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January 29 - February 8

Peter Bogdanovich, Between Old and New Hollywood

One of the major figures leading the late renaissance of the American cinema in the 1970s, Peter Bogdanovich (b. 1939) made his debut with a series of brilliantly enchanting and entertaining films that drew their inspiration from the past glory of studio-era Hollywood. Bogdanovich actually began his career in film first as an actor, taking classes with Stella Adler, before distinguishing himself as a writer and film curator. A passionate and dedicated cinephile, Bogdanovich channeled his love of movies into his work in the Museum of Modern Art film department, where he organized a series of influential major retrospectives of key Hollywood directors quickly being forgotten - including Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles. The MoMA catalogs for these shows, as well as Bogdanovich’s early criticism for Esquire magazine, revealed his innate talents as an insightful critic and historian whose deep knowledge of the studio-era and clear-eyed nostalgia for the past would inform his work as a director.

After one of his articles drew the attention of producer Roger Corman, Bogdanovich seized the opportunity to direct with a bold and intensely stylized tale of a cold-blooded killer, Targets, that immediately established the young director as an auteur. Bogdanovich’s three subsequent narrative features, The Last Picture Show, What’s Up, Doc? and Paper Moon, offered unexpected reinventions of studio-era genres - the Western, the screwball and small-town comedy - that cemented his standing as one of the great artists of the Seventies cinema. Following up those critical and commercial successes with a trio of undeservedly maligned, risky films - Daisy Miller, At Long Last Love and Nickelodeon - Bogdanovich returned with two of his strongest mid-career films, Saint Jack and They All Laughed.

An important film historian, Bogdanovich has made a lasting contribution to film history with his writings about and many extended interviews with the great directors of the studio era who he eventually befriended - Fritz Lang, Leo McCarey, Joseph H. Lewis but especially Welles and John Ford, about whom Bogdanovich became something of an authority. Indeed, Bogdanovich’s documentary, Directed by John Ford, still counts among the best and most influential studies of the veteran director.

Special thanks: The Sun Hill Foundation.


Friday January 29 at 7pm

Paper Moon

Directed by Peter Bogdanovich.
With Ryan O’Neal, Tatum O’Neal, Madeline Kahn
US 1973, 35mm, b/w, 102 min.
Print from Paramount Pictures

Ryan and Tatum O’Neal play a father-daughter con artist team traveling through the Depression-era Dust Bowl, fleecing widows and swindling shopkeepers, in this touching tragi-comedy. Shot in striking black and white by iconic cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs, Paper Moon pays distinct homage to the work of two of Bogdanovich’s heroes – John Ford in its rural American setting and Howard Hawks in its dark humor and cynical worldview. Deeply moving without straying into sentimentality – thanks in large part to Tatum O’Neal’s characterization of Addie as resolutely wise beyond her years – Paper Moon is a poignant highlight in Bogdanovich’s early career.

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Friday January 29 at 9pm

Daisy Miller

Directed by Peter Bogdanovich.
With Cybill Shepherd, Barry Brown, Cloris Leachman
US 1974, 35mm, color, 91 min.
Print from Paramount Pictures

Bogdanovich’s adaptation of Henry James’ novella stars Cybill Shepherd as the headstrong, flirtatious Daisy, a wealthy American tourist in turn of the century Europe whose willful ignorance of the mores of upper-class expatriate society results in tragedy. A departure for Bogdanovich in both its European setting and subject, Daisy Miller was a critical and commercial failure at the time of its release, but has since been recognized as an important turning point in Bogdanovich’s maturation as a filmmaker. With its Wellesian deep focus and extensive use of mirrors and reflective surfaces, Daisy Miller is a visually sumptuous and emotionally complex exploration of James’ theme of the battle between American optimism and the cultivated decadence of European society.

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Saturday January 30 at 7pm

Saint Jack

Directed by Peter Bogdanovich.
With Ben Gazzara, Denholm Elliot
US 1979, 35mm, color, 112 min.
Print from the Harvard Film Archive Collection

After a three-year absence following the release of Nickelodeon, Bogdanovich returned with this dark tale of an American expatriate pimp, based on a novel by Paul Theroux and shot entirely on location in Singapore. Ben Gazzara is simply mesmerizing as Jack Flowers, the perennial operator determined to set up a business of his own gradually realizing that his territory and way of life are being challenged. An unexpectedly touching and revealing character study, Saint Jack contrasts its tale of redemption and morality against the lurid backdrop of the Singapore underworld. Bogdanovich himself appears as a seedy American government official who offers Flowers a way out of his old life – for a price.

