All politics is local," said Tip O'Neill. All art is local, too. The Sopranos was great when it depicted mob life as it is lived in the lower depths and upscale suburbs of New Jersey. But when it indulged its creator's preoccupations with middle-class angst, it wobbled into the treadmill-like oblivion of its life-goes-on finale. And that's a failure at the highest level. Too many "realistic" Hollywood movies take place in the same generic suburbs where they end up being shown.
In periods when movie art pops up mainly in foreign, classic and "indie" cinema, filmgoers come to trust independent theaters like the Charles, Senator and Rotunda, for showcasing the best of it. In a week when The Sopranos went down in flames, Baltimoreans can return to thrilling movie-going days of yesteryear with Mafioso at the Charles. This 1962 Italian trailblazer is leisurely and taut at 99 minutes. It trusts an audience to judge when to laugh or cry or how to think about the characters.
Mafioso (Rialto Pictures) Starring Alberto Sordi, Norma Bengell. Directed by Alberto Lattuada. In Italian with English subtitles. Unrated. Time 99 minutes. Sun score A.