Monday, June 11, 2007

The Sopranos: David Chase speaks

I'm glad David Chase is a man of his word. He's bugged out to Paris and trying to avoid doing any post-"Sopranos" finale press, but he promised me months ago that he would talk to me the day after the finale, and he stuck to that -- not that he was willing to explain much about the "Don't stop--" scene:

What do you do when your TV world ends? You go to dinner, then keep quiet. Sunday night, "Sopranos" creator David Chase took his wife out for dinner in France, where he's fled to avoid "all the Monday morning quarterbacking" about the show's finale. After this exclusive interview, agreed to well before the season began, he intends to go into radio silence, letting the work -- especially the controversial final scene -- speak for itself.

"I have no interest in explaining, defending, reinterpreting, or adding to what is there," he says of the final scene.

"No one was trying to be audacious, honest to god," he adds. "We did what we thought we had to do. No one was trying to blow people's minds, or thinking, 'Wow, this'll (tick) them off.' People get the impression that you're trying to (mess) with them and it's not true. You're trying to entertain them."

You can read the full interview at NJ.com, but feel free to comment here.

47 comments:

Anonymous said...

What a pointless interview, Chase hardly says anything.

Thanks for all of your great Sopranos discussion Alan.

Undercover Black Man said...

Cheers on the scoop, Alan. I missed the finale... and am sort of glad I did.

greg madsen said...

There was no ambiguity in the concluding moments of the final Sopranos episode.

David Chase is carefully using the language of film to let us know exactly what happened.

An abbreviated replay of the scene:

The restaurant sequence relies on Tony's point of view (POV) to engage the audience. When Tony first enters the restaurant, we are given a POV shot of the diners--Tony surveying the scene. This is mildly ominous, but nothing threatening is in view.

Tony seats himself and begins looking a the juke box selections--another POV shot series. This is interrupted by the ringing of the door entrance bell. Tony looks to see a man enter, his face hidden by a baseball hat. Again, mildly ominous.

He is again diverted from the juke box selections by another bell, Carmela's entrance, seen from Tony's POV. As she seats herself, we study her face from Tony's POV.

The bell rings again. Tony sees AJ enter behind a man made ominous by his loose jacket and his direct look at Tony and Carmela. AJ takes his seat and we again study a familiar face from Tony's POV. We see the ominous guy in background in soft focus.

The Soprano family conversation is intercut with a frantic Meadow having trouble parallel parking her car. "Don't Stop Believing" plays on (although Tony seemed to have selected Sinatra's "My Way") as AJ counsels his family to "...remember the good times."

The ominous guy at the counter enters the men's room located directly behind Tony.

Outside, Meadow runs from her car to the door of the restaurant. A car horn sets the audience on edge.

The bell rings. Instead of the view of Meadow that we expect, the screen goes black and the sound track is silenced.

This is Tony's POV. He has been whacked. Our hearts go out to Meadow for the horrible scene that greets her.

The New York mob gave Tony equal measure, whacking him in front of his family like the New Jersey boys did to Phil Leotardo.

Like many others, I thought my black screen was a cable failure. However, remembering that David Chase is a consummate filmmaker, I realized that his message was very clear.

Ciao, Antonio!


Greg Madsen
Sequim, WA

Anonymous said...

Wow, your story got Drudged. Congrats, Alan! You're big time now.

jim treacher said...

"Monday morning quarterbacking?" When was the last time the end of a football game was cut off ON PURPOSE?

Anonymous said...

Drudge has the link, unfortunately, to your preview article, not the whole thing.

Anyways, I just listened to a 30-minute discussion on the episode by the Howard Stern gang. Just like everybody, opinions varied widely. Here are their grades:

Artie Lange: B+
Robin Quivers: C
Fred Norris: F-
Gary Dell'Abate: D
Ralph Cirella: A+
Howard Stern: B

Adam said...

Alan, kudos to you for providing such solid analysis each week that you were the one person Chase wanted to talk to.

I'm back in the "this is how Tony sees the world, but he's not about to get whacked" camp, but only barely. Solid interview.

Anonymous said...

So I was watching our local news here in the Bay Area, and there was a story on this San Francisco supervisor who the FBI is investigating on corruption charges.

And the news interviewed another fellow supervisor, who said:

"This case has to be resolved. This doesn't deserve a Sopranos-style ending."

SJ said...

Though I am "satisfied" with the way it ended, what annoys me is the fact that he had to do it in such a non-traditional way...this ending is taking away the focus from what was a great episode to a massively entertaining season.

