Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Not Fade Away: The Sopranos David Chase's First Feature Film Rocks Out 60s Style!

By: Anne M. Raso

I was lucky enough to attend the New York Film Festival screening and Q&A session for The Sopranos creator David Chase’s first feature film, Not Fade Away—not to mention the press conference recently held at NYC’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel this past Sunday.
NOT FADE AWAY, from Paramount Vantage and Indian Paintbrush
The world has missed David Chase as a writer and director since The Sopranos went off the air a few years ago—and like the famous HBO series, Not Fade Away has an ambiguous ending. I, for one, am still furious about the grey fuzzy screen the talented Chase left us with in the final episode of the legendary mob series and even made a pilgrimage to the ice cream shop in Northern New Jersey where the final episode was filmed. I ate onion rings just like Tony, Carmela and the kids but got no closure as to what that final episode was supposed to mean. (I personally do not believe that when the screen went dark, it meant that one of the other customers in the store—which included a guy from the New York mob family and the kids whom Uncle Junior and Livia Soprano hired to attempt a hit on Tony while he was driving his SUV through Newark!)
Producer / Writer / Director David Chase on the set of NOT FADE AWAY, from Paramount Vantage and Indian Paintbrush in Association with The Weinstein Company.
But back to the matter at hand. Not Fade Away has been called “David Chase’s love letter to rock ‘n roll” by the media and the film traces a mid-60s Northern NJ garage band called The Twylight Zones. The group does their best to make it but never get past the “we got a meeting with a major record company exec but he told us to keep playing club and doing covers” level.  The group’s lead singer, Douglas (played by newcomer John Magaro) has a difficult relationship with his blue-collar dad Pat (played by James Gandolfini) who rejects the fact that Doug is in a band to begin with. He endlessly taunts his son about the way he dresses and endlessly dubs him a “loser” to his face. Douglas also has problems with girlfriend Grace (played by pretty Australian actress Bella Heathcote) who apparently has a history with another Twylight Zones’ band member and poor Doug seems to be fluctuating whether she really cares for him or is just another groupie. Subtle underlying themes in the movie include blue collar vs. white collar (Bella’s from an upper middle class family and sports Pucci dresses) and artistic conflicts which inevitable come to the surface in any band who spends so much time together.
James Gandolfini. Source: Anne Raso for
When asked about whom he modeled angry non-nonsense dad Pat after, Gandolfini admitted that it was his own father. He said this past Sunday at the movie press conference, “My Dad and I didn't have this kind of relationship necessarily, but there were a lot of similarities. Doing this role is a little bit of an ode to my father and me being a pain in the ass son and now realizing it. But I realized it before he died, so that was good 'cause I got to apologize, I guess.” (Gandolfini also admitted that it was Chase’s writing that also brought him to the project.)
Steven Van Zandt. Source: Anne Raso for
The movie soundtrack, put together by another Sopranos veteran, Steven Van Zandt (who hosts the Underground Garage radio show on Sirius), is possibly the best of the year. If you love British Invasion and garage rock nuggets from the 60s, definitely pick it up on iTunes. Undoubtedly, rock and roll purist Van Zandt would probably prefer that the soundtrack be released on good, old-fashioned vinyl but that simply is not financially feasible. Tracks include the Rolling Stones “Tell Me” and “parachute Woman” and Bob Dylan’s “She Belongs To Me.” Other groups featured include The Left Banke, Them Featuring Van Morrison and the Small Faces.
Will Brill, Executive Producer / Music Supervisor Steve Van Zandt and Jack Huston on the set of NOT FADE AWAY, from Paramount Vantage and Indian Paintbrush in Association with The Weinstein Company.
It’s actually Chase who best sums up the film’s appeal and its theme of rock ‘n roll transforming young people’s lives in the 60s more than any other era. He revealed at the press conference: “Something happened to pop music (n the mid-60s)-- it became art under the hand of the Beatles, the Stones, and Bob Dylan and some other people. And once the subject matter of rock and roll changed from cars and like poppy love songs and’ be true to your school’ to songs about really true love and the blues and death and mortality, this light bulb went off in my head. I went, ‘Oh, that's what they're doing. That's art; maybe I could do that. Maybe if I joined a band, I could do that. I could be an artist.’”

Not Fade Away opens in theaters on Friday, December 21st and will eventually be out in a wider release.

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