50 years later, Francis Ford Coppola The Godfather isn’t finished yet – and he’s not finished with him either.
Coppola made his bones with this crime epic, which won three Academy Awards, including Best Picture, brought in millions of dollars for Paramount Pictures and influenced the film industry for half a century.
In an effort to preserve The Godfather for posterity, Paramount, Coppola and his fellow American Zoetrope previously worked together on repaired and refurbished versions of the film as recently as 15 years ago, in what was later called The Godfather. “Coppola’s recovery.”
Now for the 50th anniversary of “The Godfather,” which opened in New York on March 15, 1972, Coppola and these studios have produced a new restoration. This latest edition was created with high-quality film sources, improved digital technology, and spent approximately 4,000 hours repairing stains, tears, and other imperfections. (It will be released in theaters Friday and in home video on March 22.)
As Coppola explained last week, “Everything is trying to make it look like it did in the original show of The Godfather, when he was only two weeks old, not 20 or 50.”
Coppola, now 82, said he never tires of scrutinizing the film. But of course, any time spent thinking about “The Godfather” brings back a host of feelings and memories — the pain of its charged production and the pride of its unbridled success.
“You have to understand,” he said, “as a filmmaker, I didn’t really know how to make The Godfather.” “I learned how to make it ‘The Godfather’.
Speaking in a video interview alongside James Mukoski, film archivist and restoration supervisor at American Zoetrope, Coppola discussed new work in The Godfather, scenes he wanted to keep dark and scenes that almost cut — and even worked to bridge his latest film in progress, “Megalopolis.” . These are edited excerpts from that conversation.
Why were such restoration efforts necessary?
Francis Ford Coppola The studio system, which was so good at doing so much, was always weak in this matter of memorization. The Godfather was an extraordinarily successful movie of its time. But Paramount was not prepared for that success. Suddenly she found herself appearing in New York in five theaters, because there was a demand to see it, and then in other places around the world. Instead of saying, let’s keep the original negative because it’s going to be a valuable asset, they basically wore something terrible because they used it to make a lot of prints. The prints are starting to be the opposite of what the movie really should look like.
James Mukoski There is no better version of “The Godfather” than the original. So what we relied on was Gordy [the film’s cinematographer, Gordon Willis] Restore approved. Other than that, we wouldn’t have a clue what the movie really looked like when it was originally released.
Coppola Complicating matters further is the fact that Gordy Willis intentionally used a creative technique that was extremely dangerous. He flirted with her being uncovered – which is a sin – on parts of the frame. If the actor was not on his mark, if he was within two feet of where Gordy thought he would be, he might be in complete darkness. He made her beautiful, but she was unforgiving.
How did you find the parts of the film that were used in this restoration?
Mokoski We found a little more since previous restorations. Paramount found it in another [film] Cans. They made an effort to put the first two movies together [made for television and titled “The Godfather Saga”] And when they cut the film, it ended up in other cans.
Are there any unused footage from “The Godfather” that you’ve never been able to locate?
Mokoski “The Godfather,” because of his success, they kept everything. Paramount has been controlling movies like “Conversation” [the 1974 Coppola drama] And when that got locked out and distributed, they took everything he filmed that didn’t end up in the movie and sent it to the stills department. So we don’t have anything other than what you see. Later, we kept everything from “Apocalypse Now” and “One from the Heart” and everything in our vaults.
[A spokeswoman for Paramount confirmed this, adding that the studio has 36 shots from “The Conversation” in its stock library.]
Is there anything in this restore that I’m still not completely satisfied with?
Mokoski There were still things in the wedding scene that were of degraded quality. But in general, in this restore, you can hardly tell.
How does it feel to scrutinize each individual frame of ‘The Godfather’?
Mokoski It’s fun to see things frame by frame, because you’ll see things that no one actually sees. When it fades or dissolves, you will see a person with the tablet. There is one scene – the old man Sing the song at the weddingHis dentures begin to fall out.
This is a movie that, by design, is meant to be very dark. How do you know you’re looking at a photo that’s too dark – or not dark enough?
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Coppola We had an early meeting between me, Jordi Willis, Dean Tavolaris [the production designer] Anna Hale Johnston [the costume designer] On the style it will be. We talked about using dark and light. [In the first scenes] Don Corleone’s office would be really dark, compared to the nearly overexposed, bright wedding photography. It was intentional. I know, and anyone really thoughtful, what’s important in a framework.
Mokoski This is also a risk when we move it back. Everyone wants to put their stamp on it and do something new. With the new technology, it is trying to give it more light. You have this beautiful opening and they want to see all the details and the wood paneling. Well, that’s not the point. This is not the “Godfather”.
Were these the things you paid close attention to while making the original movie?
Coppola I can’t say it was natural for me to be concerned about the details of the photography. The Godfather was a very difficult experience for me. I was young. You pushed me and pushed me back. There was a lot of deception that I did. I was glad I survived the ‘Godfather’ experience and wanted nothing more. I didn’t even want to direct Godfather II.
Tired of watching The Godfather?
Coppola no never.
Mokoski I’m always nervous to show it because maybe he’ll say, ‘Ah, but you know what I’d like to do and haven’t been able to do is make these changes–‘ and here comes a different cut. But he was sitting there and watching her. He never gets tired of it and will have the greatest stories. [To Coppola] You told me when we did the last review that they don’t want you to shoot The scene in which Brando had a heart attack.
Coppola It was cut from the text. bramont figured, When you go to the cemeteryYou will know he is dead. But I stole it [scene] By getting a little early at the wedding and eating tomatoes in the same place. Let me do this trick that I do myself . said Brando [children]. He did the orange peel trick. It was his idea and he saved me. Thanks to Marlon Brando and Dean Tavolaris for getting the tomatoes. We had to move them from somewhere else and it was a huge scandal for how much a scene that was cut from the script cost.
Do you have any desire to re-edit “The Godfather” the way you want She remade ‘The Godfather Part III’ into ‘The Godfather, Coda’?
Coppola Godfather, I would say there are no changes I want to make. There are some pictures I own and I’m changing and some I won’t touch. But there is no general rule about these. Now ask me, movie, if I’m going to change it or not. You have a movie of mine that you want to ask me about?
Uh – I just re-watched “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” a few weeks ago. What about that?
Coppola There are no changes to “Dracula”. This is the cut. Dracula is a full movie.
The Godfather has already suffered for 50 years. If it was meant to be the movie you’re famous for, are you at peace with that?
Coppola I think it’s already the movie that I’m famous for. If I asked everyone to say why I should be considered important at all, they would say “Godfather”. “Apocalypse Now” may come second. “Apocalypse Now” is a much weirder and more exciting movie in some ways. But I’ve always been making movies that I didn’t know how to make and learning from the movie itself. That’s why my career is so strange. I assure you, Megalopolis is the most ambitious, weirdest, weirdest movie I’ve ever tried, and I have no idea how it was made. And I love it, because I know it will teach me.
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