Peter Bogdanovich

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6.5 Targets (1968)
7.3 The Last Picture Show (1971)
6.8 What's Up Doc? (1972)
7.0 Paper Moon (1973)
6.0 They All Laughed (1981)
6.0 The Cat's Meow (2001)

Peter Bogdanovich (1939), a former critic and historian whose interviews with famous directors were later collected in the book "Who the Devil Made It" (1998), started out as an assistant to Roger Corman. The first film he directed was Targets (1968), a film that is as self-referential as it gets. It is both a portrait of an aging star of horror movies (played by aging horror star Boris Karloff) and the portrait of a sociopathic killer (inspired by mass shooter Charles Whitman who in 1966 killed 14 people besides his wife and his mother). It is also a fresco of a society that is becoming increasingly "empty", culturally and morally empty, a society dominated by television shows and pulp fiction. The two stories converge in what amounts to a duel between the monster of the old-fashioned collective imagination and the real monster of the modern society. An old Boris Karloff movie rolls under the titles. It is being watched by him, named Byron in Bogdanovich's film, and other friends. When the showing is over, Byron announces that he wants to retire to the filmmaker who has just completed a script for him, Sammy (played by Bogdanovich himself). Byron says that the real violence around them makes his horror movies look pathetically outdated. Across the street a young man, Bobby, is buying a gun and accidentally aiming it at Byron as he checks it. He has the trunk full of weapons. Bobby drives home: a stereotypical suburban home of the American middle class. He has the typical loving wife, Ilene, and they live with his parents. His wife has to work in the evening to make ends meet. After she leaves, Bobby grabs a gun from the trunk of the car and keeps it in bed the whole night. In the morning he kills his wife and his mother. In the meantime the struggling director Sammy, who is also the boyfriend of Byron's diligent secretary Jenny, has spent the night talking with Byron and in the morning Byron is more reasonable about his retirement. He accepts to appear in person at a drive-in to inaugurate his new movie. Bobby breaks into a oil refinery and climbs to the top of a tank. He pulls out his gun and starts shooting at the cars on the freeway, killing several drivers. When the police arrive, Bobby flees. A police car chases him and Bobby hides in the same drive-in where Karloff is scheduled to speak. While Byron is driving in his limo towards the drive-in, Bobby is getting ready to strike again. The first victim is a spectator who went into a telephone booth. Bobby even briefly aims his gun at the limo. Then the lights go off and the movie starts. Bobby begins shooting at anybody he can see. People panic and try to drive out, while the horror movie is still rolling. Byron and his secretary get out of the limo and walk towards the screen, as agreed, for his speech. Jenny herself is wounded by one shot. Byron starts walking towards the sniper. Bobby is confused because the scene on the wide screen is a scene of Byron walking towards his direction and the real-life Byron is walking towards him from another direction. Bobby shoots at both, causing the screen to catch fire and Byron to get wounded. But Byron has a chance to disarm the sniper and slaps him repeatedly in the face. Bobby simply hides in a corner, like a little child. The cops arrive and arrest him.

The Last Picture Show (1971), an adaptation of Larry McMurtry's novel (1966), was one of the first films of the 1970s to exploit the nostalgic feeling for the 1950s. Appropriately, it was filmed in black and white. The story was basically a collection of episodes loosely tied together by the ghostly atmosphere of the town. In a sense, it was a claustrophobic version of Fellini's cinema. While Fellini's characters fundamentally like their life and their town, Bogdanovich's characters hate their life and their town.

