Goncharov: why has the internet invented a fake Martin Scorsese film?

<span>Photograph: Moviestore Collection/Rex</span>
Photograph: Moviestore Collection/Rex

Sian, I’m seeing a lot of talk about a Martin Scorsese film called Goncharov. But I’ve never heard of a Martin Scorsese film called Goncharov. What’s going on?

Ah yes, there’s been a lot of talk on Tumblr about the greatest mafia movie ever made.

Released in 1973, the little-seen Scorsese flick starred Robert De Niro as Goncharov, “a former discotheque owner who comes to Naples after the fall of the Soviet Union” with the goal of becoming a mob boss. Harvey Keitel plays the eye-patched Andrey (or Andrei) “The Banker” Daddano; Gene Hackman plays Valery Michailov; Al Pacino appears as Mario Ambrosini and Cybill Shepherd plays Goncharov’s wife, Katya. Apparently, it was really good and was added to the Criterion Collection.

And you’ve never heard of it because it doesn’t actually exist.


So a few years ago, a Tumblr user posted a photo of some “knockoff boots” they had ordered online that had a very strange tag on the tongue: “The greatest mafia movie ever made. Martin Scorsese presents GONCHAROV. Domenico Proccacci production. A film by Matteo JWHJ0715. About the Naples Mafia.”

This mostly went ignored until 2020, when another Tumblr user reblogged a comment made on the original post, reading: “this idiot hasn’t seen goncharov.” Like the good lord himself and the Guardian’s coffee machine, the internet works in mysterious ways; earlier this month, Tumblr user beelzeebub made a fake poster for the film, tens of thousands of people were suddenly sharing it and lo: a new Scorsese film was born.

So Tumblr just made it up?

Yep! And like all of the best jokes, people have really committed to the bit. There’s the film’s poster, which has the tagline “greatest mafia movie (n)ever made”. A music teacher in Indiana composed a theme song for Goncharov, inspired by The Godfather. There is also a cash-in video game, with an accompanying soundtrack, and a fake VHS. “Academics” wrote essays analysing the film, which were published in (fake) film journals. A representative for the movie reviewing platform Letterboxd even told the New York Times that they had had to remove multiple reviews for the film that had been submitted by users.

People have created mood boards, used scenes from other films to create Goncharov gifs and drawn fanart of the best scenes (apparently there is one involving a boat) and their favourite “ships”, or romantic pairings. This being Tumblr, a lot of the fanart is very queer; apparently Goncharov and Keitel’s character Andrei have a lot of sexual tension. And somehow, in the space of a couple weeks, there are already more than 500 Goncharov fanfics posted on the fanfiction website Archive of Our Own.

Has Scorsese got anything to say about this?

Not yet – it is hard to imagine Scorsese knows what Tumblr or shipping is, but I feel he could enjoy the enthusiasm around it all.

But Wonder Woman and all-time hottie Lynda Carter did post two black-and-white photos of herself and Henry Winkler captioned, “Me and ‘The Fonz’ at premiere of Goncharov (1973) at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.” The image is actually from the 1977 Golden Globe awards.

Even Tumblr itself has joined in, tweeting: “Goncharov was inexplicably ahead of it [sic] time and it’s contribution to cinema is remarkable. Rarely does a film tell as many diverse-yet-interconnected stories. Hard to imagine so few ppl have seen it.”

This week, Goncharov has been the No 1 trending topic on the platform. Scorsese was second.

I guess the last question to answer is … why?

Like Ratatouille: The Musical (a fake musical based on the movie that eventually was actually made, after people began building on a single song posted on TikTok) and Demi Lovato’s twin sister, Poot Lovato (just a bad photo of the singer), people just seem to really enjoy coming together to pretend fake things are real. While that impulse can lead to, er, sinister things that seem to be in the news every day now, it also leads to sheer silliness – which, to my mind, should be enough of a reason to do anything.

But somehow along the way, Goncharov has become quite meaningful: complete strangers, from all around the world, forming a community to tell a story and flex their creative muscles – simply for the joy of the joke.