The people who are going around calling Chase a "TV hack" (Verne Gray for one) are just making it worse...how can anyone call Chase a "hack"??? The guy has created what is truly the most ground-breaking and memorable show on TV in the past 10 years, and I think we should just be thankful for that.

Sam Adams said...

Rather than the "Tony gets whacked" theory, I'm thinking Baccala's "everything goes black" line was Chase's way of starting the season by telling us how it would end. To quote Holy Grail, "I warned you!"

Anna Laperle said...

I was kinda down on the use of Journey for that last scene, but I read in the NYT that Journey's "Beast Within" was used for the end credits of the pilot episode. So, there you go. Bookends.

BWC said...

There was no ambiguity in the concluding moments of the final Sopranos episode.

Well, of course there was, otherwise people wouldn't be showing up with completely different interpretations of the event and insisting that they have the single correct reading of that moment.

What is this impulse by people to come up with a definitive explanation for what happens in that final scene? Art is not some puzzle with a single answer to be uncovered. Maybe he was killed, maybe we were whacked, maybe absolutely nothing happened and all of that tension in the diner was an audience projection that came from knowing it was 9:58 already and the end was coming soon.

And by doing a non-traditional ending such as this, Chase has once again put the Sopranos into the TV stratosphere; none of us will ever forget how this one ended.

When I first saw it, I laughed because I figured it was just Chase giving the audience the middle finger, but the more I turn it over in my head, the more I like it.

TL said...

From the article: there are about 17 other things wrong with this popular but incorrect theory.

Well put. How did such an obviously wrong theory become urban legend in 12 hours?

Greg: "This is Tony's POV. He has been whacked."

If it were Tony's POV, we would see the door. There's obviously no way to disprove the "Tony get's wacked" speculation, but for me it diminishes the show.

Anna: "I read in the NYT that Journey's "Beast Within" was used for the end credits of the pilot episode."

Nope. It was "The Beast in Me," performed by (I'm pretty sure) Nick Lowe.

Toby said...

That David Chase left the country to avoid the clamor after his show's finale reminds me of when Patrick McGoohan did the same thing before the finale of 'The Prisoner' aired. He knew there would be people upset when they didn't get the answers and resolution they were expecting.

I can't see why people would think Tony was ever in danger of getting whacked in Holsten's. He had a solid deal brokered with the new bosses in Brooklyn; why should they risk retaliation and a lack of trust from anybody they ever did business with in the future if they went back on it.

Now if the argument is that several of those guys were undercover Feds ready to take him in, that makes more sense. But I'm happy with the theory that life just goes on for Tony and his families; we just don't get to see it anymore......

As for the last time a football game was cut off on purpose, I guess that would have to be the infamous "Heidi" game back in the sixties. Forty years on, but it still happened. (Maybe it'll be another forty years before somebody tries to pull off this kind of ending again!)

KC said...

Seems to make perfect sense as we suspect life will go on for the Sopranos just without us observing their universe.

"And the movie never ends
it goes on, and on, and on and on
Don't stop believing

Homertojeebus said...

Upon reflection, I am leaning toward "Tony got whacked." I'm going to have to watch it again. A good question is, Did anyone know they were meeting at Holsten's?
I think Chase is saying there are clues that lean one way, but in the end, it is open to interpretation.

JZ said...

The only thing I wish now would have been for one more Ledger tossed at the bottom of the driveway -- the next day.

At least the headline would have given the viewers who wanted closure just that.

I rewatched the whole episode last night on the On Demand, followed by the end scene on the replay an hour or so later.

I dig it now, which means Chase, for me, did OK.

And man that cat.

Anonymous said...

Anyways, I just listened to a 30-minute discussion on the episode by the Howard Stern gang. Just like everybody, opinions varied widely. Here are their grades:

Artie Lange: B+
Robin Quivers: C
Fred Norris: F-
Gary Dell'Abate: D
Ralph Cirella: A+
Howard Stern: B


Oh boy, I was so curious about what a bunch of absolute morons thought on the topic. Maybe next they can solve world hunger when they're done talking to strippers.

JimD said...

I have a theory about the ending. It perfectly dovetails with the ending of the first season. Tony and his family take refuge from a storm inside Artie Bucco's restaurant. There, surrounded by wiseguys and family, Tony tells his children to enjoy the moments that were good. The scene fades out.

Contrast this with the new ending. Tony and his family are in a very American restaurant. They are not surrounded by wiseguys or what appears to be other Italians. And, instead of a storm brewing outside, the gathering clouds are inside the restaurant, swirling around him and his family. The show has come full circle. He no longer has two families. They are one in the same, especially Carmela and AJ, who are present at the table -- they are the most complicit. Meadow never actually makes it to the table. Yes, she's a Soprano and she appears destined to become her mother, but it hasn't happened yet.

