Wednesday, July 4, 2018

everything has a reason: The Sopranos cuts to black (2007)

In November, I published this essay on Bright Lights Film Journal.  (My thanks to editor Gary Morris for the presentation, and for patience with endless revisions.)

The essay is 11,000 words and tough to summarize.  That being said, I examine the series-ending cut-to-black from three angles.  In critical context, the cut means parity, as it places Hollywood television beside the New Wave (e.g. The 400 Blows, Bonnie and Clyde), and foreign series such as The Prisoner.

An artistic nugget unearthed too late for inclusion: The Beatles "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" is a likely formal influence on the Holsten's scene, each using a guillotine ending.  According to Wikipedia, the song's overdub session was the last time the four Beatles worked together in the studio.  (Edit, 7/5: Sopranos creator David Chase is a fan, and remembered "fab" in 2012's semi-autobiographical Not Fade Away.)

In terms of closure, psychology and spirituality, the cut-to-black confronts viewers on identifying with these characters.  Along with the reminder to savor "the good times," the finale promotes humility: if we won't forgive Tony, why should anyone forgive us?  On the bedrock level of plot: if the cut-to-black symbolized Tony's death, why did Chase say it was "disgusting" fans wanted to see Tony die?  Is there so much difference?

Chase said the finale was meant to have a "sense of foreboding."  This is the political aspect:  Americans have reason to identify with an entitled clan wrestling decline.  The attentive viewer may be left feeling like Tony as he retreats from his final visit to Uncle Junior.

Originally, my goal was to dispute glib assertions that a) Tony is dead or b) the ending is false or otherwise disappointing.  I ended up solving the cut-to-black, to my own satisfaction, at least.  By their nature, some things can't be proven, but may have the ring of truth.

"Is Tony dead?" is the wrong question (as David Chase has said).  At this remove, the question, for America: Is Meadow in that doorway?