In the 1950s young men Sonny and Duane live in a small sleepy town in Texas, swept by the wind in the first scene. Sonny has a mute friend, Billy, and a girlfriend Charlene whom he has been seeing for a while, but he's no longer excited about. He seems more excited about the waitress, Genevieve, of the only restaurant in town and especially about Jacey, although she is beyond his reach. Duane is dating the rich and beautiful Jacey. Her mother, a bitter and cynical frustrated wife, disapproves because Duane is poor. Another depressed woman is the wife of Sonny's coach, whom Sonny is asked to take home (she starts sobbing in front of him). A semi-drunk rich boy, Lester, invites Jacey to a wild party where people are likely to swim naked. She's tempted but needs to find an excuse with Duane. They are both going to their parents' party, where Jacey's mother openly flirts with a male friend while her husband is playing cards. Jacey pretends that her parents set her up with Lester and ditches Duane after letting him touch her intimate parts. Sonny leaves Charlene and kisses his coach's wife.
At the pool party of the rich kids Jacey is invited to strip naked in front of everybody. She is amused by her own temerity as she dives naked into the pool.
Duane is venting his anger by getting drunk with his fellow poor kids. They decide to have fun by buying a prostitute for Billy, Sonny's mute friend, who has never had sex in his life. The joke ends up in a humiliation for the poor kid. They are reproached by the old cowboy, Sam, who runs the billiard room, the restaurant and the movie theater. Sam bans Sonny from all his establishments.
Sonny and his coach's wife make love but she cries of humiliation while he comes. One day Sonny returns to the restaurant and is forgiven by old man Sam and welcomed by his mute friend Billy again. The waitress, Genevieve, tells him that the town knows about his relationship with the adulteress.
Jacey is now part of the crowd of decadent rich kids. She teases Lester because he can't even undo her bra, then lets another boy kiss her and touch her. She confesses to be still a virgin and not wanting to be one.
Duane and Sonny decide to ride to Mexico and Sam gives them some money. When they come back, they learn that Sam has died and left the billiard hall to Sonny.
Determined to lose her virginity, Jacey offers herself to Duane, but Duane just can't do it. She is humiliated and warns him not to tell anyone. They try again in a motel and this time he succeeds, while she passively waits for him to finish. But she wanted to lose her virginity only in order to be accepted by a rich decadent kid, Bobby. She goes straight to him and dumps Duane, who then decides to leave town. Jacey is punished by her new boyfriend, who dumps her almost immediately. When a rough oil worker invites her into the billiard hall, she accepts to have casual sex with him. Her mother figures out what happened and is shocked (probably more because she wanted him than because he slept with her daughter). Jacey is desperate that now she will be single forever, but her mother suggests Sonny as a viable candidate, as the relationship with a middle-aged woman is unlikely to last.
Sonny's lover is no longer feeling guilty. She not only enjoys their relationship (she finally found love) but has become a happy and funny woman. Jacey carries out her plan though and easily seduces Sonny, who has always secretely lusted after her. The coach's wife is annihilated realizing that the best time of her life is coming to an end.
The son of the preacher is caught molesting a little girl and put in jail. Duane returns to town and learns of Sonny's affair with Jacey. They fight and Sonny ends up at the hospital. Duane decides to enroll in the army to fight in Korea.
Sonny and Jacey elope and get married, but her father have the police track them down and annul the marriage before it is consumed. Jacey's mother sympathyzes with Sonny and reveals that she was Sam's first lover. The movie theater is closing, killed by the competition of television. Duane returns from the war. Sonny invites him to watch the last movie ("picture show"). Then Duane takes the bus to the big city.
Just then a truck runs over Sonny's mute friend Billy and kills him. Sonny is the only one to feel sorry for the death. Everybody else hardly mourns the poor boy. Devastated, Sonny walks back into the coach's house to his old lover. Without saying a word, he lets scorn him and scold him. Then he simply clutches her hand.

What's Up Doc? (1972) is a frantic screwball comedy, inspired by Bringing Up Baby (the absent-minded scientist, the boring fiance, the crazy girl, the chaotic series of misunderstandings). The film also works as a satire of Erich Segal's bestselling novel "Love Story" (1970) and its famous film adaptation by Arthur Hiller. And it also works as a tribute to the "Bugs Bunny" cartoons.

