A feuilleton about the heroes of “The Sopranos” series, characters who they interpreted, and their life stories. In the 6th article, Carmela Soprano is in the lead role, performed by the inimitable three-time winner of the “Emmy” award, Edie Falco.
There are three people in the series who dared to say everything to Tony Soprano’s face. Johnny “Sack” Sacrimoni, Artie Bucco, and above all Carmela Soprano – she made us laugh, threw us into sadness, we loved her and we hated her. At times it was as if she was permeating with Lady M. from William Shakespeare’s tragedy. She paid for her indulgences by flirting with the church and Catholicism, and in a constant battle with conscience, she was sometimes winning, sometimes losing.
The episode “Whitecaps” is a masterpiece of cinematography. Everything in it is surreal, the duration of 75 minutes, the acting, which has moved to a higher, transcendental state, and scenes that were filmed at half past two in the morning. The beautiful town of Sea Bright and 420 Ocean Avenue.
A two-story gray house, a rustic porch, white rhododendrons, hydrangeas, and tulips, connect this building with the dock and the sea, accompanied by the nearby river Shrewsbury. And the disappearing marriage, in contrast. There is no one-dimensionality in The Sopranos. There are no stereotypes or predictability.
Her and Gandolfini’s scenes are so honest and intimate that they seem to represent a window into someone else’s life, into which you are slightly uncomfortable peering, like a voyeur. And then that Dean Martin from the boat “Stugots” and the song “Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes”, perhaps the most humane intimidation we’ve seen in the series, the peak of the mafia’s passive aggression.
Perhaps acting sounds too ordinary as a description for this achievement. It, however, has an undertone of something that some people can still perform. Not like this. I believe that just for the scene of the fight with Tony, in which she tells him her secret and platonic love for Furio, she deserved all three “Emmys” for leading actress, two “Golden Globes” and five “Screen Actors Guild” awards.
In the series, she and Gandolfini were one, complementing each other, following each other into endless rages, cares, togetherness, alienation, love, and hate. In that same scene, everyone was convinced that Tony will hit her instead of the wall. Edie Falco is one of the best actresses of her generation. To add underrated would be an insult because anyone who witnessed her acting could feel nothing but admiration.
Falco is the first actress who experienced a television type of series such as The Sopranos, at that time the only similar cable production was the series Oz, in which she was an actress. The path to acting was inspired by her mother Judith who, like Michael Imperioli’s father, went to a youth theater. According to her memory, she was quite fond of it, she recorded her dialogues on a tape recorder, and she outlined and remembered everything related to acting from her mother’s face and thought of it as exciting.
But acting, who does that anyway? Acting was never a part of the bigger plan.
But little by little, Edie conquers acting, works on TV series, and somehow starts to get on her feet financially, and lives off of it. She was far from being able to buy $50+ wines or go to Manolo Blahnik.
When she received an invitation to the Sopranos through her agent, like many, she thought it was a musical. Mayflower Hotel, scene reading, with David Chase, Chris Albright, the head of HBO, and John Ventimiglia (Artie Bucco) reading for the role of Tony Soprano. She looked at a couple of female roles and thought she would read for the part of Gloria Trillo. That’s how it was, although David asked her to read one additional role, which she didn’t overanalyze – Carmela. She leaves the casting without thinking about it. There’s something empowering about knowing you’re not going to get the job. But there’s also something greater than that, when they tell you that you got it, which she heard the very next day.
Originally, Katie Moriarty figured as the frontrunner for Carmela, but The Sopranos is such a mosaic, that any movement within it would be pure blasphemy. When they told her who her “husband” was, she had no idea. They only mentioned that she should not watch the movie “True Romance” so that she would not get the wrong impression. Production suggested that they should go for a coffee, and at the time she was convinced it would be a macchiato with John Ventimiglia, not Gandolfini.
“You know, Tony, it’s a multiple choice thing with you. ‘Cause I can’t tell if you’re old-fashioned, you’re paranoid, or just a fucking asshole.”Carmela Soprano
On The Sopranos, everything quickly turned into closeness and intimacy, from the collaboration with Jimmy to the relationship with David Chase, who was constantly banging on the table, like her father, since they were both drummers in their youth. There was a connection that transcended work, existence, and ambitions.
At the end of the first season, she began to feel the contours of fame coming in waves. For her, the perception of something like that was actually long dawn. She kept her distance from that popularity. And even at the time most of them thought that someone would take them off the stage with a hook, saying “what are you doing there? “
At that time, she also completely surrendered and fell in love with James Gandolfini’s acting. The trigger was the twelfth episode of the first season – “Isabella”, in which the baroque beauty Maria Grazia Cucinotta, known to most from the movie Il Postino, had a role. Tony’s mother Livia wants to kill her son, and he experiences his alternative mother figure through daydreams in the backyard of his dreams. In each scene, Isabella, that is, Maria Grazia is right next to the flowers, which symbolize death, but also rebirth, spring.
Allen Coulter brought cinematic moments to this episode. Medium shot, close up/close up, over the shoulder – none of that. It was filmed outside of every cliché.
The final sequence with Tony, when he talks to Melfi on the phone, creates the impression of him as very small, therefore powerless, which was inspired by Fellini’s film Juliette of The Spirits and the sequence of Giulietta Boldrinis walk under the huge treetops. Tony says scary, threatening sentences, but basically, he’s completely helpless and alone.
