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Readers sound off on the Sopranos prequel, mob dinners and R. Kelly

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Mineola, L.I.: “The Many Saints of Newark” is offal we must refuse. In darkening the silver screen with this lurid prequel to “The Sopranos,” David Chase concocts an origin story for the thuggish Tony Soprano that resurrects all the anti-Italian tropes and blood libels that made the original HBO series a showcase for society’s only socially acceptable prejudice.

Picking up where “The Godfather” left off, “The Sopranos” allowed audiences to revel in the trendy schadenfreude afforded by the program’s vile depiction of Italian-Americans. Chase lustily revivified anti-Italian intolerance, garnering himself fame and a motherlode of filthy lucre.

The new film is not Shakespearean fare. Nor is it a gritty coming-of-age tale set against a backdrop of an America torn by racial ferment. And Michael Gandolfini’s role as the young Tony Soprano amounts to an illusion of storytelling complexity, a cinematic trompe-l’œil. In truth, this hastily contrived film represents Chase’s last stab at prominence. And he attempts to do so by doubling down on the defamation of Italian-Americans. In addition to portraying the scions of Italy as a clan of gun-toting Neanderthals, Chase has transmogrified them into uber-Bull Connor racists. One wonders if Chase, director Alan Taylor and the movie’s cast — especially Gandolfini, Alessandro Nivola and Leslie Odom Jr. — are even aware of the mass lynchings, internments and discrimination endured by Italians in their journey to America. Do these show business savants know that Italians produced the Pax Romana, capitalism, modern science, Western jurisprudence, the Renaissance arts, instrumental and vocal classical music, banking, accounting, the newspaper and atomic energy?

The scions of Italy are not the sausage-and-pepper spawn of Tony Soprano. Rather, they are a people whose ancestral homeland was hailed by John Milton as “the seat of civilization and the hospitable domicile of every species of erudition.” Rosario A. Iaconis

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