acquired taste as a performer. But the merits of her talents on some 1-to-10 scale have nothing to do with Madonna the cultural phenomenon. Because Madonna allowed Mr. Keshishian's cameras to invade her inner sanctum during 1990's Blonde Ambition tour we get a glimpse inside the rarefied world of pop/rock superstardom that at times is riveting, and always is educational.

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