All of that touched Edie, she couldn’t believe that it was a show, an act, that there were layers of intellectual understanding in the series that all the viewers felt, even in the scenes where there wasn’t much dialogue, which was the audacity of David Chase. And as she said, “you always get everything from Jimmy, no matter if he talks or not.” One such scene which she remembers is the one in the house. Tony returns home late, Carmela enters the kitchen and brings him food. Without a single word. There is nothing, and yet everything is touching and rich. The Sopranos was a chance everyone got once in a lifetime.
Of course, in a game in which every detail is important, this especially applied to the music, so the Isabella episode was perfectly, symbolically, and sensually accompanied by the tracks “Cry” by Thornetta Davis and “Tiny Tears” by Tindersticks.
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And how did Edie fit into all that? The best testimonial is of course Carmela, who is everything that Edie is not. Carmela knows how to cook, she is a housewife, traditional, often without imagination, maybe even the courage to go all the way in something. Which doesn’t mean she wasn’t brave, quite the opposite. Though, to be honest, if Furio hadn’t returned to Naples shortly after the famous dance with her to the Spaccanapoli’s track “Vesuvio”, she might have made it to the end, whatever the end might have been. I don’t count Professor Robert Wegler, in the end, he turned out to be just a cause, once again for the “common good”.
Mountain of lava, of hundreds of paths, you hold in your hands this life of mine.
Is this a place for homes or a place for jail. Where you’re locked from morning till night?
You’re purgatory for all these people who live in slums and who live in need.
Whether you smoke or not you still make noise its the fire you bear in your heart.Spaccanapoli – “Vesuvio”
Edie is an artist with a special gift, but also with an effortless modesty. In an interview, they barely got out of her that she studied every scene the day before filming or on the day of filming itself. She felt that if she did that before, the acting would simply be “stale”.
A small number of actors can afford that luxury, that is, talent. Someone from the production team once recalled filming a scene in which Edie had to act out a breakdown seven times in a row, but in such a way that her crying only followed after a few steps and entering the kitchen from another room. Everyone was shocked by the fact that she managed to do it every single time with the same passion and energy.
Drama and comedy
Dramas were often interspersed with comedy. In the scene where Tony pleads about how he doesn’t want to invest in her prefab house, after all, quoting Popeye “I am what I am”. This quote did not impress Carmela. “I didn’t marry a cartoon character, so you better start acting like a sensitive human being.”
Edie is a winner, on the list of angry and uncompromising opponents, she listed alcoholism and breast cancer. And she never knew how to cook, although she regularly experienced that female fans would ask her for recipes for chicken Cacciatore, braciola, lasagna, manicotti, ziti, and pasta in the middle of the street. Is there any greater recognition for acting?
Carmela’s tightrope walk of vice, doubt, guilt, denial, ideals, probity, pretending the big elephant in the room isn’t tearing down the ceiling along with the chandelier. Status in the community, childcare, power, money, an expensive watch, freedom, everything was intertwined and everything was real.
Proof of this is the fact that Aida Turturro and her lived together for a while longer after the filming ended, so they encouraged themselves to watch the series from the beginning. They made it to the fourth episode of season one. It was so emotionally draining, disturbing, melancholic, and sad, yet beautiful and unique for them.
There is a scene from The Sopranos that is a perfect parallel to Carmela Soprano. It features actress Alicia Witt in the role of Amy Sapphire, the girl who, in the episode “D-Girl”, in the company of her fiancé, a polite banker in a suit, meets Moltisanti and Adriana.
Chrissy dominates in a plush red suit, and at one point, after Amy and her fiancé are pushed for the third time by drunken Morgan Stanley auditors, she stands up and whispers something in one of their ears. They leave in an instant. Alicia Witt justified her presence in the series just by that look directed at Christopher. That look gave away in a second what originally attracts her, her basic hidden passions.
It’s similar to Carmela, she talks about manners, the church, equality, conscious women, and literature, through some outlines there are also glimpses of feminism, but basically, she exchanged all of that for what Tony offered her, which in relation to all of the above, was only a slightly more romanticized version of the man in the making of Altamira and Lascaux. Internal dilemmas were leveled on the cup by the new Porsche Cayenne, Hermès, mink coat, or Cartier on the arm. Or a subtle threat to Joan O’Connell wrapped in a ricotta and pear pie, so that Meadow would enroll at Georgetown.
We will remember Carmela as a woman, a lioness, Mama Leone, as was in the famous song Bina from 1978, who single-handedly carried family and marriage, without compromise. We will remember her by the episode “Marco Polo”, by intensity, by the most beautiful hairstyle in the entire series. In terms of boldness, I always think of the scene with Paul Schulze (priest Phil Intintola), when she tells him to his face “that he is trying to get a touch of sexuality”. The pool water shut off, the $40,000 in the duck food saga, the look on her face when she sees Anthony Junior’s shaved eyebrows. In every scene she is there, present, you cannot miss her or forget her.
She will remember the series by the episode “Proshai, Livushka”, that is, the scene after Livia Soprano’s funeral in which was the entire first cast. It took them forever to do it, because every time the song “If I Loved You” started, with those sweet-pathetic bars, everyone would burst into tears, but from laughter. Not even the ever-collected Jerry Adler (Hash) was a sobriety factor.
Gandolfini may have been the frame of the epopee called The Sopranos, but that would be nothing without the painting itself, and so much aquarelle was used for Carmela. For eternity.
Pavle Jakšić | Vitraž
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Cover ilustration: Tom Ralston