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"It is true. I am Goncharov."

Goncharov is a 1973 film written and possibly directed by Matteo JWHJ0715 (yes, that was his legal name... maybe), produced and directed by Martin Scorsese, and starring Robert De Niro, Gene Hackman, Harvey Keitel and Cybill Shepherd, with John Cazale and Al Pacino. It's been called "the greatest Mafia movie ever made." It follows the story of Goncharov, a former discotheque owner who comes to Naples, and begins to work his bloody way up through the ranks of organized crime. In the process, Goncharov becomes entangled with the lives of Andrey, a familiar face from home, and the Neapolitan mafioso Mario. All the while, his ambitions clash with that of his cunning wife, Katya.

The movie is very loosely based on the obscure 1961 speculative fiction novella Jestem Goncharov by Irma M. Schuss. The novella itself is now out of print. The film was similarly difficult to obtain for many years, due to distribution following its initial limited theatrical run being tied up by conflicting translation rights, the existence of at least seven alternate cuts of the film, rumored interference from the actual mafia, and a very... unorthodox advertising campaign which involved putting the ads not on billboards or movie theater walls, but on the tags for boots. For over two decades, many even considered it to be the Missing Episode of Scorsese's canon, with Scorsese himself famously quipping that "We'll probably see The Day the Clown Cried before we see Goncharov again." The film was finally released on DVD and VHS in 1998, and has seen several re-releases since, bringing renewed appreciation for this long-forgotten masterpiece.




I guess these tropes are Goncharov:

  • Abusive Parents: Implied. Katya tells Sofia she was glad to Shed the Family Name, as it severs a connection to her father.
  • Agent Peacock: In an otherwise fairly-grounded film with typical Scorsese-style gangsters, Ice Pick Joe stands out, dressing and behaving like a Dick Tracy villain that hatched from a disco ball.
  • Alternate History: In this movie, the Soviet Union has fallen by the 1970s, almost 20 years earlier than it did in our timeline.
  • Ambiguously Gay:
    • Whilst the film never confirms Goncharov's sexuality, he claims he could never get close to Katya.
    • Also Katya and Sofia.
  • Arc Symbol: Clocks, stopped clocks specifically.
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: Do not use any of Katya's suggestions regarding concealment of a firearm, particularly an older sidearm.
  • Asshole Victim: It's hard to criticize Katya for shooting Celestino In the Back, given his history of Domestic Abuse. Extends to a lesser extent to almost everyone that dies, given that this is a film about organized crime.
  • Bedlam House: Icepick Joe was institutionalized as a young man, and from what we hear, it was awful, with unsanitary living conditions and an abusive staff.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: The "Feast of a Thousand and Seven Fishes" dream sequence following Katya's near-death during the boat scene. From Katya's feverish POV we see various ghostly gangsters sat at an underwater table, grabbing at aquatic creatures that swim by and swallowing them whole; when Katya moves around them she can see that they are all victims of impromptu execution, their feet encased in concrete. She exchanges a look of recognition with an unnamed ghost (often mistaken as a young Joe Pesci, but both Pesci and Scorsese deny this), who winks at her, only to have his arm violently broken by a roving octopus. While Katya wakes up mumbling about it, she does not mention her dream in subsequent scenes, and it does not appear to affect the otherwise sombre plot.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: It's a movie about organized crime. Even the people we're cheering for are scheming, drug-dealing murderers.
  • Bookends: The film begins and ends with a shot of a train arriving in/leaving Naples. However, at the end, no one is on it, and there is just a lonely ticking sound.
  • Catchphrase: Ernesto has "Nice one, boss!"
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Goncharov, upon realizing Katya's assumed treachery. Edited out for most Russian cuts of the movie.
  • Cool Car: Katya's LMX Sirex is definitely treated as such in-universe.
  • The Consigliere: A sombre cameo by Tony Shalhoub as Nicolai "Herb" Fyodorovsky, Andrey's former childhood best friend, who now rarely sees him. It is implied his exile from Goncharov's circle was caused by his poor advice leading to a botched territory takeover.
  • Disabled Means Helpless: Subverted. While Katya does worry after finding out Sofia's right leg is a prosthetic, it's only because she speculates that it's a result of the mafia's more "explosive" criminal activities. Sofia herself is quite capable of handling a gun and being just as tough as the other characters.
  • Erotic Eating:
    • The anchovy scene, where Katya slowly eats a tin of anchovies. Her lipstick slowly smears across the fish.
    • Also, arguably, the "Feast of a Thousand and Seven Fishes" scene. Goncharov devours a whole fish like he's going down on a woman.
