Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

October 26, 2018

The Octopus

Filed under: Counterpunch,crime,television — louisproyect @ 2:26 pm


Recently I had the opportunity to watch season one and two of “The Octopus” (La Piovra, another term for the mafia, just like Cosa Nostra), an Italian TV series that ran from 1984 to 2001. All ten seasons of this outstanding drama about one cop’s determination to take on and destroy the Sicilian mafia can be seen on MHz Choice, a VOD website devoted to European film and television and mostly focused on what the French call policiers and well worth the $7.99 monthly subscription fee. If after having seen my CounterPunch article about Swedish, Marxist-oriented detective series on Netflix, and moreover have appreciated such fare, you’ll be motivated to subscribe to MHz Choice since it has a sizable offering of Scandinavian crime fiction. For my money, literally speaking, this is the only genre on Netflix that is worth my while in recent years and if your tastes are similar to mine, MHz Choice is well worth the price of a subscription.

Having seen at least a half-dozen Italian films about the Sicilian mafia over the years, both narrative and documentary, the main takeaway is that the Italians would never dream of making the sort of films that established the reputations of Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola. Scorsese tends to portray his characters as morally deficient but even with the worst of them, like Joe Pesci’s Tommy De Vito in “Goodfellas”, you are likely to find them demonstrating a raffish charm. As for “The Godfather”, it depicts the Corleone family as the good guys sustaining the “honor” of a virtual benevolent society against the bad gangsters, no matter that no such family ever existed. The “Sopranos” on HBO was obviously made in the same spirit and helped to convey the impression that with their malapropisms, Tony’s gang was just a modern version of Shakespeare’s clowns but with a violent streak.

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  1. Louis,

    For your inquiry into the Mafia don’t miss Ismaele La Vardera’s documentary to be released in November. See “Unlikely candidate’s hidden camera documentary lifts lid on Italian politics.”


    For historical aspects, there’s a classic film, Francesco Rosi’s ‘Salvatore Giuliano’ 1962.

    Comment by Peter Byrne — October 26, 2018 @ 3:55 pm

  2. MHz is kind of a sad story. Until quite recently, the name belonged to a non-PBS public television station in Fairfax, VA, WNVC, which ran something like five over-the-air digital channels broadcasting foreign (to the US) material. It wasn’t all good–one of the channels was RT and at least two of them, toward the end, were Chinese state pap. But at one time they ran Al Jazeera English–up to the point where Al Jazeera America (or whatever it’s called) got started and the other one was shut down as far as U.S. viewers were concerned, something I have always considered an act of censorship. You could see all sorts of other things–Australian Rules football, hurling, Sikh religious services. And the nucleus of what is now the MHz streaming service included the wonderful International Mystery, which broadcast among other things the German Tatort series, the unparalleled French Maigret series starring the late Bruno Cremer, and of course La Piovra.

    I suppose that the former WNVC broadcast channels will fill up with hot gospel or shopping eventually–whoever bought the station appears to have done so with the idea of putting them out of business, and those wavelengths are currently broadcasting nothing. But it’s good to know the MHz line continues, even if it isn’t free. The airwaves in the DC area are certainly drab without the old WNVC, flawed as it was.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — October 27, 2018 @ 2:23 am

  3. Living & growing up as I do,close to Apalachin
    NY, scene of the infamous raid in November 1957 that revealed not only the existence
    of the Mafia,but their ‘family’ structure enjoyed your piece.
    I would recommend to you :Apalachin Summit:J Edgar Hoover, the Kennedy Brothers & the Meeting
    that Exposed the Mob by Gil Reavil.
    No conspiracy theory crap, Apalachin Summit, explains in detail Hoover’s long-standing denials of
    the Mafia, as well as the royal screwing of the dogged
    NY State Trooper responsible for the raid by the Kennedys in particular Robert.
    With your interest in film,you’ll enjoy the details
    of how the raid has been portrayed in popular culture,
    most notably The Godfather, Raid in Apalachin,etc.
    In reality the raid was the result of the assanination
    of anti-fascist & anarrchist Carlo Tresca in NYC nearly
    15 years before.

    Comment by Rick Sprout — October 27, 2018 @ 4:02 am

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