Hollywood’s Nemesis, Tumblr’s “Goncharov”


Alex Korotchuk

The hypothetical “Goncharov” poster, created by Alex Korotchuk.

Sophia Prichard, Sr. Editor

Clocks ticking, smoking guns, ruby red lipstick, bloodstained dresses. 

In the words of Martin Scorsese, “This is cinema.” Or is it? The latest of Tumblr inside jokes is the cult-classic mafia film Goncharov 1973, directed by Martin Scorsese, with a cast consisting of iconic 70s stars like Robert de Niro, Cybill Shepherd, Gene Hackman, and Al Pacino. The catch? The movie doesn’t actually exist. 

According to Tumblr users, the source of Goncharov is an old, resurfaced image of a knock-off high end shoe, which had “Martin Scorsese present Goncharov” on the tongue. The film’s plot spawned from a couple of accounts posting about how they’ve seen the film, and explaining that it was about Goncharov, a Russian immigrant in Naples, Italy. His relationship with his wife, Katya, is on the outs as they are establishing themselves in the world of organized crime. What started as someone joking that they had seen the film- which again, does not exist- spiraled as others posted new plot points, characters, some even began editing clips from other movies, and a couple people began composing soundtracks. In the effort to maintain this online joke, Tumblr successfully created an entirely new and, quite frankly, good film.

This massive success, the amazing ability of these users to effectively craft an inside joke so detailed and nuanced, is paralleled with the latest Disney film release, Strange World. This parallel is bizarre, because as a film critic, I would typically try to see new releases like this one, especially since it’s from Disney. Films like this generate a lot of buzz, and recent Disney hits like Encanto are also so well crafted. But this movie… isn’t worth talking about? There’s virtually no discussion about the film outside of its status as a flop. It’s puzzling, the combination of lack of promotional material and how horribly it’s doing at the box office. And I must emphasize this is a Disney Studios production. The film’s budget was upward of 130 million dollars, and yet the general online consensus is that the movie is virtually unimportant. 

This parallel, of how an apps inside joke have somehow captured more emotional investment than what could be considered the biggest entertainment giant’s latest release, is fascinating. It begs the question: what is so special about Goncharov

This question seems to elude the Internet, even the originators of the fictional plotline of the imaginary film, as many posts analyze that very idea. The general consensus seems to be that the appeal of Goncharov is that the film is whatever the audience makes it, which in this case is a richly symbolic story of betrayal and homoeroticism. The potential for the film is endless because it simply does not exist. The sort of “yes and” nature of the storytelling that Tumblr uses allows users to make a culmination of everyone’s own imagination. It mimics a sort of storytelling left to the waves of time. The original oral tradition of storytelling provided fulfillment not simply because of its ability to shapeshift something familiar, but also the interactive element.