Film Studies: The Sopranos, the Corleones and me

So, last Sunday night was big at our house. Matter of fact, we made a day of it, what with the start of football, then the Emmys in the evening. There must have been a dozen men in the den watching Dallas- Washington, and then the 49ers against Jacksonville. Hey, first Sunday of the season and you get two games like that! And all afternoon you could smell Big Anthony in the kitchen adding in the meatballs and the hot sausage and the sweet sausage, and the basil and the oregano - and the kids and the wives sitting in the yard looking pretty. Then, in the evening - showtime! We all gathered round the set. Sixteen Emmy nominations for The Sopranos! You felt proud to be Italian.

Excuse me," said my editor. "Speak," I said, ready to pour the good red wine.

"I hadn't realised `Thomson' was an Italian name."

"Come to that," I said, "I never heard of people called `Soprano' neither."

"So what is it," she said, "about everyone wanting to pretend they're Italian? Or in the family way - if you know what I mean?"

She said it was all very peculiar, because what she remembered of the legend of Italian-ness when she was growing up was windbag show-offs like Mussolini and the famed discretion of the Italian army. "Now, all the guys wear dark suits and gather in solemn circles, while the women - "

"It was Michael," I said.

"Michael?"

Michael Corleone, Al Pacino. The Ivy League kid who began as a reluctant defender of family honour in a time of crisis. Remember the way he went out to that neighbourhood restaurant, took the gun that Clemenza had planted in the john, and came out and shot Sollozzo and McCloskey, gave it to them al dente with their dinner, and got away and went to Sicily till the heat was off? And after that he was head of the family, the guy who dealt with Hyman Roth, finally, and had his own brother, Fredo, little Fredo, shot and dumped in the lake at Tahoe. Michael the cold and terrible, but Michael as the "organised" in organised crime, keeping order and honour and respect in place, and holding the family together, and being supreme and omniscient, and sitting in the dark sipping just a little iced water.

"And always closing the door on his wife, Kay," said my editor.

"That was one of the most devout images in a very religious film," I said. "Look, this was the early 1970s. The world was coming apart. Families were broken on drugs and divorce. Women were shooting off their mouths. Nixon couldn't keep order any more. America had no respect."

"Rather healthy," said my editor. "The break-up of a sick empire."

"Guys like a little order," I said. "That was the appeal of Michael and the Corleones."

"It's so odd," she said. "Weren't there complaints at the time from Italian-Americans, that they weren't all Mafia? And didn't Francis Coppola say he was painting a tragic picture of a dark aspect of a rare kind of Italian family life?"

"Francis doesn't always know what he's doing."

"But then that third Godfather film blew it all?"

"Missed the point."

"What was that?"

"The climax should have been the family story set against 1963."

"1963?"

"How the boys took JFK out. After he'd used them in '60, and then forgotten the respect they were owed. It should have gone all the way."

And maybe one day that story will be told properly, and then the American public will turn away with revulsion from its adulation of these dark Italian families. Oh sure, The Sopranos is meant to be funny, and it's a kind of satire. And these are much less glamorous figures than Michael and Sonny and Vito ever were. And there have been other films along the way that told us they were telling the real, grubby story of the scum who got to be Mafia - films like GoodFellas and Married to the Mob, and even Mickey Blue Eyes, which is about as terrible as the genre can get, and which ought to be put in concrete for the way it turns James Caan into a stooge. Do you remember how glorious and stupid he was as Sonny Corleone?

"Do you like The Sopranos?" asked my editor.

"Wouldn't miss it."

"I like the shrink," she said. "The way you see the family trying to adjust to modern ways."

"I had a dream once," I said, "that they did a Godfather 4 in which Connie - remember her? Talia Shire? - she became Lucretia Borgia running the family."

"A woman in charge? I bet you made her like a man."

"Of course," I agreed. "She was the most ruthless. And she had a grand- daughter who gets to be an intern at the White House."

"Oh, I like that," she said. "So, did The Sopranos win?"

Trust her to ask. "Four," I said. "We got four Emmys. Technical, mostly."

"Not enough respect, huh? So how did your Niners do?"

"The 49ers?"

"That's what I said," she said.

"They lost. 41-3."

So we went and ate the good pasta, with a nice little chianti, and told tales of sinister glory, including Dallas-Washington.

`The Sopranos' continues, Thursday 10pm C4

Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week