Thursday, October 02, 2008

Keep Your Sunny Side Up - "Paper Moon" 1973

Hey America--don't let the big guys take it all from you. Demand your $200, like Tatum O'Neal in Peter Bogdanovich's excellent Depression-era comedy, "Paper Moon."

My friend Pam and I snuck into this film in the multiplex after rejecting her mom's movie choice ("The Sting"--not the best film for a 9-year-old and an 11-year-old). Tatum O'Neal's performance was a revelation. We were two tomboy girls who couldn't believe how cool she was and how believably she got the upper hand over the adults by being more intelligent and crafty. She made overalls look good--she was a star. Madeline Kahn was, as always, icing on the cake.

We were lucky to have seen this at such a young age since it's an entirely adult film with more adult themes than had ever been explored through the eyes of a child actress. Implied were (spoilers): that Addie Loggins' ma was a prostitute; that Trixie Delight was also a prostitute; that Moses Pray was probably Addie's father and definitely an unrepentant conman; and that Addie was a better con than he. Throughout, was the theme of "hard times" that drove everyone to such amoral behavior, fitting for the 70s when the economy was in the toilet and the inflation rate was ever-growing.

"Paper Moon" is also one of the best-made films of the 70s. It was very brave (and sometimes harrowing) for Bogdanovich to film such long takes with a child actress in her first role. How Tatum was able to say her hundreds of lines without a single "cut" in the scene was a testament to directorial patience that has probably never been matched since. Black-and-white cinematography was not the norm in '73 and it gives the film an "olden" quality without the censorship that dogged old films. The modern themes in a period piece make for a surreal, powerful viewing experience (similar to Bogdanovich's "The Last Picture Show"). The deep-focus flatness of the Midwestern States and its lonely two-lane highways, shot by the late Laszlo Kovacs, emphasizes "the ongoing journey" in this road film. And the tension and frustration between father/daughter Ryan and Tatum O'Neal, is never false in scope.

Awww, Madeline Kahn as Trixie Delight - Pam and I LOVED this scene and often encouraged each other as we were growing up with the adage, "You're gonna get some BONE structah. It took me YEARS to get some bone structah..."

- Tatum O'Neal wins best supporting actress for "Paper Moon" in a custom-made tux, forever cementing my awe of her.

- Tatum and her brother Griffin were terribly abused and neglected growing up. You can read about it in her depressing autobiography, A Paper Life. Despite her drug arrest this year, she is a survivor. Bonne chance, Tatum!

Someday when I can afford it, I'll buy one of those MP3 conversion turntables so I can upload my long-out-of-print and never-released-on-CD "Paper Moon" soundtrack on the Internets.

Update: The soundtrack can be downloaded Dartman's World of Wonder. Thanks for the link, Sean!

1 comment:

Mark Alfred said...

Sometime within the next week, I will post MY LP rip of the Paper Moon OST (not the new one with added tracks, just the original LP). So visit Spock's Record Round-Up by this time next week and you can share my copy. --Mark Alfred