Whether Tony is whacked or not at the cut to black is almost not the point. We no longer get to watch Tony Soprano, but we know that the danger will intensify and that he can no longer insulate his family from it. Tony was always afraid of losing his family. He survived these last 7 years, but for how much longer?

Anonymous said...

Alan, did Chase confirm that the cat represented Adriana?

Thanks for the inverview and insightful commentary.

TuckPendleton said...

For Greg and the others who think Tony got whacked --

Who pulled the trigger? And who ordered it? I think it's an interesting idea, and greg's "language of film" explanation makes sense to a point, but I have yet to see someone say who the killer is or who would order it...

TuckPendleton said...

One more thought:

Chase says there is no bigger Scorcese disciple than him...in Scorcese's most memorable movies, the main character always lives on, but usually in a prison of his or own making, yes?

Henry Hill lives his life out as a schnook. Jake LaMotta, Travis Bickle, Ace Rothstein, even Newland Archer from Age of Innocence.

This is off the top of my head, so I could be wrong on a couple, but I'm pretty sure they all live on -- but are forever damned by the actions they've taken in life. It's a much more punishing ending than a quick death...

...and I don't think Chase would let Tony get off so easy.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Departed definitely breaks that mold, Tuck.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alan, did Chase confirm that the cat represented Adriana?

I have to admit, I didn't think to ask any questions about the cat.

thomas tucker said...

Chase simply and figuratively "pulled the plug" and so the story stopped (without an ending per se) and we all thought our cable had gone out.

thomas tucker said...

BTW, sorry I can't return to watch the show again at the moment, but what was the scend where some FBI agents are in a surveillance truck and hear what... I can't remember- was it where Tony is going to eat? Could they then have passed on that info to the New York mob to go along with the theory above that Tony was indeed whacked by them? As is obvious from this post and my above post, i am ambivalent about whether Tony was whacekd or Tony lived on.

TuckPendleton said...

Alan --

I said his most memorable movies. :)

No matter what the Academy would have you believe, I think time will reveal The Departed to be part of his lesser canon.

(And even if you maintain that The Departed is one of his best, I think you could argue that because the movie is a Boston movie, it takes place out of the New York/NJ sphere that Chase grew up idolizing. Plus, the move is a remake, not an original Scorsese. So the ending was pre-ordained, to certain extent.)

JZ said...

One last comment, and thanks, Alan, for doing an awesome job over the last few weeks...

Robert Iler really stepped up his game in the last half of the season. His acting, in all seriousness, should be commended.

Anonymous said...

"Who pulled the trigger? And who ordered it?"

Thinking about it, I'd say there's more than enough motivation to go around, but I'd bet it came from inside NJ, and with Butchie's & Albie's approval. I mean, all Tony's accomplices are dead, the young guys he's in charge of have no emotional attachment to him; and the guy is about to go into a sticky public courtroom battle and is known to be friendly with an FBI agent. That alone seems plenty reason in this world. I'd bet Paulie was getting it offscreen too. With those two guys out, who's left from that generation? Patsy?

Anonymous said...

I like the Tony-got-whacked theory: he deserves to be whacked for picking Journey on the jukebox. Ugh!

(Remember that interview with Stevie Van Zandt, where he said he argued with Chase about the kind of crappy "classic rock" power ballads Tony and Carm would likely be listening to? Guess Chase got the last word on that one. Literally.)

jim treacher said...

"As for the last time a football game was cut off on purpose, I guess that would have to be the infamous 'Heidi' game back in the sixties."

Yeah, and what happened there?

Devin McCullen said...

Tuck, the problem with your Scorsese theory is that those are the way the stories happened in real life, so it's not really a creative choice (except in which people he chooses to make films about). And if you don't want to count The Departed against him because it's an adaptation, then you sure as heck don't get to count Newland Archer the other way. (I'll give you Bickle, though.)

thomas tucker said...

I'll say this, though- i think Chase is a schmuck for not telling us what his intent is. Why not just tell us whether or not he intended for us to think that Tony died, or lived on in dread and anticipation, or that we are just allowed to decide for themselves?

thomas tucker said...

And, finally, I'll add that if you read the lyrics to the Journey song, the impression is that Tony did not die since "the movie never ends."

TuckPendleton said...

Devin --

Good point, re: Age of Innocence, and adaptations.

Let's leave the Departed out of it then, based on its Boston roots, and that because of its recent vintage, it would not have been as influential on Chase's formative filmmaking years as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Age, and Goodfellas...

(Though of course you could argue that someone as influential as Scorsese is always teaching something during his films, and that Chase, as a student of MS, is always learning.)

