Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Last Aria: The SSCP turns critic

So there we have it: about 6 hours to go before the final episode. And I am not even able to focus properly because of the hailstorm of action unfolding at Montreal as Lewis aims to win his first race. Lewis who you might be asking? But if you asking, you don't really need to know the answer. Some critics have complained about lack of action in F-1. Today gives the lie to that. But to that main business at hand. The last three episodes have really turned up the ratchet on the dramatic tension and after just one more hour it is all over and will probably result in a massive post-episode depression.

I confess to being a major Johnny-come-lately to this all-time epic of TV drama. Only a few years ago I laboured under the impression (not uncommon I understand) that The Sopranos had something to do with opera singers. It was in the late summer of 2005 when Dulcie, poking around for some Saturday evening televisual entertainment uncovered the series 1 boxed set in a draw. I did not take to it straight away; the accents were heavy and I couldn't get the names straight - why did they (Sato overtakes WC Fernando on merit: am I dreaming?) all seem to be called Pussy albeit of different size? - and the rapid sequencing of scenes was complex. I persisted and the hook was set. Over the course of the next few weeks we proceeded to watch, at the rate of about 2 or 3 a night, all the series in order in order to be set for the beginning of season 6. By the time it begun I had probably seen them all twice at least. It's slightly odd because I am not a fan of violence; I faint at the sight of blood; but there is something completely compelling about it. My favourite episodes are Pine Barrens and Long Term Parking, both written by Terry Winter, who I had the good fortune to talk to last year - courtesy of a class at COD. Obviously the show is very popular and I think it is because it functions on many levels. For many, the majority I suspect, the entertainment and action are sufficient (plus the Bing). The superlative use of language and intertwined plots and nuance probably wash over the heads of many. Some just slip unannounced: "...he has to piss into a cathode tube." Tony laments. One season finishes on a quiet note in the restaurant as our gang sits out a storm. The last lines are left to Paulie and Silvio (I think). "Irregardless..." opines Paulie. Everyone goes on and on about David Chase, but you cannot understate the immensity of the performance of Gandolfini.

It is a truly Shakespearean achievement. Okay there have been some down moments; the dream sequences I can mostly do without, and all that stuff with Johnny Cakes last year (I hope that wasn't an homage to the PC crowd); but as one scribe wrote in the New Yorker, there is dull stuff in Dickens too. I once polled my class as to the most memorable whackings. Interestingly the death of Adriana did not rate. For my money the most memorable part of the whole thing. The journey within the journey on the road to that wood was brilliant, as was the treatment of the execution. Second in my book for revealing character was the beating of the pregnant dancer by Ralphie. She disrespected the Bing was the response of the crowd as they looked upon her corpse. Tony alone knew more the awfulness of it; but it did not after all alter his behaviour because, in the end, he is one of them too.

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