Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Penultimate 'Sopranos'

"About halfway through (John Updike's) Rabbit at Rest, the reader will start to hear a horse whisper in the background. You may hear it is your own heart that is doing the murmuring (for the book is all about ageing, about seizure and closure: it is itself an ending). Later on, though, the noise becomes more raucous and more generalized: perhaps it belongs to the sports arena or the auditorium; there is something of the herd instinct in it, involving you in a pleasant loss of individuality. At last you acknowledge that this is nothing other than the sound of applause, American applause: the ows and yays, the stomp of feet, the vociferous whistling."
--Martin Amis

The above was the comment I sought out today, after sitting through the second-to-last-of-all-time Sopranos episode last night.

I pride myself on coming early to the Sopranos, going back to when I first saw the requisite HBO "Making of . . ." documentary.

Wow, I thought. James Gandolfini, who had served as background for a dozen mob films, and--in a bit of business here, a line of dialogue there--had revealed himself as an actor headed for something big. He had done good work (had overcome an unfortunate miscasting) as a meek-willed but good man in A Civil Action.

Now--as William Manchester said of Winston Churchill--the moment had met the man.

I remember looking over the rest of the cast: Michael Imperioli, who had played Spider in Goodfellas, here the upstart. Little Steven, last seen in Springsteen's "Glory Days" video, here as Silvio, with the greatest hairpiece not belonging to Rod Steiger. Paulie Walnuts, a dozen bosses in a dozen mob movies, here a captain.

Damn, what a cast.

I was married over the weekend; I said to my Aunt Peggy, "Okay. New York versus New Jersey, right?"

Easy, as it turned out.

The New York-New Jersey feud that has been brewing since Tony muscled Uncle June out of boss.

A thousand red herrings (one writer recently wrote, "The next person who asks me about the Russian in the snow gets kicked in the balls.") A thousand characters, dead or alive.

And it comes down to this.

Two great references:

*Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana, from the opening credits to Raging Bull. On a special early 90s episode of Siskel and Ebert, just before the release of Goodfellas, Gene Siskel asked Martin Scorsese: What is the one scene you'd keep, if you could only keep one? Scorsese could have mentioned "You talkin' to me?" or the gun purchase or the climax from Taxi Driver; he could have mentioned "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" from The Last Waltz, or the gun scene from Who's That Knocking at My Door? Or he could have pushed Goodfellas, "What, like I'm a clown?" or the midnight supper at Mamma's, or the "Leyla" coda sequence. What Scorsese picked, as the one scene above all else, was the opening credits to Raging Bull, DeNiro in the ring. And I agree.

*The killing of Bobby. Saw this coming up I-95, but notice the use of the model trains. Shades of--is anyone with me?--The Bridge on the River Kwai--whose climactic seconds were thrilling even as they fell flat, because 1) the trains that tumbled over the bridge were clearly made of cardboard, and 2) well, that's it.

Anyway, that's what I got.


desertrose said...

You wrote perfectly about the shadow boxing with the Raging Bull music and The Bridge on the River Kwai connection to Bobby's death. I also loved the Dr. Melfi dumping Tony scene.

Anonymous said...

I agree with DesertRose (I know who you are now!). I know it's all about the Yankees here, but when you write about movies and literature, I'm pretty happy.
(Grad School Pal)

Anonymous said...

Please go back to whining about the Yankees. PLEASE!!!!

A bunch of gumbas who use guns to solve every problem is about as deep as a bird bath during an Arizona summer.


Yes, I'm expecting to find a horse head in my bed tonight.