Restoring ‘The Godfather’ to Its Original (Still Dark) Glory

Restoring ‘The Godfather’ to Its Authentic (Nonetheless Darkish) Glory

After 50 years, Francis Ford Coppola nonetheless isn’t completed with “The Godfather” — and it isn’t completed with him, both.

Coppola made his bones with that crime epic, which received three Academy Awards, together with greatest image, made untold thousands and thousands of {dollars} for Paramount Photos and influenced a half-century of filmmaking within the course of.

However times have changed. It’s not just like the outdated days. And but “The Godfather” continues to age like a satisfied don sitting blithely in his garden.

In efforts to protect “The Godfather” for future generations, Paramount, Coppola and his colleagues at American Zoetrope beforehand labored collectively on repaired and revitalized variations of the movie as just lately as 15 years in the past, in what was then billed as “The Coppola Restoration.”

Now for the fiftieth anniversary of “The Godfather,” which opened in New York on March 15, 1972, Coppola and these studios have produced a brand new restoration. This newest version was created with higher-quality sources of the movie, improved digital expertise and a few 4,000 hours spent repairing stains, tears and different flaws. (It is going to be launched in theaters on Friday and on residence video on March 22.)

As Coppola defined final week, “The entire thing is making an attempt to get it to seem like it did on the authentic screening of ‘The Godfather,’ when it was solely two weeks outdated, not 20 years outdated or 50 years outdated.”

Coppola, now 82, mentioned he by no means bored with scrutinizing of the movie. However naturally any time he spends reflecting on “The Godfather” brings again a spread of feelings and recollections — the ache of its fraught manufacturing and the pleasure of its runaway success.

“It’s important to perceive, as a filmmaker, I didn’t actually know the best way to make ‘The Godfather,’” he mentioned. “I realized the best way to make ‘The Godfather’ making it.”

Talking in a video interview alongside James Mockoski, the movie archivist and restoration supervisor for American Zoetrope, Coppola mentioned the brand new work on “The Godfather,” the scenes he needed to maintain darkish and the scenes that just about bought minimize — and even labored in a plug for his newest movie in progress, “Megalopolis.” These are edited excerpts from that dialog.

Why was a restoration effort like this essential?

FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA The studio system, which was so good at doing a lot, was at all times weak at this query of preservation. “The Godfather” was uncannily profitable in its time. However Paramount was very unprepared for that success. Instantly it discovered itself exhibiting in New York in 5 theaters, as a result of there was such a requirement to see it, after which in different places everywhere in the world. As an alternative of claiming, let’s protect the unique destructive as a result of it’s going to be a priceless asset, they principally wore it out one thing terrible as a result of they used it to make so many prints. The prints began to be so not like what the film actually ought to seem like.

JAMES MOCKOSKI There isn’t a fantastic print of “The Godfather” from the unique launch. So what we relied on was Gordy’s [the film’s cinematographer, Gordon Willis] authorized restoration. Aside from that, we wouldn’t have a clue of how the movie actually seemed when it was initially launched.

COPPOLA And that is additional sophisticated by the truth that Gordy Willis intentionally used a inventive approach that was extraordinarily harmful. He flirted with it being underexposed — which is a sin — in elements of the body. If the actor was not on his mark, if he was two ft away from the place Gordy had thought he was going to be, he is likely to be in whole darkness. It made it lovely, however it was very unforgiving.

How did you hunt down the parts of movie that had been used on this restoration?

MOCKOSKI We discovered a bit extra since earlier restorations. Paramount discovered it in different [film] cans. They did an effort to cobble collectively the primary two movies [made for television and titled “The Godfather Saga”] and once they minimize the movie, it wound up in different cans.

Is there any unused footage from “The Godfather” that you just’ve by no means been capable of find?

MOCKOSKI “Godfather,” due to its success, they did maintain all the things. Paramount had management of movies like “The Conversation” [the 1974 Coppola drama] And when that was locked and in distribution, they took all the things he shot that didn’t wind up within the movie they usually despatched it to the inventory footage division. So we don’t have something apart from what you see. Afterward, we stored all the things from “Apocalypse Now,” “One From the Coronary heart” and all the things in our vaults.

[A spokeswoman for Paramount confirmed this, adding that the studio has 36 shots from “The Conversation” in its stock library.]

