Paper Moon

Paper Moon (1973) movie poster

(1973) dir. Peter Bogdanovich
viewed: 12/17/07

I had last seen this film back in 1987 while staying with some friends in Gainesville, Florida.  It had been a lifetime favorite of one friend in particular, and I remember being quite charmed by it at the time.  The way it came up in my queue just recently was that one of my daughter’s teachers had commented that my daughter resembled Tatum O’Neal from this film, and the thought of looking into it led me to popping it to the top of my Netflix queue.  As far as the resemblance goes, I think it’s mostly the hair.

Tatum and Ryan O’Neal are both excellent.  Tatum, who received an Oscar (the youngest person to ever receive one) for her performance, carries the film, the story of a small-time grifter who winds up transporting his probable though unacknowledged daughter across the Midwest in the 1930’s and through a series of comical episodes.  A close-up of her face is the opening shot of the film, and her slightly squinting frown of an expression is striking.  Her father does an excellent job as well, carrying on as the dapper scam-artist bible salesman with charm and great comic timing.  It’s an endearing film, sweet, funny, and quite beautiful.

The cinematography is stunning.  Shot in black-and-white by László Kovács, it suits the period and the locations, echoing of the films of the 1930’s.  From the striking close-ups of Tatum’s face to the broad vistas of the open country roads and empty plains, the whole film has a classic beauty to it.

Peter Bogdanovich is an interesting character, a director that I haven’t spent much time watching, though he’s sort of stayed on the periphery of my interest.  Part of the group of directors that defined American cinema for the 1970’s, he’s not one of the better-known names in comparison with Francis Ford Coppola or Martin Scorsese.  Maybe that has to do with their success carrying forward further than his did.  Clearly, though, this is a great film, at least in my opinion, and I’ll have to think about watching some of his other films.

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