Monday, June 11, 2007

A Portrait of America as The Sopranos

Today is Monday, 11 June 2007.

Several TV critics have foolishly expressed disappointment in the conclusion of last night’s final episode of The Sopranos.

Scene: Tony, having whacked his mortal enemy, is dining with wife and two children. Several characters, who might be suspicious --- even hit persons --- enter, then … black screen.

These critics petulantly complain that Tony didn’t get whacked in a final festival of blood, or, at the very least, we weren’t told what happened next.

Herein, an essential difference between theatre and the very limited vocabulary in most film and TV.

Most Americans like to spout about rugged individualism, but it is Prussian individualism they crave: brutal and exploitative to those below, all fawning subservience to those above. "Don’t expect me to imagine any of the arc of the story for myself--- force me into one possibility accepted by all on orders from on high."

Mediocre film and TV robs audiences of imagination: theatre, like all good art, demands co-creation by artist and audience.

If you can’t live with the latter, which is what being human is all about, then I pity you, and fear your goose-stepping.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Film, TV and Theater Lover said...

Damn, you have no tolerance at all, do you? Some people prefer to have a clear-cut ending to a story. Much like some people prefer a clear-cut ending to a song (i.e. repeated end-riff fadeout.)

Then, you compare wishing to having a clear-cut ending to acceptance of fachism or Natzism or whatever you were inferring to (please define "goose-stepping" as you seem to view it.) Again, damn, you have no tolerance for preferences.

And, you are wrong - theater does not always does not always require co-creation by artist and audience. Some theater is just plan bad. Even some good theater does not require collaboration. Yes, there is plenty of mediocre film and TV but there is plenty of good film and TV that requires artist and audience co-creation.

You are just full of it. You analogies are just so far fetched and things are just black and white. Any opposing view to yours seems to be the equivalent of mass murder and overwhelming oppression of the masses.

1:57 PM  
Blogger HH said...

Permission revise and extend my remarks?

Theatre had its origins even before speech --- imagine a hunter explaining how to bring down the prey with only grunts and gestures and props. All we really only have now. The prey was created in the shared space of actor and audience. Good film, TV, art does this, but is limited by the visual technology: seeing literally is more valued and dictated than each's imagination.

Rulers adore TV and film because their version can be frozen and transmitted into minds over and over, stifling imagination.

Rulers love to stifle imagination, so, when they say "kill", too few have the imagination to say "why?" and "NO!" to make resistance effective.

Of course there are sucking plays, and of course good movies and TV, but the latter, by nature, must be those giving greatest rein to free imagination.

What I have always striven to be full of is the search for how, without violence, human imaginations can be freed for responsible, just, and peaceful imagination of a humane future.

All are welcome; neither I nor anyone has figured it out yet.

Auden: "We must love one another or die." And that goes, not just for humans, but for who compose the planet and cosmos.

4:02 PM  
Anonymous RtR said...

I have not been any more than a desultory viewer of the Sopranos, being more of a Deadwood kind of guy with my probably blessedly limited time to watch the glowing tube. (And as one of my typical non-linear digressions, I have to say that the first episode of John from Cincinnati appears to have some real potential as a humdinger of a platform for contrapuntal morality plays, but I have digressed.)

My two-bits on the last 20 minutes that I caught of the Sopranos last night is that if the same kind of camera work that I saw in that twenty minutes had been the rule rather than the exception in the series, I would have been a committed viewer. (Paulie sitting on the sidewalk in front of the Restaurant is the real North Jersey that I remember. Could have been shot in Hackensack.) I disagree that the characters themselves were suspicious looking. Rather it was the cat and mouse game the photographer played with the viewer that opened up a wealth of plot developments.

For those needing closure, I submit that they received it. The reason that the screen went black is that Tony had the viewer whacked. S/he knew too much.

4:38 PM  
Anonymous film, tv, and theater lover said...

I still don't see how film is more restrictive. True, in theater, the words, tone, inflection can be changes either by the author, director or actor. However, that changes the original meaning of the play. If the author wishes to do so, fine. But aren't the author's original meaning and presentation (i.e. stage direction) what is wanted by the audience?

If film is "restrictive", are not books also restrictive? They are in print and cannot be changed. Yes, they can be interpreted in various ways and discussed at length (Oprah's Book Club is making millionaires out of a few authors).

I still disagree that film is substantially inferior to live theater. Remember, too, that live theater is not available to as many people (in the U.S. or worldwide) as is film.

And, what does "We must love one another or die" have to do in a debate of film vs. theater?

5:01 PM  
Blogger HH said...

Many thanks for your thoughts. I always appreciate when someone takes my thoughts seriously enough to write something to help me clarify what I'm thinking and trying to say.

(And isn't that always one of the great disjunctions: how to put the mind into words?

Film is more restrictive because it is so dictatorally graphic and frozen. When one does theatre (and you see my origins here), one must do it differently every performance, in response to ... the audience, the time of day, sometimes current events, or the emotional trauma or joy one had that day ... film, yes, can be beautiful, but in a static-moment-in-time sense.

In film, one does a scene over and over until one once gets it right. In theatre, one must try to do it right many times.

If an audience wants the author's original concept ... well, they may be wrong. Always in rehearsal, I have found that actors (not to sound sexist, a number of years ago, there was a big storm in the American theatre, to come up with a gender-neutral term; I held out to call everyone "actresses", but was in the minority) find more in my work than I did.

As to books, short stories, they are less restrictive, because readers must see everything in their own mind's eye.

Freedom of imaginations.

"Love one another or die." I'm trying to frame this in a bigger frame: Art, freedom of imagination, changing the world.

Thank you again for caring enough to comment.

8:02 PM  

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