The acclaimed movie director Peter Bogdanovich passed away yesterday at the age of 82. He directed several excellent films, but let me highlight three to give people a look into his work. Ironically, I watched two of his older films, “Paper Moon” and “The Last Picture Show” in the last few days, so I wonder if someone new the end was near and aired them..
Yet, the one I like the most he made in 1985 with Cher as a caring but tough mother in “Mask.” “Mask” starred Eric Stolz as a young teen whose facial bones grew in a distorted manner causing acute, tremendous pain and leaving him with a mask-like look. His mother would help him meditate through the pain to avoid giving him debilitating pain medicine. In my view, this movie was Cher’s best work, even better than in “Moonstruck,” where she won an Oscar.
The first scene in which you realize she is comforting her in-pain son is extremely poignant. Sam Elliot stars as Cher’s biker boyfriend. In spite of the pain and scary countenance, the teen was very smart and congenial, making fun of himself before others would. And, unless you saw the credits, you would never know the lead is played by Stolz, who is excellent, as well.
“The Last Picture Show” usually gets the most fanfare. Based on Larry McMurtry’s book and his co-written screen play with Bogdanovich, it is a black and white movie about small town life in Anarene, Texas in 1953. Cybil Shephard (in her first role), Jeff Bridges, Timothy Bottoms, Sam Bottoms and Randy Quaid are the high schoolers featured, but a great cast of adults play key roles with Cloris Leachman (who won an Oscar for Supporting Actress), Ellen Burstyn, Eileen Brennan, Ben Johnson and Clu Gulager.
Teen and adult angst are the key themes portrayed showing people will look for love even when they appear to have someone who fills the role. Interestingly, the only overtly protagonist is the silent role played by Sam Bottoms and maybe the sage like role of Ben Johnson, with all of the other characters being various shades of gray revealing our imperfections. Yet, you do feel for many of them at times, even though they do things you may not care for. Leachman’s Oscar is very deserving as she plays a dramatic role very different from her comedic future ones.
“Paper Moon” is another black and white film about a depression era con man played by Ryan O’Neal who travels Kansas and Missouri with his daughter. His actual daughter, Tatum O’Neal steals the show in the role and wins a deserved Oscar for her first performance. Madeline Kahn also plays a key role as the father’s new girlfriend and threat to the welfare of the younger O’Neal.
The lessons of making money through cons are passed down to the daughter, who he is traveling with to take her to stay with her aunt after her mother passes. She turns out to be an even savvier business-person than her father, knowing when to push on the accelerator or hit the brakes. She could also give an up-to-date accounting of the money her father owed her.
I wonder if the adult actor realized he was the straight man for this rising star. He does a great job in the role, but your eyes are on her facial expressions most of the time, as she is frustrated and bewildered by her father. Bogdanovich would later team with Ryan O’Neal in “What’s up Doc? with Barbra Streisand.
All three are excellent movies. “The Last Picture Show” though had an extra hurdle to overcome when it was given an X rating. It included a skinny dipping scene where some full frontal nudity is visible for a few females. To me, the scene was unneeded the way it was shot and much could have been accomplished with more subtlety. I forewarn you in case there are younger eyes in the room. Nonetheless, the story is good and worth the effort, as are the other two.