My Dinner with Alan: A Sopranos Session
Something must be in the water with the gangster genre. At 161 minutes, My Dinner with Alan: A Sopranos Session is nearly as much of a mouthful as that other archive release, The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone. With an interview film based on their book, The Sopranos Sessions, critics Matt Zoller Seitz and Alan Sepinwall meet in Holsten’s diner in New Jersey (which any Sopranos fan will tell you is the location of the HBO show’s elliptical last scene) to discuss the mob epic’s many intricacies and its impact upon popular culture at large.
Zoller Seitz is an affably middle-of-the-road critic who has symbolically taken the mantle of Roger Ebert by running the Chicagoan’s website. And there is a fair amount of inside baseball as he and Sepinwall reminisce about their time at the New Jersey Star-Ledger writing “over a million words” about The Sopranos. The film is effectively a filmed podcast; geeks who have read The Sopranos Sessions will find little new information and the casual viewer may feel alienated by the chatter. The chatter is, however, good fun.
The Sopranos is a comparatively rich text next to the prestige television that is produced today: you won’t see blocking and production design or a cast of authentically mobbish looking New Jersyites in The Mandalorian, or even in the flashy-trashy programmes that hit-hungry HBO now produce. This is partly the fault of television critics, who have attempted to elevate their medium to the level of literature or film through techniques like labelling episodes “a collection of short stories.” It is unclear why they are not contented with enjoying the pleasures specific to the television form. It’s already dominant in our culture without cinema or literature fans being forced to accept it as a part of their canon too.
My Dinner with Alan even evokes Louis Malle’s low-concept art film My Dinner with Andre with its title and format. Watching Zollar Seitz chow down on onion rings is a haunting enough image without the sound of his bites high up in the mix as director Kristian Fraga oversees. This Sopranos tribute is hardly the kind of transcendental minimalist cinema that Malle perfected, but it makes for an entertaining enough supplement to a two decade-old TV show.
My Dinner With Alan: A Sopranos Session is released digitally on demand on 27th December 2020.
Watch the trailer for My Dinner With Alan: A Sopranos Session here: