Martin Scorsese's 1973 mafia masterpiece "Goncharov" is re-emerging online as film buffs obsess over the tale of corrupted power and loss. Its haunting theme song is finally on Spotify. The poster — which features Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Gene Hackman and Cybill Shepherd against an Italian cityscape — has gone viral. The film's love triangle and homoerotic undertones have inspired hundreds of stories on the fanfiction site Archive of Our Own.
The catch: "Goncharov" isn't real. It's an elaborate, and convincing, Tumblr bit.
The fictional film follows Goncharov, a former Russian mobster and discotheque manager who gives up a life of crime to settle in the “seemingly idyllic Naples” with his wife Katya after the fall of the Soviet Union. But in Naples, he meets Andrey “The Banker” Daddano, who becomes his rival and implied love interest. While she grieves her father's death, Katya meets Sofia, and they develop a close friendship brimming with implied sexual tension.
There’s also “Ice Pick Joe,” an eye patch-wearing American transplant who was scheduled for a lobotomy before he escaped a psychiatric facility and turned to organized crime.
The movie's title can be traced back to a years-old Tumblr post, when a user published a photo of a pair of "knockoff boots." Instead of a brand name, the tag on the boots read: "The greatest mafia movie ever made. Martin Scorsese presents GONCHAROV. Domenico Proccacci production. A film by Matteo JWHJ0715. About the Naples mafia."
The user appears to have since deleted their blog. In 2020, another Tumblr user reblogged the post with a screenshot of a comment that read, "this idiot hasn't seen goncharov."
The fake film "inexplicably started to pick up traction" during the weekend of Nov. 19, according to Polygon. The New York Times reports that "Goncharov" was the top trending topic on Tumblr by Monday evening, followed by "Martin Scorsese." In the week since, it's made its way to Twitter and TikTok, where the tag #goncharov has over 7 million views.
Even Tumblr is in on the joke.
It's "hard to imagine that so few ppl have seen it," Tumblr posted on its Twitter account.
The thoroughly detailed lore surrounding "Goncharov" has been a collaborative effort by Tumblr users, many of whom have been keeping track of developments in an extensive Google doc. Users discuss potential plot points and other details in a Discord server that has tens of thousands of members. Tumblr users have already established that "Goncharov" complies with the Hays Code, the time-period appropriate industry guidelines that prohibited nudity, profanity and realistic violence.
The Google doc also includes a scene-by-scene breakdown of the fictional film, which culminates in Goncharov's death and a shot of a broken clock — a recurring theme throughout the story.
Tumblr users have written detailed analyses of the film’s use of clocks. Tumblr user nautilusopus, for example, opined that on the surface, “Goncharov” may appear to be a “cautionary tale about power corrupting,” but is “first and foremost about loss, in all its different forms.”
“I’m both kind of surprised and frustrated people miss this, given how utterly pervasive the movie is with its clock symbolism — it’s the one thing everyone remembers about it, it was in all the tie-ins,” they wrote in a Tumblr post.
Another Tumblr user composed an original song for “Goncharov,” and posted sheet music.
The film's "official" poster was designed by Alex, an artist known online as Beelz, who said they were inspired by other posters from the 1970s.
"I tried to go for the hand-painted look," they said. "Some people say the poster looks too modern though."
Some Twitter users appear to have fallen for the bit, tweeting that they thought that the film was real because of its newfound virality.
"Tumblr has been talking about a martin scorsese movie called goncharov and i was getting really into it, really looking forward to watching it, and then it turned out that they made it up completely," Twitter user @davemakes said.
Another expressed disbelief at how quickly Tumblr users created the mythos of the film.
"The goncharov bit on tumblr right now is one of the insane things I eve ever seen," Twitter user @gwenstacying said.
Martin Scorsese is in on the joke. In a TikTok posted Friday, his daughter Francesca Scorsese shared a screenshot of a text exchange with the legendary director.
"Did u see this?" she asked, along with a link to a New York Times article about "Goncharov."
"Yes. I made that film years ago," he replied.