For David Chase, and his new movie “Not Fade Away,” “The Sopranos” is an inevitable double-edged sword.
It’s questionable whether there would be so much interest in a coming-of-age period piece about wannabe New Jersey rockers if it didn’t mark Chase’s feature directing debut after his storied run on the HBO mob drama. That included features this weekend in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
Getting noticed isn’t always easy for that sort of movie, and every little bit helps.
Still, I was struck by one question in the WSJ Q&A, both for the passive-aggressive way it was phrased, and Chase’s answer.
“Are you ready for ‘Sopranos’ comparisons?” he was asked, which is a rather mealy-mouthed way of invoking the series without actually directly making the comparison. It’s sort of like those Fox News “Some people say” questions.
Admittedly, dumb question. But Chase’s response, perhaps guilty of being too polite, wasn’t really up to the task:
“I think I am. It’s time to move on,” Chase began. “[Producer] Mark Johnson said that there’s no way I was going to win with this thing because, he said, ‘I don’t care how good the movie is. It’s going to be compared to “The Sopranos,”‘ and I didn’t believe him. But I’ve seen people compare it to ‘The Sopranos.’ I’ve seen someone say it ‘doesn’t live up to the promise of ‘The Sopranos.’ Well, no shit. You know, the Beatles’ second album was better than their first album and their third album was better than their second. But that doesn’t happen with most people.”
But there’s a far better answer for that. Off the top of my head, try this: “While I understood people might mention ‘The Sopranos’ — it’s what I’m best known for — this is a completely different project. It’s as foolish to compare something like this to ‘The Sopranos’ as it is to compare ‘Jurassic Park’ to ‘Schindler’s List.’ Yes, Steven Spielberg directed both of them, but they’re very different pieces, with completely different tones and objectives.”
Despite its controversial (I would say disappointing) ending, “The Sopranos” will never fade away for Chase, nor should it. Everyone should be so lucky to have a series like that to lead their obituary, and make their passion projects possible.
Anyone associated with a huge hit carries it around with them, especially when faced with lazy interviewers. But assuming Chase doesn’t plan to fade away after this movie, the shadow of “The Sopranos” is as much as a blessing as it is an albatross.