Tuesday, December 19, 2006


I'd seen The Last Picture Show many times but for some reason or other had failed to explore other Bogdanovich films. Paper Moon doesn't disappoint. Ryan O'Neal is flawless as an oily grifter, and Tatum deserved that Oscar unquestionably; some of the subtle changes in the mood of her expression show remarkable subtlety for an actor of any age, let alone one who was 8 years old. I love the extended scenes of the two O'Neals interacting (extremely refreshing in an age of furious fast-cuts, CGI, and close-ups that show one actor at a time)--in particular an argument in the car which lasts nearly four minutes, and which, according to the DVD extras, took more than 35 takes to get.

Paper Moon is a near pitch-perfect blend of funny and sad, delivered with great craft. The photography is beautiful, the manner of constructing shots (check out the framing during the train ticket sequence) is exquisite, the performances are universally wonderful (Jonathan Hillerman and Randy Quaid and Madeline Kahn support), and in nearly an hour of extras Bogdanovich only name-drops Orson Welles 87 times.

I also enjoyed Out of Africa, which allows the natural backdrop of its setting to become a primary character. There's nothing like a good movie in no hurry to get anywhere. Sydney Pollack allows his actors and his script time to meander and build to the tragic end point. I've never particularly been a fan of Meryl Streep, but I "get" it now. Anyone who can act herself into sexiness is a special talent. The scene where Redford washes her hair by the river? That's good stuff.

The film brings many complications to its romance story: colonialism, feminism, patriarchy, war and duty, dependence and liberty. But one is never bludgeoned inelegantly with its themes, which arise naturally as the story progresses.

I used to teach a complicated Dineson story called "The Sorrow Acre." Almost universally my students would fail to penetrate that one.

Note to self: read more Dineson.

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