Recut, Revise, Rearrange

In case you missed it, Francis Ford Coppola has recut The GodFather, Part III, renamed it Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone, and, after a very limited theatrical run, will release it digitally this week. Coppola said of the revision, “For this version of the finale, I created a new beginning and ending, and rearranged some scenes, shots, and music cues. With these changes and the restored footage and sound, to me, it is a more appropriate conclusion to ‘The Godfather’ and ‘The Godfather: Part II’ and I’m thankful to Jim Gianopulos and Paramount for allowing me to revisit it.” Diane Keaton, costar in all three original Godfather films said, “It was one of the best moments of my life to watch it. To me it was a dream come true. I saw the movie in a completely different light. When I saw it way back, it was like ‘Oh, I don’t know.’ It didn’t seem to do that well and the reviews weren’t great. But Francis restructured the beginning and the end and man, I’m telling you it worked.”

This is not the first time Coppola has recut his movies. He has also recut The Cotton Club and made multiple cuts of Apocalypse Now. It’s what happens when an art work is not quite what the artist wants it to be and has the opportunity to revisit their work. As Coppola said of his new cut of The Godfather, Part III, “It was like pulling on the thread of a sweater that annoyed you, and you end up re-knitting the whole sweater.” Coppola is not the only director to recut films; Sir Ridley Scott released five versions on Blade Runner, in addition to the two preview versions which were shown only in 1982.

And these are not the only artists who feel the need to revise. Many artists are dissatisfied with their work, but call it “finished” in order to meet a deadline or fulfill a contract or simply to move on to the next project. There are many reasons for this dissatisfaction, some of which are covered in a post from a few years ago, but there may be few opportunities to revise older work. Coppola seems to think that that has to do with how much clout one has and one’s age. That may well be. One thing that is certain is that as one’s perspective changes, one’s opinion of one’s work also changes.

And that often happens with time: sometimes that can be years; other times it may mean just a week or so.  Time allows the artist to “step away” from the work and look at it with “different eyes.” Successful parts which could be bettered become apparent. Areas which are less successful become obvious. Errors and flaws jump out.

The next step is admitting that, though what one made is good, it could be made better. Then the challenge is having the courage and wherewithal to actually modify the original.  In one respect Coppola is lucky, not only in that he had both, but in that he works in a medium that allows itself to be rearranged and edited, and if one has access to all the negatives, added to. Others, who work in ephemeral arts, such as live theatre or dance do not have this advantage and either have to mount a whole new production or let the notion of revision pass.

The point of all this? We as artists should not be afraid to follow Coppola’s example. We should not be hesitant to revise that which we can revise when we can. It keeps the work alive, at least according to Picasso, who suggests that art works are never done: “To finish a work? To finish a picture? What nonsense! To finish it means to be through with it, to kill it, to rid it of its soul, to give it its final blow the coup de grace for the painter as well as for the picture.” It allows us to make our work better.

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Date: Sunday, 6. December 2020 23:29
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