So -- amended version -- the Scorcese NY/NJ canon, does often deal with "hero" characters who survive, but who must do so in a lousy life that they created.

Count Screwloose said...

jimd said..."The show has come full circle. He no longer has two families. They are one and the same..."

Exactly. That was what the entire season was leading up to. That false partition has collapsed at last and it's all Tony can do to keep those (real or imagined) threats from finally encroaching on them now.

RG

jim treacher said...

"And, finally, I'll add that if you read the lyrics to the Journey song, the impression is that Tony did not die since 'the movie never ends.'"

But then, considering Chase's fatalism, the movie doesn't care whether Tony's alive to see it or not.

SJ said...

Can anyone please tell me what Junior said to Janice in Italian? Surely somebody here speaks the language!

dez said...

So -- amended version -- the Scorcese NY/NJ canon, does often deal with "hero" characters who survive, but who must do so in a lousy life that they created.

I think you're leaving out one crucial film: "After Hours." Think about it :-)

rockovergraceland said...

Howdy all
put up some screen caps of 'members only guy " and that last shot,,,we can all go over it now like the zapruder film...I think tony got wacked

http://rockovergraceland.blogspot.com/

Eric said...

I've just come up with an additional wrinkle for my preferred interpretation (that we're seeing what Tony's life has become- everything is a threat, the other shoe is always about to drop.)

Tony wasn't shot - he had a panic attack. So he's back where he was pre-therapy.

Did anyone order a burger or other meat just before the screen went black?

Jim Monaghan said...

I have no idea if this means anything or not, but there is no mention of onion rings on the Holsten's menu.

Given that very little - if anything - ever happened on that show without a reason, is there any significance to onion rings?

neilbad said...

Of all the meta analyses and symbol and layer deconstructions I've waded through, I'm surprised more hasn't been made of the juke box song titles tony's sifting through (the heck with parsing Journey's lyrics). All kinds of obvious clues there (perhaps part of what Chase was referring to when he said in Alan's interview that "Anybody who wants to watch it, it's all there."):

Those Were the Days
Only the Strong Survive
Magic Man (Live)
Don't Stop Believin/
Any Way You Want It
I've Gotta Be Me/
A Lonely Place

for a series so obsessed with music, surely none of these was accidental. All were lingered on in closeup. The Journey b-side (from a different album than the single Tony plays..."Don't Stop Believin'" is on "Escape," while "Any Way" is on "Departure"...recall that Tony ripped a recipe from Departures magazine in Melfi's office) would seem to be Chase telegraphing his intent to leave it up to viewers to make the call, while the last song shown, "I Gotta Be Me," is probably an in-joke about Chase remaining faithful to his vision. "A Lonely Place" describes the trapped life of a mobster and a Tony all but alone, with almost his whole original mafia family gone, and "Those Were the Days" taps into the strong thread of nostalgia throughout the series, but especially strong toward the end.

The other song titles that appear can be taken just as literally...though I'm sure those who are convinced that Tony and/or his family get popped will think it's just more evidence of Chase toying with his viewers. Put me down firmly in the didn't-get-whacked column.

my apologies if this has been hashed over elsewhere. Neil

Anonymous said...

Holsten's does serve onion rings but they are larger in real life than they were in the show.

I wish you asked Mr. Chase if they planned on releasing another soundtrack album. That would be good.

Paul Levinson said...

Great interview - and congratulations on doing a spectacular job of reporting on The Sopranos, throughout ... (we may be having another public conference on The Sopranos at Fordham University in the Spring of 2008, and I'll be in touch with you about that privately)... The Sopranos and the Closure-Junkies...

Jason said...

Yet another question:

The diner has shady characters all over it that - for some reason or another - look like people from Tony's past that wish to hurt him. Do you think there's any relation or parallels to be drawn upon relating to the house Tony/Kevin Finnerty approaches in his dream?

Honestly, Chase did an amazing job building suspense and for that alone it should be remembered as a great ending. You literally could feel the trepidation that Tony encounters every day - the constant scan around the room, wondering if this shady looking guy is coming to get me, is someone a fed? Honestly, it was great.

Thanks for the insightful and intriguing commentary the whole season through. I just started reading your blog after episode 2 but I'll be sticking around.

Anonymous said...

Alan,

The NJ.com piece was fantastic. However, at one point in the article, you write:

"earlier in the interview, he notes that his favorite part of the show was often the characters telling stories about the good ol' days of Tony's parents...."

This sentence seems to indicate that parts of the interview were not released.

Would you consider releasing the interview in its entirety on this blog (as you did with the Ricky Gervais interview?)

Thanks!