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Paper Moon

Director: Peter Bogdanovich / Script: Alvin Sargent (from J D Brown’s novel) / DoP: Laszlo Kovacs / EditorVerna Fields

CastRyan O’Neal / Tatum O’Neal / Madeline Kahn / Randy Quaid / John Hillerman

Year1973

 

Nehi to a Coney Island

 


H
ow to follow-up a pair of hit movies that’s made you the toast of Hollywood? If you’re Peter Bogdanovich, you choose an adaptation of a recently published bestseller looking at the depression-era escapades of small-time con-man Moses Pray and a little girl, Addie Loggins, who may (or may not) be his daughter…

Having previously worked with the effortlessly photogenic superstar Ryan O’Neal, it’s therefore obvious to cast both him and his own precocious daughter Tatum, in the leads (aged just eight, she remains the youngest-ever Oscar winner as a result of this performance).

Then you get your genius DoP Laszlo Kovacs to shoot it in crisp, stark B&W, with enormous depth of field, allowing the camera to show other, untold, stories in-frame: in other words, Pure Cinema, if you’re watching widescreen and paying attention.

The other characters struggle to impose upon this tight double-act. Madeline Kahn’s wonderfully layered Trixie Delight and her maid, Imogene (newcomer P.J. Johnson) do their level best, in-keeping with other (though no-less riveting) minor characters, but the camera still loves the chain-smoking kid and her connivingly-weak dad.

There’s a natural, undeniable chemistry here that you just can’t fake and Bogdanovich gives Father & Daughter all the time they need for things to just happen, as they lead, goad and tease each other, in their merry dance across the dustbowl.

It reminds me so much of the Coen’s Oh Brother, in terms of the mise-en-scéne, period soundtrack and its shared, jouncy, lolloping ‘road movie’ conceit.

A real nugget to savour, this one.

Well, if you want to call it dancin’! All she do is wag her hips and shake her ole behind a little.

Triple Word / Score:   Droll / Nuanced / Charming / Eight

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