Peter Bogdanovich: a filmmaker in love and an intrepid genius of cinema | Pierre Bogdanovich


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PEter Bogdanovich was the blazing comet of the night sky of the new Hollywood generation whose trajectory strayed somewhat from course, through personal tragedy and show business contingencies, but continued to move forward with brilliant work and passionate cinephilia until ‘at the very end. His first four hits, Targets (1968), The Last Picture Show (1971), What’s Up Doc? (1972) and Paper Moon (1973) were somehow both exciting and genuinely modern and yet instantly belonged to the classical pantheon. With a touch of restless young genius, he seemed to reinvent pulp crime, western, road movie, and goofy comedy – in no time.

I remember Bogdanovich in 2018, frail and ill as he was then, towering over the Venice Film Festival with two important films showing: his superb documentary on Buster Keaton (whose reputation and importance he generally bolstered for the 21st Century) and its cut, “Recovered” Tale from Orson Welles’ Lost and Sprawling Film The Other Side of the Wind, in which Bogdanovich himself starred, satirizes the trauma of Hollywood’s old guard by seizing it. taking over by the young Turks. And Bogdanovich sat down at Welles ‘feet, as Truffaut sat at Hitchcock’s, and perhaps consciously took on the sorcerer’s apprentice cloak, though he learned as all of Welles’ associates learned how great Welles could be. capricious and hurtful. But in his later years, taking creative comforts in a well-crafted comedy in classic Hollywood style, he found himself supported and funded by young proteges like Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach who were as amazed by Bogdanovich as he himself was. was once from John. Ford and Howard Hawks.

I’ve only met him once, during a lunch in Soho, London to launch his very good and underrated 2004 film The Cat’s Meow, about the mysterious story of real crime “Hollywood Babylon “on the death of a film mogul aboard WR Hearst’s yacht in 1924. He was stylish, intelligent – a great lover of London – and very funny about being recognized for his role as an actor on television as the therapist of Dr. Jennifer Melfi in HBO’s The Sopranos and thus the psychoanalytic grandfather of Tony Soprano himself.

Targets was a fascinating, bizarre, experimental, underestimated and misunderstood work that absorbed the provocative energy of counter-cultural cinema, with the pulpy violence of Gun Crazy or In Cold Blood or Reservoir Dogs. In one of the plot strands, horror icon Boris Karloff plays something like himself; in the other plot, a child becomes obsessed with guns and creates real horror. The simple pairing was elegant, ingenious, living up to the meta-horror playfulness that had become fashionable 30 years later.

Peter Bogdanovich on the set of The Last Picture Show. Photograph: Kobal / Rex / Shutterstock

The Last Picture Show is a glorious, authentic American film, set in a windswept Texan town where the town’s dying cinema (even 1971, the death of theaters was agonizing, when terrestrial television and televised sports were the alleged culprits) presents Howard Hawks’ Red River as his latest film. A young child has an affair with an older, melancholy woman – beautifully performed by Cloris Leachman. Cybill Shepherd (whom Bogdanovich was to fall in love with) is unforgettable in style. There is a lot of gossip and sexual tension in small towns, culminating in an utterly extraordinary nude swimming scene, astounding in its calm candor, beyond eroticism, and utterly unmatched by anything before or since.

In Paper Moon (another black-and-white piece of Americana), Bogdanovich gave us one of the greatest weirdest couples in history and the most poignant adult-child ride since Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan. Ryan O’Neal and his real daughter Tatum O’Neal are the team of daddy-daughter scammers drifting through the Depression Era Midwest into cheating people out of their money with long and short cons and revealing only their own self-deception and dug. Lives. Bogdanovich got a strangely good performance from Tatum in particular.

Bogdanovich unleashed his love of comedy in What’s Up Doc? starring Ryan O’Neal and Barbra Streisand, those quintessential ’70s movie stars, and showed he can build and control the energies of comedy (as difficult as anything he’d done until then, but less likely to be critically approved, although this movie just fine.)

The low point in Bogdanovich’s life came with the murder of actor Dorothy Stratten, who starred in her film They All Laughed (1981) with whom Bogdanovich was in a relationship, by the man she was married to, but separate. Bogdanovich nearly ruined himself financially by finishing the film which was not surprisingly marred in the minds of audiences by its grim history, and Bogdanovich found himself criticized for being part of the macho misogynist cinema culture of which Stratten was. the victim, a feeling not entirely appeased by the fact that Bogdanovich married Stratten’s sister Louise, who became his production partner.

Sam Elliott, Cher and Peter Bogdanovich on the set of Mask.
Sam Elliott, Cher and Peter Bogdanovich on the set of Mask. Photograph: Universal / Kobal / Rex / Shutterstock

Bogdanovich found his return – although perhaps nothing to do with the pure inspirational streak he started his career with – in 1985, with the bold and heartfelt emotional drama, ostensibly titled Mask, which gave Cher a chance to prove that she was an excellent actress. It was based on the true story of a boy with a difficult craniofacial disorder. Cher played his mother, facing harshly against those who cannot appreciate his son’s inner intelligence and humanity, and Eric Stoltz played the boy himself in makeup (in 2022 there would be a lot more debate about the cast. appropriate).

Although plagued by financial worries for much of the ’80s and’ 90s, Bodganovich continued to teach, write, and work, making a kind joke in the mid-1970s at the prank with his She’s Funny that Way. . But his last masterpiece was The Great Buster: A Celebration in 2018, his inspired tribute to Keaton and The Other Side Of The Wind, which now almost deserves to be seen as a co-creation with the spirit of Welles. .

Bogdanovich was a native film genius, who in his heyday made great movies as easily as breathing.

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