David Chase changed American’s dream of gangsters. We had lived for almost a century imagining them like James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart, killing many with Tommy guns, usually rival gangsters, pushing grapefruit halves into the faces of their doxies and saying existential goodbyes when shot on the steps of public buildings.
After a Godfather decade (bind people with obligation to you through doing them favors they must repay) Chase’s Sopranos lived in New Jersey. The Don walked down in his bathrobe to get the paper by the gate every morning. His office was in the back of a strip joint and it was an ordinary family in which a mother and an uncle calmly conspired to murder her son, the head of the organization. This family has become our permanent perception of the Mafia, small, deadly, redolent of garlic and death and embittered wives.
Now Chase has made a movie about a generation who grew up to the sound early rock ‘n’ roll, whose lives and dreams were accompanied by and lived to the new rhythms of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the beat that gave life it’s pulse and heightened possibility all around them. It is, as all his work has been, highly individual, brilliantly expressed by his camera and intensely personal. Of all artists he is somewhere near the top of those who influence our dreams and are themselves almost invisible by choice. He lives a quiet and ordinary life and creates for us memories and horizons that stay in our heads forever.
Mike Nichols, a Kennedy Center honoree, has received eight Tonys for his directorial efforts, including last season’s “Death of a Salesman” revival