Friday, June 29, 2007

In the main, most people can't stand moral ambiguity or paradox, so when Lord-Wife told me about this headline, she got me. More accurately, people can stand moral ambiguity; right until it drives them insane. I got off the Sopranos treadmill a couple seasons back, maybe suspecting multiple mind-rapes were coming compared to the family picnics of the first 4 or was it 5 or 6 seasons. Call me psychic or a coward, either way, now I get to take perverse delight in non-seeing the non-ending that apparently has everyone in conniptions. As per the Onion article:
"I couldn't let it just hang," Bowen told police in a post-arrest confession released to the media. "Eight years of my life, and a fucking artsy cut to black? It was eating me up inside."

In his statement, Bowen also used the word "betrayal" to describe the series's resolution, which he was convinced set up a climactic death for the sociopathic mafia don. The realization that Soprano's brutal life of constant fear and anxiety would have no real end slowly drove the obsessed Bowen over the edge.

"I had to tie up the loose ends, I just had to," Bowen said. "I'm positive this is exactly how [creator and executive producer] David Chase wanted fans to interpret the ending."
The media pundit comintern has, it seems, enforced closure via interpretation, saying that when the screen goes dark abruptly in the last episode, it means that Tony Soprano has been shot in a New Jersey diner after biting into his last onion ring. What else could it be, but the sublimely logical conclusion of a bloody mob war that had been raging all season with Phil Leotardo?

The show's creator, David Chase, has refused to speculate, hint, nod, or wink, basically saying, "It's all there for you to see." He means it. To contemplate moral ambiguities is to contemplate human nature. Correction: all nature. If you kill an enraged, out-of-control driver in a highway incident, we call it homicide. If you kill an entire town in its sleep because you didn't properly maintain your chemical plant, we call it product liability. If you kill millions in a preemptive war to improve your popularity, we call it politics. Not seeing a lot of closure so far. Maybe that's why Hollywood knows to give us their trademark endings. But Hollywood is a business. David Chase is, I suspect, a great artist; The Rockford Files and Northern Exposure, two of my most-savored series, are also his creations. But with the Sopranos, he did something special. He returned to face his childhood.

The greatest art imitates life without sentiment, without morality, without agenda, but only with interest and intense observation. Such art endures so long because, in real life, few things are final, and the complexity of the artist's visions and decisions resonate across time. They probably had to struggle to transcend their own personal fears and feelings, to set them aside for a while to see things as they are, on the surfaces with many faces. The artist applies a technique that is unique to their manner of expression, and simply shows what's already there. One of my favorite painters told me once that he couldn't paint his daughter well, because his sentiments for her overwhelmed his technique; he painted someone different who existed more in his mind, but he loved to paint her anyway.

When someone like Seurat tries constructing the world in a different way, and chooses a bunch of reeds and fishing boats as his subjects, it's because they are in front of him. 1980s rapper Ice-T referred to that process when he testified in front of Congress to his controversial song, "Cop Killer" as a genuine work of art. He said he was simply writing poetry about his environment, which was ruled by gang violence, and turning it into music as personal catharsis.

David Chase has stated that the character of Livia Soprano, Tony Soprano's mom, was an accurate rendition of his own mother. If anyone reading this has not seen the Sopranos series, like perhaps Al C., this is a tremendous admission. One more piece of data to add to the stereotype aggregate about art being often correlated with the catharsis of pain. Livia Soprano, to put it kindly, was a character suffering from narcissistic personality disorder.

Like his fictional creation, Chase grew up in a garden apartment in Clifton, New Jersey. His real name was David DeCesare. He is a mid-level player in a declining, or at least radically changing, industry. I wonder where he got his material from. Nothing ends. Dreams don't, relationships supposedly do, but then a song or smell, a look or sound reminds you of family, friends, lovers and enemies eluded in the temporally syndicated series of lives. The memories and molecules are all still floating, shimmering, right there in you. Chase titled his last episode "American Dream." Maybe I stopped watching because I didn't want it to end.


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