  • "Everybody Dies" Ending: By the end of the film, almost all the characters are dead.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Andrey Daddano wears an eyepatch over his left eye. Famously, however, there are several mistakes where a shot appears to have been reversed, and it appears on his right.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Mario Ambrosini, and Andrey. The same cannot be said for the other characters in the movie.
  • Femme Fatale: Katya's arc infamously deconstructs the archetype. She's a very broken woman whose lost her will to live.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In an early scene Goncharov is seen reading a book with the poems of Russian poet Aleksandr Blok and then cites one to Katya, emphasizing the line: Go on and live another quarter century — nothing will change. When Katya apparently dies, the song heard is the full poem sung in Russian.
      • The last images in the film are also referring to the poem, showing Vinnie's drugstore, then the street and finally a street lamp.
    • Valery Michailov says that the duke that funded the building of the church died because his wife betrayed him. Guess what happens to Goncharov?
    • Ice Pick Joe mocks Stalin because he died when no one dared to enter his office during his heart attack, while he likely would have fully recovered if he had received help at once and not laid on the floor for hours. Joe ends up bleeding out slowly because nobody wants to disturb him in the cuts of his film where his fate isn't uncertain.
    • Goncharov muses in one scene that he got out of the discotheque business just in time, and that every business has a lifespan. Two scenes later, we see the cracks starting to form in his business with Andrey.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: And a Bilingual Bonus to boot. In the Matteo cut, the paper Andrey is reading at the newsstand has an article on the back on how the police are tightening the focus of an investigation into local drug smuggling rings.
  • Freudian Excuse: As the orphanage flashback reveals, Icepick Joe has this in spades. Narrowly escaping a lobotomy as a child changes a person.
  • Famous Last Words: Mario Ambrosini: "And so I come to the end of my life. A great man. A good man. I have no regrets. Make sure they don't serve tortellini at my ceremony."
  • Hands-On Approach: Katya gives Sofia a very... friendly lesson in shooting.
  • Hell Is That Sound: In-universe, the ticking of clocks has become this for Andrey by the end of the movie. No points for guessing what the last sound is in the movie before the end credits hit...
  • Historical Character's Fictional Relative: The title character is implied to be the descendant of novelist Ivan Goncharov.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: Occurs between both Katya and Sofia, and Goncharov and Andrey.
  • Indirect Kiss: Goncharov and Andrey via cigarette.
  • Instant Expert: Sofia claims to have no firearms experience, but after one lesson from Katya, she's shooting like a pro. This has led to speculation that Sofia is lying for some reason, especially given what we know of her background.
  • Kosher Nostra: Goncharov is stated to be half-Jewish.
  • Like a Duck Takes to Water: Goncharov and Katya are outsiders to both Italy and the criminal underworld at the start of the movie, but manage to adapt quickly during their rise to power.
  • Male Frontal Nudity: Ice Pick Joe towards the middle, after washing the blood off of himself from a recent kill.
  • Murder-Suicide: The film's ending features Andrey killing both himself and Goncharov with a knife.
  • Mysterious Past: We know very little of Sofia's past, except that she was orphaned at a young age and "had to take care of herself". She seems fairly unfazed by a lot of the other characters' sketchy situations, suggesting she has a connection to the Mafia, or is at least from a rough enough background that it doesn't really bother her.
  • Next Sunday A.D.: The film is set in a vague future some time after the fall of the Soviet Union, which hadn't yet happened when the film was written, but the clothing, technology, and cultural mores are clearly those of The '70s.
    • The only hints that this is, indeed, supposed to be a near future rather than an alternate 70s are Goncharov's comment that he got out of the disco business just as it was starting to crash, and the newsstand selling "15 MB" floppy discs in the Matteo cut.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Senator Milburn (Joseph Cotten) is clearly akin to Senator Joseph McCarthy had he lived. He even boasts that 'Tail-Gunner Joe was like a father to me'.
  • No Full Name Given: Goncharov's first name is never revealed.
  • No Sparks: Katya and Goncharov seem to care about each other to some extent, but whether or not they love each other is a whole other matter. They share very little romantic or sexual tension, and both are far more invested in their relationships with Sofia and Andrey, respectively. However, they make a good team and don't seem to be wholly unhappy, either.
  • Nothing but Hits: The soundtrack, beyond the original score, features The Rolling Stones and Bobby Winton as well as a great number of artists which were popular in Italy in the late 60s and early 70s like I Camaleonti, Domenico Modugno, Dalida and Aphrodite's Child. Averted with the Russian cut, which removes everything but the original score and one Dalida track.
