Paper Moon (Bogdanovich, 1973) and Silver Linings Playbook (Russell, 2012)

Doubling up on the comedies.  Peter Bogdanovich’s 1973 Depression-era, con man (and daughter) film was the first for the famed, and ultimately doomed Directors Company.  Gulf + Western, as the first conglomerate to dive into the film game in the late 60s, started The Directors Company with Bogdanovich, Francis Ford Coppola and William Friedkin (hell of a lineup).  Friedkin would never make a film for them, but Bogdanovich’s Paper Moon and Daisy Miller were both completed under this banner as was Coppola’s The Conversation.  The model was profit-sharing, regardless of the film, so when Paper Moon hit it big, all involved got a cut of the receipts.

Paper Moon stars father-daughter duo Ryan and Tatum O’Neal as a con man and his maybe-daughter, as they drive to her aunt’s house, ripping people off in various schemes along the way.

Bogdanovich frames a lot of stark, midwestern wide-shots in this road movie.  Towards the end of the film is a great example of an editor (Verna Fields, who also cut Jaws, in this case) doing her job.

The scene in question has Moses and Addie at a crossroads of where to go.  Will he take her to her aunts?  She wants to stay with him.  We begin in a medium 2-shot:

Picture 1

And cut to Moses’ CU as he turns to discuss with Addie:

Picture 2

Cut back to Addie for her smiling reaction:

Picture 3

And then back to Moses again to end the scene:

Picture 4

Simple stuff – establish their positions with the 2-shot and then go into coverage for their interaction.  It’s that last shot that sets the scene apart from others of its kind, though.  That’s for two reasons: 1) there’s no fundamental need to cut to it.  We’ve already seen her reaction, 2) it lingers for a half second longer than it feel like it should/would.

These might both sound like criticisms.  They’re not.  The last shot is a really smart, silent way to solidify their relationship.  Moses’ slight smile to Addie’s big smile is our first look into his love for this girl.  Hanging on for “too” long stops the film flat for 1/2 a second, forcing the moment to really cauterize into our head.  It’s a good editorial decision, and one that could have easily been overlooked in favor of getting two reaction shots (shots 2 and 3 above) and moving the story onward.

The ending of Paper Moon is perfect.  It’s spot-on.  After a silent stand-off, Moses’ car starts to roll away behind him.  Addie yells.  They turn and run off after it, together:

Picture 5

The ending so teeters on schmaltz and teary eyes, but completely avoids any such dive into needless nostalgia, favoring instead, momentum.  They run after the car, get into the car, and theoretically, keep right on going.

Silver Linings Playbook

I left David O. Russell’s new film with a new appreciation for Bradley Cooper, who does a hell of a job in Silver Linings Playbook as Pat, a sympathetic former teacher, recently released from an institution.

But ultimately, it’s the script for Silver Linings Playbook that puts it over the top.  The film is good.  A throwback of sorts to comedies like the one discussed briefly above, it plays the relationship (in this case between Pat and Tiffany – an awesome Jennifer Lawrence) less for laughs and more for gravitas.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Russell’s camera direction, and I’m not really here either.  There are a lot of long dollies in – not like the Spielberg kind that I’ve been talking about too much recently, but more like dramatic establishing shots – and several montage moments that move us solidly forward.

Russell’s strength is really in two things: script and casting.  He’s damn good at both.  And if Woody Allen is to be believed, these might be the two most important elements in cinema.

There’s another worthwhile element in Silver Linings Playbook, and that’s the fidelity to Philadelphia, which this Philly-dweller can attest to.  I loved a short sequence outside of the Eagles game at Lincoln Financial Field.  Russell and company really captured what it’s like to tailgate out there.  The same is true of Pat’s parents’ (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver) house.  It reminds me of any old, south Philly, Italian home I’ve been inside.  The various knick-knacks, the warm, patterned wallpaper…it’s great.

Differently from Paper Moon, Silver Linings Playbook does play its ending for tears, but it still works, largely because of the romantic restraint that the script has shown to that point.  It’s escapist cinema in the final 15 minutes, but very fun, laugh-out-loud, escapist cinema.

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About dcpfilm

Shooting, teaching, writing and watching the Phillies.
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One Response to Paper Moon (Bogdanovich, 1973) and Silver Linings Playbook (Russell, 2012)

  1. Pingback: Paper Moon (1973) « timneath

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