Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Masters of Cinema - PAPER MOON on Blu-ray ""

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Masters of Cinema - PAPER MOON on Blu-ray

PAPER MOON (1973; Peter Bogdanovich)
Perhaps it's the current climate within which filmmakers must function, but it's a rarer and rarer thing to see a streak of outstanding work even from the most promising of talents these days. I'm talking a run of three or four great movies. It still happens sure, but I think we undervalue how remarkable a feat it is to pull something like that off. Peter Bogdanovich was absolutely on fire in the early 1970s. As much Coppola, Scorsese or Friedkin, he was fully firing on all cylinders. In 1968 he made TARGETS, which I still believe is one of the all-time best debut films ever. Sure he had a little help (luck to get one of the greatest actors ever in Boris Karloff and some help from Sam Fuller on the script), but he made a fantastic movie (and it's still one of my personal favorites). That was 1968. In 1971 he would make THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, which is arguably one of the standout American films of the past fifty years. It is a true classic and still resonates today. Then in 1972, he would turn on a dime and make a winderful tribute to his beloved screwball comedies with WHAT'S UP DOC. That movie gets better every time I watch it and totally captures and updates the feeling that screwball had during its heyday. Finally in 1973, Bogdanovich made PAPER MOON. It's another slice of Americana and delightful companion piece to THE LAST PICTURE SHOW. One thing PAPER MOON had going for it that PICTURE SHOW didn't was the dynamic duo casting of Ryan O'Neal and his daughter Tatum in the leads. I think we've become kind of accustomed to precocious child actors currently, but Tatum's performance here is revelatory and among the most outstanding ever. She and her dad play stunningly well off of each other and it's easy to see why she was awarded for her work here. I'm not sure how folks think of Ryan O'Neal these days (or if they think of him at all), but he should be remembered as a gifted comic actor for sure. He's not quite Vary Grant level or anything, but he's in the same ball game when he's at his best. I sometimes forget about how funny he is myself until I rewatch WHAT'S UP DOC or PAPER MOON. 

What happened after PAPER MOON was by no means a tragedy, but it's herd not to notice a dip. I personally like DAISY MILLER and even AT LONG LAST LOVE, as well as SAINT JACK and THEY ALL LAUGHED. These are good films (for the most part), but when one starts to look at the best ones, one notices a certain commonality. Hitchcock had Alma and Bogdanovich had Polly Platt. Polly had a hand in all of Bogdanovich's best work and even turned him into Larry McMurtry's book (which led to him making THE LAST PICTURE SHOW). I don't know the specifics of their working relationship, but as a married couple and as filmmaking collaborators, it seems clear that they were a big help to each other. I may be projecting some stuff here, but I always kind of pictured Polly as the voice of encouragement and reason for Bogdanovich. When he and Platt divorced around 1971 (because of Cybil Shepherd), they continued to work together for two more movies. I still don't fully understand why she stuck with him, but she was a part of two excellent movies so there's that. After PAPER MOON, you can see Bogdanovich sliding off the rails a bit and though he would recover, I feel like he never hit that stride again in quite the same way. A stretch like he had from 1968 to 1973 is the stuff of lottery winners and is very once in a lifetime. As I said, few directors have done what he did in terms of quality cinema in such a concentrated period. 

Special Features:
-A very good-looking new 1080p transfer of the film.
-A Feature-length commentary by Director Peter Bogdanovich.
-Three video pieces on the making of the film, featuring interviews and outtake footage.
-A 36-PAGE BOOKLET featuring a new essay on the film by Michael Brooke, rare production stills, and more!

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