Something on this restoration that you just’re nonetheless not fully glad with?

MOCKOSKI There’s nonetheless stuff within the wedding ceremony scene that was of degraded high quality. However general, on this restoration, you’ll be able to hardly inform that.

What’s it wish to scrutinize each single body of “The Godfather”?

MOCKOSKI It’s enjoyable to see issues body by body, since you’ll see issues that nobody truly sees. Once they do a fade or dissolve, you’ll see somebody with a clapboard. There’s one scene — the outdated gentleman singing the song at the wedding, his dentures begin falling out.

It is a film that, by design, is meant to be very darkish. How have you learnt if you’re a picture that’s too darkish — or not darkish sufficient?

COPPOLA We had an early assembly between myself, Gordy Willis, Dean Tavoularis [the production designer] and Anna Hill Johnstone [the costume designer] on what the type was going to be. We talked about using darkish and light-weight. [In the first scenes] Don Corleone’s workplace could be actually darkish, in contrast towards the virtually overexposed, magazine-bright pictures of the marriage. That was deliberate. I do know, and any actually considerate individual is aware of, what’s essential within the body.

MOCKOSKI That’s additionally a hazard after we retransfer it. Everybody desires to place their fingerprint on it and do one thing new. With the brand new expertise, it’s making an attempt to place extra mild in it. You’ve bought this lovely opening they usually need to see all the small print and the wooden paneling. Nicely, that’s not the purpose. That’s not “Godfather.”

Have been these the sorts of belongings you had been paying shut consideration to in the course of the making of the unique movie?

COPPOLA I can’t say that it was my nature to be anxious about photographic element. “The Godfather” was a really powerful expertise for me. I used to be younger. I bought pushed round and I pushed again. There was a whole lot of bluffing I did. I used to be simply glad I had survived the expertise of “The Godfather” and I needed nothing extra to do with it. I didn’t even need to direct “Godfather II.”

Do you ever get bored with watching “The Godfather”?

COPPOLA No. By no means.

MOCKOSKI I’m at all times nervous to point out him as a result of perhaps he’ll say, “Ah, however you recognize what I’d like to try this I wasn’t capable of is make these adjustments ——” and right here comes a unique minimize. However he would sit there and watch it. He by no means will get bored with it and he’ll have the best tales. [To Coppola] You instructed me after we did the final evaluation that they didn’t need you to shoot the scene where Brando has a heart attack.

COPPOLA That was minimize from the script. Paramount figured, when you cut to the cemetery, you’ll know he died. However I stole that [scene] by getting a bit early on the wedding ceremony and having the tomatoes in the identical place. Brando mentioned, let me do that trick that I do for my very own [children]. And he did the orange-peel trick. It was his concept and he saved me. Due to Marlon Brando and Dean Tavoularis for getting the tomatoes. We needed to fly them in from another place and it was a giant scandal of how a lot they’d value for a scene that was minimize from the script.

Do you’ve gotten any want to re-edit “The Godfather” in the way in which you reshaped “The Godfather Part III” into “The Godfather, Coda”?

COPPOLA “Godfather,” I’d say there’s no adjustments I need to make. There are some footage that I’ve and am altering and a few I received’t contact. However there’s no rule of thumb as to which these are. Ask me now, a film, if I’m going to alter it or not. You have got a film of mine you need to ask me about?

Uh — I simply rewatched “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” just a few weeks in the past. How about that?

COPPOLA There are not any adjustments to “Dracula.” That’s the minimize. “Dracula” is a completed film.

“The Godfather” has already endured for 50 years. If it ought to develop into the film you’re greatest identified for, are you at peace with that?

COPPOLA I believe it’s already the film I’m most identified for. In case you ask everybody to call why I must be in any respect even thought-about of significance, they’ll say “The Godfather.” Possibly “Apocalypse Now” is an in depth second. “Apocalypse Now” is a extra uncommon and extra fascinating film, in some methods. However I used to be at all times making movies that I truly didn’t know the best way to make and studying from the movie itself. That’s why my profession is so bizarre. I guarantee you, “Megalopolis” is essentially the most formidable, essentially the most uncommon and the weirdest movie I’ve ever tried and I do not know the best way to make it. And I really like that, as a result of I do know it can educate me.

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