Just a quickie, but I keep alluding to this:
The whole trilogy from the original Don (Brando / DeNiro) is a morality tale (that much is obvious). Clear tribal boundaries to what is considered right and wrong and who is fair game for the mob’s brutal forms of justice. There are few “innocent” victims of their evil – even though evil it clearly is, zero ambiguity. He who lives by the sword often dies by it – and the victims clearly all know and accept the rules.
By Godfather III, Michael (Pacino) has seen where the excesses lead, and experienced the desolation of tit-for-tat law-of-the-jungle justice. When he says his aim is for the family business to go “completely legit” – he (probably) really means it. None of which excuses the evil past on which his power-based was built – but he knows that too, in fact it’s his driver to go legit. History is in the past. Even with that genuine quest – circumstances demand some Machiavellian moves to make progress in big business and national politics – it may even be all he knows.
III itself has some great content too – The intertwining of the real-life historical events around the pope’s banker (and more) make it ring even more true; The cultural background of his son’s performance at the opera in Palermo, and the tale of the opera itself, and its passionate musical background; Vincent’s collusion with Connie to continue the old line of business; Michael’s own frailty and the ambiguity of his “accepting” the inevitability of that continuity, despite his efforts to break the family from it; And finally, the undoubted worst outcome for Michael.
In fact, that 30-second, silent scream as the death of his daughter sinks in, has me welling up just typing these words. If there was any ambiguity in his drive before then, now we are left without doubt. The single best scene in cinematic history for me. The cynics say she was a front for his evil empire, in fact she was carrying all his hopes for the alternative future. The fact there is no Godfather IV seals it. No future without hope.
[Without Godfather III – the trilogy has no meaning.]