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Paper Moon
IMDB Rating: 8.2/10 from votes
Release: 9 May 1973 (USA) /

Paper Moon

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama
Director:
Stars: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: Adapted from the novel, Addie Pray (1971) by Joe David Brown, PAPER MOON is the story of Moses Pray and Addie Loggins. With scenery reminiscent of The Grapes of Wrath, the film is set in the depression-era Midwestern region of the United States. As the movie opens, we see a small group of mourners clustered at a graveside. Among the mourners is Addie, the dead woman's small daughter. Moses Pray -- ostensibly of the Kansas Bible Company -- approaches the group, as the service concludes, and two of the elderly women remark that the child bears some resemblance to him and asks if he might be related. If ever a child needed kin, it's now, one lady says. With no knowledge of who her father is, Addie's only haven is her Aunt's home in St. Joseph, Missouri. Having identified himself as a traveling man spreading the Lord's gospel in these troubled times, Mose is prevailed upon to deliver the helpless child to her Aunt since he's going that way, anyway. Addie, wise beyond her years... Written by MARK FLEETWOOD mfleetwo@mail.coin.missouri.edu

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Critic Reviews

PAPER MOON is one of those films which refuses to age or become dated, because, as director Peter Bogdanovich claims, it was dated when it was released. It has the look and presence of a film from the Golden Thirties with the panache and style that could only come from the Golden Seventies. That extraordinary decade when the Old Hollywood Studio Machine was being rapidly replaced by the rise of the Artist Filmmaker, who were young, eager and just out of film school. A wonderful period of flux when anything could and did happen. A seminal period in filmmaking where new artists were making important new films, which would change Hollywood forever. PAPER MOON is outwardly a period road picture set in the mid 30s, about a traveling man named Moze Pray (Ryan O'Neil) who will play any angle if it means a couple of extra dollars in his pocket. As the story opens he agrees to escort the daughter of a now deceased lover to her Aunt in Missouri. Slick Moze quickly meets his match in the half pint tough little Addie Loggins (Ryan's real life daughter Tatum in her first role). No sentimental tear jerker here, this is a great story which refuses to go down the obvious road of a father reunited with his lost little girl; we aren't even sure it's really his daughter. Little Addie is tough as nails at every turn and a whole lot more savvy than Moze could ever be. At turn after turn she will outsmart and outmaneuver Moze in a way which is a sheer delight to watch. Tatum O'Neil gives an Oscar caliber performance as little Addie, but why she was given a Best Supporting Actress award and not nominated for the Best Actress category, one can only wonder. Madeline Kahn (What's Up Doc, Blazing Saddles), in her second film ever also delivers the goods as Miss Trixie Delight who meets up with the pair and sees her own angle. Everyone is playing some angle in this film and we get to enjoy every minute of it.

Shot completely on locations in Kansas and Missouri PAPER MOON sparkles with a richness only capable in black and white. Cinematographer Lazlo Kovacs is a great camera artist and never better than PAPER MOON where he uses black and white, deep focus and those great long takes to its best advantage. To the untrained eye it will just appear very sharp, but look closely at each frame and notice that everything is in tack sharp focus from the closest object to far in the distance. This deep focus is very difficult to achieve correctly, especially in the night shots, but Kovacs does it so well it is seamless. Watch for the train station sequence where even the children playing in the background are razor sharp. This is a look that can only be achieved using black and white to its fullest potential. New filmmakers take notice. This is how it's supposed to be done. All this cinematic brilliance would be wasted were it not for the wonderful direction of Bogdanovich. In this his third film, he proves that he is a consummate filmmaker who knows how to move the actors and camera in perfect concert. His craftsmanship of each scene is unmistakable as he brings a fresh and very new approach using Hollywood tricks which are decades old. A lesser director might have used process shots and sets to tell the story, but not Bogdanovich. He shot the entire film in real locations to give it the look and feel of a real thirties road picture. You can almost smell the wide plains and feel the dust as it comes up to slap you in the face. Notice too how he never resorts to sentimentality to move the story along, it is told razor sharp and without tears. This, never more apparent than the final sequence where he pays off the film in grand style.

There is only one thing about this film which still baffles me. Why in the night time hotel sequence toward the end of the film were electric lights everywhere but inside the hotel lobby, which was lit entirely with kerosine lamps? Was it to give the look and feel of the period, or did the real location use them? Small point, but interesting. If, like myself, the last time you saw PAPER MOON was when it was released in 1973, see it again on DVD and be delighted all over again. The DVD transfer is marvelous and only serves to heighten its visual appeal. If you have only seen PAPER MOON on broadcast TV, do yourself a favor and see the new DVD for a pleasant surprise. Without the obligatory broadcast TV commercials, pan and scan and dialogue cuts this will appear like a new film seen the way it was supposed to be seen. And if you have NEVER seen PAPER MOON and harbor some prejudice against black and white films, please see this film. Any preconceived notions against this format will quickly dissolve as it takes you along for a rich ride with Addie and Moze in the only format it could - glorious black and white.

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