Goncharov Explained: How The Internet 'Discovered' A 'Lost' 'Martin Scorsese' Film

Orson Welles' "The Other Side of the Wind." George A. Romero's "The Amusement Park." Martin Scorsese's "Goncharov." It's been an incredible few years for film lovers and archivists, as never-before-seen movies from legendary filmmakers have been not only rediscovered but beamed straight into our living rooms on popular streaming platforms. Movies, particularly those made on unstable nitrate film during cinema's early days, unfortunately, get lost to time more often than we'd like to believe. As only a fraction get rediscovered, restored, or finished posthumously; each time they do, it feels like a rare gift.

While you can now catch Welles' long-unfinished satire on Netflix and Romero's previously lost thriller on Shudder, you'll have a much harder time getting your hands on Scorsese's 1973 recently-found mafia film, despite the fact that everyone's talking about it this week. That's because "Goncharov" doesn't actually exist.

The internet has Goncharov fever

While Twitter seems to be to imploding in slow motion and other social networks vie to become its successor, Tumblr, longtime home of the postmodern meme and weirdly enduring inside joke, is busy making up a classic movie — and its expansive accompanying lore — for the hell of it. If you log into Tumblr this week, the chances are you'll not only see fake "Goncharov" posters and gifsets, but also fake Letterboxd reviews, totally made-up (but hilariously real-sounding) discourse about the film's politics and queer theory readings, a "Goncharov" score (compiled by @thisisnotjuli), and a seemingly endless amount of meta-textual history about the making of the non-existent film.

Within a matter of days, the joke has also expanded beyond the boundaries of the site where it started. If you search "Goncharov" on Letterboxd, you'll find lists like "films inspired by Goncharov (1973)," by user @foxantoine. If you check TikTok, there's a chance you'll find a "Goncharov" cosplay or explainer video; the "Goncharov" tag, which admittedly also shares a name with a manga character, now has over 2 million views. Uquiz user @sormsorm even made a "What Goncharov (1973) Character are you?" quiz that, as of publication time, has been taken over 38,000 times (I got Goncharov himself!). 

And the movie, which as previously stated does not exist, currently has more works of fanfiction available on Archive of Our Own than James Cameron's "Avatar" films, popular new shows like "She-Hulk: Attorney At Law" and "Severance," and, I think it's safe to say, any actual Scorsese film.

Where did Goncharov come from?

The earliest recorded "Goncharov" sighting came courtesy of a now-archived Tumblr blog called zootycoon, which according to Know Your Meme posted the "Goncharov" origin story sometime before August 22, 2020. The original post features a photo of a pair of boots the user says they ordered online. Their tag reads: "Martin Scorsese Presents GONCHAROV." In response, @loseremo posted a screencap of user @abandonedambition saying, "this idiot hasn't seen 'goncharov.'" Though the bizarre, mysterious shoe advertisement was eventually explained — according to @dogsufferage, it seems the company ended up with a misprint of "Gomorrah," Matteo Garrone's 2008 Italian film which featured Scorsese's name on its movie posters — the idea of the fake, underseen movie lived on.

"Goncharov" existed mostly as a one-off joke for two years, until last week, when "Goncharov" fever suddenly hit Tumblr big-time. The resurgence can likely be traced back to a fake movie poster created by @beelzeebub, one that upped the lore level of the joke considerably by giving the movie a cast list that includes Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Harvey Keitel, Gene Hackman, John Cazale (as a character called Ice Pick Joe, naturally), and Cybill Shepherd. "Winter Comes To Naples," the tagline reads, along with a gunshot-riddled title.

While there are several synopses of the apparently sexy and upsetting crime epic available, Polygon says that "Goncharov" follows the titular character, a former Soviet Union discotheque owner, as he and his wife Katya travel to Naples, where he falls in with the mafia and catches the attention of a banker named Andrey. There's also a woman named Sofia, a clock motif, and, of course, the killer Ice Pick Joe. You can catch up on some of the best "Goncharov" art and history with the official master post put together by Tumblr Staff.

The lore keeps expanding

The lore for "Goncharov" has continued to expand exponentially. Why would a movie with such an all-star cast go undiscussed for so long? Well, because the original masters got tied up in a legal squabble between two teams of French editors in a polyamorous relationship, according to Tumblr user @cryptotheism. As the fake, collaborative, multimedia history of "Goncharov" grows more and more elaborate, it only gets funnier, especially as newcomers catch on and are briefly duped by the sheer fervor and level of detail presented by "Goncharov" fans.

The "Goncharov" phenomenon is clearly a gift in these dark times, and a sign that thousands of strangers can come together for the good of a meme. There's something wholesome and hilarious about the collective urge to take a bit and run with it for as long as humanly possible. Hopefully, the fact that "Goncharov" explainers like this one now exist doesn't kill the momentum of this fake movie movement and all of the creativity it's inspired so far.

By now, "Goncharov" is more than a (fake) film: it's a conversation starter with the power to bring people together. If you get bored at Thanksgiving dinner this week, ask your most pretentious relative if they think Scorsese's decision to keep Goncharov and Andrey's sexual tension unresolved was a cowardly cave-in to cultural attitudes of the time, or a purposeful artistic choice meant to convey the dueling moral ideals of the Vietnam era. If you keep a straight face long enough, they'll be making up their own "Goncharov" hot take in no time.