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Saturday January 30 at 9pm

They All Laughed

Directed by Peter Bogdanovich.
With John Ritter, Ben Gazzara, Dorothy Stratten
US 1981, 35mm, color, 115 min.
From the Harvard Film Archive Collection

From its bravura, dialogue-free opening sequence to its exhilarating roller-skating rink centerpiece, They All Laughed, a romantic comedy about a pair of private detectives who fall in love with the women they’re hired to follow, is a valentine to early 1980s Manhattan and a joyous return to form for Bogdanovich. One of his great, unfairly overlooked films, They All Laughed brims with generous goodwill towards all of its characters, tempered by a bittersweet understanding of love’s disappointments, embodied in the relationship between Audrey Hepburn’s neglected wife and Ben Gazzara’s world-weary private eye. John Ritter’s brilliant performance as a smitten investigator combines slapstick physical comedy with a touching vulnerability that encapsulates Bogdanovich’s deep sympathy for the underdog.

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Sunday January 31 at 7pm

What's Up, Doc?

Directed by Peter Bogdanovich.
With Barbra Streisand, Ryan O’Neal, Madeline Kahn
US 1972, 35mm, color, 94 min.
Print from the Harvard Film Archive Collection

Inspired by Bringing Up Baby, Bogdanovich’s take on the screwball comedy, which pairs Ryan O’Neal as an uptight academic with Barbra Streisand’s dizzy dame, is his most overt homage to a bygone style of filmmaking. It is also one of his most enjoyable to watch, as the hilarious gags – scripted by Buck Henry – fly by at breakneck speed. Nominally concerned with four identical suitcases and the various people trying to steal and/or retrieve them, the plot is really just an excuse to land a befuddled O’Neal, playing against type, and a luminous Streisand in increasingly outrageous situations. In her screen debut, Madeline Kahn is shrill perfection as O’Neal’s rigid, humorless fiancée.

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Friday February 5 at 7pm

Targets

Directed by Peter Bogdanovich.
With Boris Karloff, Tim O’Kelly, Nancy Hsueh
US 1968, 35mm, color, 90 min.
Print from Swank

Bogdanovich’s debut film features Boris Karloff in a poignant autobiographical cameo as an aging horror film actor contemplating retirement amidst late career humiliations and against the protestations of a young filmmaker, played with boundless enthusiasm by Bogdanovich. Interwoven with their story is a parallel plot of a mysterious serial killer with a rifle and a grim determination to wreck havoc. A brilliantly eccentric tribute to a Hollywood era already fading away, Targets contrasts the silver screen past with the uncertain, distracted future of the television generation embodied by the troubled murderer.

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Friday February 5 at 9pm

Nickelodeon

Directed by Peter Bogdanovich.
With Ryan O’Neal, Burt Reynolds, Tatum O’Neal
US/UK 1976, 35mm, color, 121 min.
Print from Sony Pictures

Taking on no less a subject than the birth of Hollywood, Bogdanovich’s long-gestating dream project is both a summation of his early work and the last of his Seventies films to nostalgically revive old cinema genres, styles and history. With a narrative derived in part from anecdotes told to Bogdanovich during interviews with Raoul Walsh, Leo McCarey and Allan Dwan, Nickelodeon is a continuation of his fascination with the filmmaking process and a celebration of the slapstick innovation, camera trickery and improvisation that defined early American silent cinema. Bogdanovich goes so far as to include scenes from D.W. Griffith’s groundbreaking Birth of a Nation, allowing his characters to marvel at the technical ingenuity that forever changed American film. 

Double Feature with The Searchers
Saturday February 6 at 7pm

Directed by John Ford

Directed by Peter Bogdanovich.
US 1971, video, color, 99 min.
Print from Warner Bros.

The first in what was to have been a series on American directors financed by the California Arts Commission and the newly-founded AFI, Directed by John Ford is Bogdanovich’s considered tribute to the great American director, about whom he had already written an invaluable book. Featuring candid conversations with Ford, John Wayne, Henry Fonda and James Stewart, the film is a rich evocation of Ford’s uniquely cinematic worldview and notoriously difficult personality, revealed in the clipped dialogue with the notoriously interview-averse – and occasionally taciturn – Ford, wonderfully shot in Monument Valley. With narration by Orson Welles, Directed by John Ford also includes revealing and skillfully edited excerpts from across Ford’s long career that reveal the breathtaking, iconic imagery that was his natural element. 

Monday February 8 at 7pm

The Last Picture Show

Directed by Peter Bogdanovich.
With Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd
US 1971, 35mm, b/w, 118 min.
Print from the Harvard Film Archive Collection

Bogdanovich’s coming of age story, set in 1950s rural Texas, is an achingly accurate portrayal of small-town life and the compromises and disappointments that mark the passage from adolescence to adulthood. In contrast to his contemporaries, who experimented with style and new filmmaking techniques inspired by the French New Wave, Bogdanovich looked back to classical Hollywood, utilizing stark black and white cinematography, deep focus and a traditional narrative structure. The film is striking in its lack of nostalgia for the past, focusing instead on the desperation of a dying community and way of life, embodied by the shuttering of the lonely movie house.

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