  • One-Scene Wonder:
    • Leonard Nimoy as the nameless ex-KGB agent with the cracked wristwatch. All he does is offer Goncharov a drink and a monologue about the nature of our relationship to time and the past, but afficionados are obsessed with the guy — probably because we know so little about him.note 
    • John Carradine as The Premier of the USSR in the flashbacks.
    • Lionel Stander as the New York boss, Lino 'the Big Fish' Pescegrande.
    • To a lesser extent, Herb Fyodorovsky as mentioned below.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Ice Pick Joe's full name is never revealed. It's only the credits that list his real name as Joseph Morelli.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Subverted in-universe. Goncharov's Italian accent isn't feigned, it's just not particularly pronounced, as it's come from living in Naples for some years. It tends to fall away when he's upset in favor of his native Russian accent. The same cannot be said, however, for Andrey's Russian accent.
  • Protagonist Title: Goncharov is about a man named Goncharov.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Herb Fyodorovsky directs one of these at Andrey, delving into the pathetic failure of a human being he's become since their parting.
  • Red Baron: Ice Pick Joe. Mind you, he will do what he can to downplay this...
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Andrey and Goncharov. While Andrey seems as put-together as Goncharov is, he's also quicker to act in more violent ways, while Goncharov favors a more measured response. Illustrated beautifully when Andrey has a failed smuggler shot when he's caught by the police, while Goncharov has a go-between tell another smuggler (who didn't actually know who he was working for) that he'll be dead if the police discover he's smuggling drugs for the Romanian mafia, knowing that the smuggler will tell the police and that'll give them a little breathing room.
  • Reluctant Psycho: Icepick Joe is aware he's not sane or safe to be around, but isn't happy with that, and actually tries to stop the senseless cycle of violence he and the other characters are in. He fails. Miserably.
  • Shed the Family Name: Katya gladly took Goncharov's surname for this reason.
    Katya: What is marriage but a way to escape the names of our fathers?
  • Spell My Name with an S: Is it "Icepick Joe", "Ice-Pick Joe" or "Ice Pick Joe"? Even the official materials can't keep it consistent!
  • Standard Snippet: To go along with the Naples setting, Ennio Morricone's score features a searing guitar rendition of "Santa Lucia" (by Jimmy Page) at several points.
  • Stocking Filler: Sofia used to draw a line up the back of her calves to imitate stockings, as she could not afford real ones.
    Katya: Wasn't it obvious?
    Sofia: You don't realize it that much when you're thirteen.
  • Stopped Clock: Stopped clocks (and clocks in general) are recurring motifs throughout the film, representing the film's overarching theme of the inability to control the passage of time.
  • Swan Song: Promising young director Matteo JWHJ0715 died shortly before the release of the movie in a tragic Ferrari accident. This only adds to its cult following.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: Katya obviously cares for Sofia, but lies to her constantly, is manipulative towards her, and gets her to kill a man. Sofia is not happy to realize Katya hasn't been honest with her. Katya does seem to regret it, but she's too proud to apologize.
  • Tranquil Fury: Goncharov's stock in trade.
    Goncharov: I watched too many bezumnyj fools charge face-first into a beating because they got too hot-blooded. You take a moment to cool down, your head stops bubbling... then you decide how you're going to hit him. It works better.
  • Unabashed B-Movie Fan: Implied. Sofia mentions experiencing the Percepto: "Scream for your lives! gimmick while fondly recounting a previous, dead-end friendship. Percepto! was famously used in screenings of The Tingler. Although, since she watched The Invisible Man Returns, and Katya gives her a signed poster of The Last Man on Earth, she might just be an unabashed fan of Vincent Price (who played the main character of all three films).
  • Uncertain Doom:
    • Mario Ambrosini's wife, Mariella, gives her speech comparing herself to the younger Katya, and then leaves for the Ambrosini house, presumably dying in the ensuing massacre, but we never see her body and no one mentions her again.
    • In some cuts of the movie, Ice Pick Joe, whose fate after being dragged into the church is ambiguous.
    • Similarly, Katya is shot in every version of the film. Most show her unambiguously dying, but one shows her managing to stumble outside and flag down a ride, implying she'll survive and is now on the run, and yet another shows a blonde woman with her back to the camera who might be her at the train station at the end. Katya's survival or lack thereof is one of the biggest debates in the fandom.
    • We never find out what happens to Sofia after she and the dead (or badly wounded) Katya are separated.
  • Villain Protagonist: Goncharov. Mind you, there's a lot of that going around.
  • Visual Pun: Katya eating Neapolitan ice cream in one scene.