When a project, whether on big or small
screen, involves names like Martin Scorsese and Terence Winter, it’s really hard to conceive a failure: we are talking about a cinematic legendary director (recently more and more devoted also to the TV world), and a prominent television screenwriter (it’s probably enough to mention “The Sopranos”(1999-2007)).
Moreover, this is not the first collaboration between the two: the successful series “Boardwalk Empire” (2010-14), set in New Jersey during the Prohibition period of the 1920s, was created by Winter and was Scorsese’s first TV production, while the acclamed feature film “The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013) was written by the first and directed by the latter.
Vinyl therefore represents the new chapter of this fruitful partnership, and if we add the partecipation of Mick Jagger in creating and producing the series, the expectations, under different points of view, could not be higher.
The Pilot (premiered in the USA on February 14th) is the first of ten episodes which compose the first season (a second one has already be confirmed), and as happened for “Boardwalk Empire”, is personally directed by Scorsese.
Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale) is the founder and executive of “American Century Records”, the music label he brought to commercial success using great deal of initiative but also shady, questionable methods. Zak Yankovich (Ray Romano) and Skip Fontaine (J.C.MacKenzie) are his most trusty partners: the first uses to fix the sales registries to improve the company balance, the second, as stated by Richie, “is the head of payola…I mean…promotions”. His devoted wife Devon (Olivia Wilde) and the other bizarre collaborators of the company complete the cast of the recurrent characters.
The series will follow the fortunes and misfortunes of the label and its members, undergoing the changes of the social, political and musical context of the historical period.
From the very first sequences of this 108 minutes long episode (whose standard duration will be 55 minutes instead), we are sharply plunged into the 1970s New York, with its fervent music scene, its fascinations but also its transgressions and obscure, perverse sides, expecially dealing with drug trade and more generally criminality.
From the immediate impact of the mise-en-scene, it’s easy to notice the clearly cinematic approach chosen for the series (as it happens by now for more and more of them) both in visuals and writing: the direction is very agile and refined, the cinematography bright and intense (effectively work of Rodrigo Prieto, well-known collaborator of many great directors, including the latest Scorsese) and the script is very energetic and varied. The narration is in fact not purely linear, as it starts showing the meeting for the label’s sale (introduced by Richie’s voice) and only later we gradually come to know the circumstances of its launch as well as the causes of its problems, through alternating flashbacks and flashforwards which make us discover more and more about the context and obviously the characters.
Moreover, all of this is constantly permeated with a cheeky irony, which appears not only throughout the desecrating and crackling dialogues, but also in many characters’ features (which are often picturesque to say the least) and in their introduction to the audience.
From this point of view, the reference point and model is undeniably Scorsese and Winter’s last cinematographic work, the already mentioned “The Wolf of Wall Street”.
But this is not the only connection: talking about the main character, Richie Finestra, comes to mind a kind of a fusion between the Jordan Belfort of “The Wolf of Wall Street” (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), mainly for his sense of business and ruthlessness, and the Al Pacino of many classic movies by Coppola, Lumet and De Palma, mostly for his appearance.
Anyway, the task Bobby Cannavale is up for is definitely not easy, being probably the most important lead role of his career, during which he established himself mostly as a character actor (it’s particularly worth to mention his portrait of the exhilarating Chili in the recent Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine”).
Needless to say, however, the undisputed ruler of the series is music: every sequence is accompanied by a different piece (either recorded or performed live during the many concerts featured), whose purpose is not only to serve as a background but also to establish the mood of the various situations as well as the characters’ one.
The main genre is obviously the Rock and roll, but there are also some variations on the theme (punk, disco, hip-hop) reflecting the fervor of the musical scene of an era characterized by many new emerging trends, and so in a state of rapid evolution.
More specifically, the remarkable and captivating soundtrack of the Pilot episode features the following tracks:
1. Ty Taylor – The World Is Yours
2. David Johansen – Personality Crisis
3. Kaleo – No Good
4. Sturgill Simpson – Sugar Daddy (Theme from Vinyl)
5. Ruth Brown – Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean
6. Otis Redding – Mr. Pitiful
7. Dee Dee Warwick – Suspicious Minds
8. Mott the Hoople – All The Way From Memphis
9. David Johansen – Stranded In The Jungle
10. Chris Kenner – I Like It Like That
11. Ty Taylor – Cha Cha Twist
12. The Jimmy Castor Bunch – It’s Just Begun
13. Soda Machine – Want Ads
14. The Meters – Hand Clapping Song
15. Soda Machine – Slippin Into Darkness
16. Edgar Winter – Frankenstein
17. Nasty Bits – Rotten Apple
18. Foghat – I Just Want To Make Love To You
All in all, Vinyl definitely looks promising, expecially for music fans, who will surely love the depiction of that specific and crucial period of american music and the profusion of quotes and references about rock names and icons (both real and fictional). Nevertheless, the presence of many funny scenes and characters, the genuine and irreverent sense of humor and the considerable characterization of the main characters will probably attract a much wider public, if the quality level assured by the partecipation of such big names of cinema, music and TV were not enough itself.