‘It’s Me, Goncharov,’ AKA Tumblr’s Greatest Mafia Movie Never Made
Can you hear the ticking of the clocks?
Just yesterday my best friend was talking about how the upcoming Academy Awards should really go all out in honoring Goncharov. After all, 2023 is the fiftieth anniversary of this absolute masterpiece that really changed the face of its genre. It would be great to get the cast together and dedicate a whole segment of the ceremony to the greatest mafia movie ever made.
If only, you know, Goncharov were a real movie. Or better yet—if only Goncharov were a movie you could actually see and not one of the biggest and most brilliant and delightful examples of modern mythopoiesis happening very much right now as we speak.
Let’s take a couple of steps back and recap the Goncharov phenomenon from its very beginning.
What is Goncharov and how did it start?
As with most fandom culture these days, it all comes back to Tumblr and a relatively older post in which a user posted a picture of a very weird label that appears on their knockoff boots. The label heralds Goncharov, a film “about the Naples mafia,” as “the greatest mafia movie ever made.” The movie, we’re told, is presented by Martin Scorsese, produced by Domenico Procacci, and directed by Matteo JWHJ0715.
That post is from August 2020 but gained massive traction in mid-November of this year. Since then, Goncharov has evolved into a full-fledged movie with characters, plot, leitmotifs, homoerotic subtext, poster art, and even a soundtrack, all in the span of five short days.
Tumblr users collectively participated in a massive game of improvisation, taking their inspiration from Martin Scorsese’s actual filmography and yes-anding the creation of a story that is by now spilling beyond just Tumblr and growing into a true and massive Internet phenomenon.
So what’s the plot of this greatest mafia movie ever made?
Before we really delve deep into the Goncharov movement as it spreads across the Internet, let’s all agree on some basic lore. There isn’t a real structure by virtue of Goncharov’s very nature—as this nebulous movie exists in everyone’s minds at the same time and everyone gets to add their own tidbits to it. Still, there are some plot points that have been widely agreed upon. (They’ve also been collected in an ever-evolving Google doc so everyone can keep track of them.)
As the tagline suggests, the plot of Goncharov revolves around the Naples mafia. Specifically, it focuses on a group of Russian transplants trying to establish their foothold in the city while being trapped in endless cycles of violence—each of them ultimately lost in the tragedy of their own narrative.
Robert De Niro—a long-time collaborator of Scorsese, even though, remember, Scorsese is not the movie’s director—takes on the titular role of Goncharov, obsessed with revenge and haunted by the ticking of time, symbolized by the heavy clock imagery that surrounds him at all times. Beside him is his wife Katya Goncharova (née Michailova), played by Cybill Shepherd, and his rival-slash-love interest Andrey “The Banker” Daddano, played by Harvey Keitel.
While Goncharov and Andrey do carry some of the very present homoerotic undercurrents of the movie, the real heavy hitters are Katya Goncharova and the mysterious Sofia, whom she meets while on a grocery run— during which Sofia drops an apple that Katya picks up, highlighting the snake bracelet she’s wearing. Additionally, Katya is often seen wearing a red dress while Sofia is usually clad in green. Talk about visual subtext. Both ships already have their fair number of stories under their ship tags on Archive of Our Own— with Katya/Sofia beating Goncharov/Andrey at around 200 works against 160.
There’s also Mario Ambrosini, played by another of Scorsese’s long-time collaborators, Al Pacino. Mario is a generally melancholic man with a gambling addiction who serves as the very cynical comic relief of the movie. Finally, let’s not forget the unhinged murderous baby girl du jour, because of course there has to be one—this is Tumblr we’re talking about. What would any piece of media be without a problematic fave out on a killing spree? The one in Goncharov is Joseph “Ice Pick Joe” Morelli, played by John Cazale—Mario’s henchman with a penchant for murdering people by sticking his ice pick in their eye.
The scope of the Goncharov phenomenon
Yes, the plot is unclear at best, but that’s the beauty of it. Pretty much everyone agrees on the main characters, on the themes, and on the fact that some really violent deaths are going to occur, but pretty much everything else is open for creation. There are some amazing pieces of fan art springing up, as well as in-character TikToks, gifsets and screencaps of the Goncharov scenes. There are uquizzes that tell you which of the main characters you are—apparently, I’m Mariella, doomed by narrative, and I feel like that’s fairly accurate—and pretty much all the usual transformative content that springs up around a piece of media in fandom spaces. The movie is even listed on Letterboxd.
And that’s what makes Goncharov so believable and so fascinating. People have decided to collectively join in on the joke, dissecting and analyzing this non-existent movie in the same exact way we all do with real media. Because we know very well how it’s done—it’s what we’ve been doing for years.
This is why, in my humble opinion, something like Goncharov couldn’t have gained traction—or not even have been created, really—anywhere else but on Tumblr, which has remained maybe the last true unhinged transformative public fandom space. Sure, you can create your own Discord server with your friends and chat the nights away about anything and everything, but there’s no public space where you can have an experience that is purely about fandom other than Tumblr.
And it’s not due to the downfall of Twitter that this godforsaken website (said with affection!) has resurfaced. No, the timing is undoubtedly a funny coincidence, what with the bird app being destroyed before our very eyes and everyone abandoning ship to reactivate their Tumblr accounts, but Tumblr has been like this forever. Take it from someone who has logged into her blog pretty much every day for the past sixteen years.
Will Goncharov ever be a real movie?
So, for all those of you who were asking if you can stream Goncharov, the answer is no. Not on Netflix or on Prime or on any other platform, at least. You can definitely open up Tumblr and immerse yourself in the story-creating process, though.
As for the question of whether an actual movie adaptation of Goncharov should be made, I definitely have mixed feelings. On the one hand, the fact that Tumblr could be able to speak something like this into existence is amazing, and the idea of coming back to talk about the actual movie Goncharov in the same fandom spaces where its first lore was born has that delicious circular narrative element to it that makes it almost worth it.
On the other, the beauty of Goncharov is that its lore is meant to be forever-expanding and nebulous, accessible for anyone who knows the basics and is willing to partake in the joke. Goncharov was born with a meta soul and meta it should remain. Maybe the best way to honor this Internet-born phenomenon would be to have other movies and television shows reference it, joining in the fun. Something like this edit of a Riverdale scene.
After all, you don’t really need to see Goncharov to love its characters and themes. Maybe the real Goncharov was the mythopoiesis we all had along the way.
(image: Columbia Pictures)
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