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I realise that there have not been too many films noted on these pages over the last half year or so. Well, guess why: Six Seasons of The Sopranos I had to deal with, and let’s just note that this has been an experience often more compelling and stimulating and hilarious and dramatic and heart-wrenching and engrossing and …  as currently Terrence Mallick is featured a lot: watching the Sopranos was like watching a 70-hour Mallick film (and it is so much better, I believe, when you all have it in one DVD box and can treat it as one ridiculously long feature). Not in terms of visuals, but in terms of the epic representation of what the world is about. About all these normal things like violence and sex and raising children and killing brothers-in-law and dealing with employee jealousy and coordinating the girlfriend with the wife and new people entering one’s life and others leaving it. We don’t get to see how this life of Tony Sorprano has been built up, but we get to see how he tries to maintain and develop it, a rather arbitrary 7-year stretch of his life standing in for arbitrarily picked stretches in all lives, sometimes a bit tedious, sometimes a matter of life and death. Interesting also to compare it with the similar approach “The Wire” took: the latter changed perspective to highlight features of this society, to detach itself from individuals as far as you can in  commercial tv product. The Sopranos is in contracts excessively subjective: at the end of the day, the script lets nobody count but Tony S., because for Tony, nobody else counts. The whole show is filled with absolutely despicable characters, sometimes bluntly so (Ralphy), sometimes subtly (what the show creator  called the “whore wife”, corrupt to the bone Carmela). After thinking about it for a minute, I believe there would be one single character in the whole show that I would call pleasant and of moral integrity, and that is the psychiatrist Dr. Melfi who has to endure Sopranos self-indulgent claptrap for so many years, and only very late escapes the star-struck mob fascination.

What a portrait of society this is, what a fascinating elevation of tv to the level of proper narration that takes its characters and audience seriously. I guess we all have to light a candle at the next Italian-catholic church we pass to thank HBO for its courage at the time.

http://www.hbo.com/the-sopranos/index.html

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