As a film theorist, as a notable critic, Peter Bogdanovich could not help the urge to get up from his chair and step across the screen. Therefore, it is not surprising that his first films included a reflection of the cinematographic experience itself. In his first film, whose script he also signs, The hero is on the loose (1968), Bogdanovich himself plays an ambitious young film director who wants to convince an old actor to play one last memorable parting role in his career. This character is embodied by the, indeed, mythical and abundant 1930s horror film actor Boris Karloff, inextricably linked to his portrayal of Frankenstein. When, in the film, the director goes to the actor's house to convince him to accept the role, he is watching on television The criminal code, a Howard Hawks film that Karloff himself performed in 1930. In the sequence, the viewer can see the young Karloff in black and white, followed by the mature Karloff in color: one screen within another screen. "I am a museum piece," says Karloff. "[Hawks] he does know how to tell a story. The best films have already been made, "says the character of Bogdanovich, sincere and drunk. This director of a Serbian father and Austrian mother, passionate about Hawks, had just directed a documentary for television with an in-depth interview with the director of The beast of my girl or New Moon. As predicted in the film, this will be one of the last of Boris Karloff, who would die the following year.
This meta-cinematic start marks the career of American Peter Bogdanovich, born in 1939 and died on January 6 at the age of 82, at home and of natural causes, according to his daughter Antonia, a journalist and also a filmmaker. The criticisms of his first work were good, which gave him the security to face a second, much more ambitious, where the importance of cinema reappears in young people. Bogdanovich is 31 years old and writes and directs a story that takes place at the beginning of the 50s, the film in black and white and casts for the main roles a still unknown and very young Cybill Shepherd and Jeff Bridges. The last movie (1971) brings the director a shower of six Oscar nominations but only two awards, for both acting support jobs. What he was awarded was the Bafta for best screenplay. The story takes place in Texas and picks up in a harsh way the youthful spirit after World War II and the Korean War, the desire to prosper, to get out of town, to be someone, by whatever means. Twenty years later, Bogdanovich returns to intersperse life and cinema, as is much more common now, collecting the same characters to show how much they have changed. This is how Shepherd and Bridges meet again in 1990 in Texasville. Some of those young men, unsurprisingly, were stuck in town. With more overtones of the comedy that Bogdanovich cultivated in previous decades than of the drama of The last movie, the sequel did not count, by far, with the recognition of the original.
The films that the director signed at the beginning of the 70s inserted him into the scene known as New Hollywood, a hangover from the 68 movements and the countercultural breath in which what could have remained an independent cinema, managed to conquer an audience massive. It is a moment in which the filmmakers impose their authorship stamp on the Hollywood studio product. There arises the Easy rider (1969) by Dennis Hopper, the Wild group (1969) by Sam Peckinpah, the Chinatown (1974) by Roman Polanski or The Godfather (1972) by Coppola.
The shadow of Howard Hawks' wacky comedy influence led him to focus on this genre and brought it up to date, in his own way and in color, with What's wrong with me, doctor? (1972), starring the funny Barbra Streisand and Ryan O'Neil, she incarnated as a giddy character and he as a clueless one, which leads to endless confusion and entanglement, with chases through San Francisco that end with cars and policemen falling into the water. The film was a box office success. Another great example of wacky comedy bognadovichian he shot it in 1992, What a wreck of function with Michael Caine.
The following year, O'Neil and Bogdanovich re-team together shooting the director's other great film, Paper moon, where the winks to the cinema and the intersections with reality continue as the filmmaker shoots in black and white - beautifully photographed by László Kovács - a tribute to the humorous silent cinema of the 1920s, a tribute that will return with the recent documentary The great buster (2018) containing interviews and original footage about pioneer Buster Keaton. The plot of Paper moon It happens in the 30s, during the Great Depression, and is played by Ryan O'Neil and his daughter Tatum, also a father and daughter, although it is difficult for him to recognize it in the film, playing a couple of rascals. Tatum O'Neil is 10 years old at the time and wins the Oscar for best supporting actress. Upon learning of the passing of the director, Ryan O'Neil, who is now 80 years old, posted on his Instagram account a photograph during the filming of What's wrong with me, doctor? and wrote that "Peter" was his "inspiration throughout the years."
Bogdanovich wanted to do it all: write, direct and act, although he decided to focus on directing because he felt that, from there, he could "do it all." However, the poise conveyed by his mature face with its asymmetrical gaze and peculiar features, complemented by round and characteristic pasta glasses, made him a singular interpreter, giving charisma to characters such as Tony Soprano's therapist's psychiatrist in the series television show of David Chase. He appeared in 15 chapters and directed one at a time - the early 2000s - when he, too, admitted that television series were providing better acting opportunities than movies.
That character of the young Bogdanovich who interpreted a transcript of himself in The hero is on the loose and that he admired old cinema more than the current one, it reappeared time and again, as in the 2016 edition of the Bafici festival in Buenos Aires, when he told the press that most of the films made today "they are shit" because the human element has been replaced by explosions, superheroes and "a lot of people dying". He described the contemporary Hollywood industry as "pretty bad" and criticized what he called "reverse snobbery", that is, the complex of a film director to make good films capable of succeeding at the box office, as happened to his generation of the New Hollywood.