Friday, November 10, 2006

The Mobster World

Last week I rewatched Martin Scorcese's Goodfellas for the first time in probably ten years. When I first saw the film I was a university undergraduate, and while my memory of it was fairly sketchy, I remember having loved it. I saw the DVD on sale at a local shop and thought some quality mobster violence on film was just what I felt like.

I was disappointed though. The film seemed flat and the characters and scenarios underdeveloped. Could my judgement really have been so wrong ten years ago?

Then I realised that The Sopranos is to blame. Mobster stories are, by their very nature, sprawling and complicated affairs. The joy lies in the intricate power relationships between the characters and the way in which these relationships constantly change. A TV show has the luxury of space in which to examine this level of complexity. The Sopranos strength lies in its large cast of characters, all of whom are allowed to become fully developed, without the need to restrict the show to a single narrative in the way that a film has to. Maybe this explains why Francis Ford Coppola needed three films to tell the story of the Corleone family.

Now that I know and love The Sopranos I wanted to hear the stories of all the Paulie and Sil and Christopher and Adrianna equivalents in Goodfellas. They weren't there and I felt let down. I was interested to notice however that the actor who plays Christopher (Michael Imperioli) does have a bit part in Goodfellas where he is fairly cruelly shot in the foot. On The Sopranos that could have become a whole episode.

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