At the San Francisco airport picks up his bag that contains a top-secret document and walks out. A suspicious man follows him pretending to be a golfer. An absent minded musicologist, Howard, and his petulant fiance Eunice arrive at the same airport. Howard has a bag that contains the "musical" rocks that he studies. That bad is identical to the bag of the top-secret document. Meanwhile a girl named Judy causes accidents around the city by crossing streets without stopping for cars: she has a third identical bag that contains her clothes. She walks into a hotel and notices that room 1717 is vacant, picks up a hotel phone and orders a dinner for room 1717. An old socialite walks into the same hotel carrying a fourth identical bag full of jewels. She is assigned room 1715. The hotel receptionist gestures to the hotel detective to follow her. Howard and Eunice walk in and are assigned rooms 1716 and 1714. Eunice keeps Howard's bag in 1714. We learn that Howard is there for a musicologist convention during which a philanthropist will choose the winner of a generous grant. The "top-secret" man also checks in in the same hotel and is given a room on the same floor, 1713. So three identical bags are in rooms 1714, 1715 and his room, plus Judy is in the hall with a fourth identical bag. Judy spots Howard and falls in love right away. She approaches him, introduces herself as a failed college student, keeps calling him "Steve", causes a big mess in the hotel's souvenir shop, tells the shop owner that Howard/Steve is her husband, and rips his jacket. Howard begs her to stay away from him. Meanwhile, the hotel detective is trying to enter room 1717 that gives access to the old lady's 1715 but is interrupted by Howard, while the fake golfer hides there in pursue of the top-secret man (presumably a spy) and eats the dinner that Judy ordered for herself. Judy in turn hides in Howard's room 1716 and leaves her bag there with her clothes in it. Howard heads for a reception thrown by the philanthropist, Frederick. When he arrives he is immediately approached by the pompous Hugh, his rival for the grant, who tries to monopolize Frederick's attention. Luckily for Howard, Judy has sneaked in pretending to be Eunice and she charms Frederick. Howard tries in vain to explain that Judy is an impostor but Frederick is so charmed by Judy that he doesn't pay any attention to Howard, nor to the disgruntled Hugh, who is now ignored by Frederick.
Meanwhile, on the 17th floors the thieves get into action but are confused by the identical bags: the spy hides the bag with the top-secret documents in the old lady's room 1715 not seeing the identical bag with the jewels, the fake golfer steals the bag of the old lady (the jewels) believing it's the top-secret bag and hides in 1717, and the hotel detective steals the other bag of 1715 believing he took the jewels but instead it's the bag with the top-secret documents, and then hides it in 1714, under Eunice's bed, next to Howard's bag with the rocks, because he can't get away unseen. Now the socialite is coming back to her room and would discover the theft. The hotel detective stops her in rude ways while his accomplice the hotel receptionist rescues the bag from under Eunice's bed but takes Howard's room full of rocks and puts it in 1715 believing that he has returned the jewels. So now the documents are under Eunice's bed in 1714, the jewels are in vacant 1717, Judy's clothes are in Howard's room 1716 and Howard's rocks are in the old lady's room 1715.
Finally, the real Eunice walks into Frederick's party shouting that she is the real Eunice. Thanks to Judy, the party is going so well for Howard's cause that Howard denies knowing her, so that Judy cannot be unmasked as an impostor and can continue her charade that so much impresses the philanthropist. Eunice, upset, leaves the bag in front of Howard's room 1716, believing it's Howard's bag when in fact it's the bag with the documents. Howard returns to his room and finds a naked Judy in his bath tub. While Howard is trying to get rid of her, Eunice phones him and, hearing a woman's voice, runs to his room. While she is banging on the door, Howard pushes Judy, wrapped in a towel, outside the window. At the same time, the hotel detective walks into 1717 to get into 1715 and steal the old lady's bag again, forcing the fake golfer, who has been hiding there, to get out of the window with the bag that he believes contains the documents and instead contains the jewels. So now Judy and the fake golfer are risking their lives on the exterior of the windows of the 17th floor. The hotel detective steals a bag from 1715 that he believes contains the jewels but now contains Howard's rocks. The spy returns to pick up his bag from 1715 but realizes it's been stolen. He hides in Eunice's room 1714 which Eunice left open. All hell breaks loose when Howard, lying to Eunice that the female voice was from the television, causes a fire at the same time that the fake golfer crashes into his window and Judy appears half naked in the same window. The firemen arrive to put out the fire. Judy takes the bag in Howard's room, which Eunice left there and contains the documents (Judy thinks it contains her own clothes). During this commotion, Howard's bitter rival Hugh finds out that Judy is an impostor, not the real Eunice, and the spy walks into Howard's room, finds Judy's bag and takes it thinking it's his own bag with the top-secret documents. Now the jewels are in Howard's room (abandoned by the golfer after the fire), Judy has the documents, the hotel detective has stolen the rocks, and the spy has Judy's clothes.
The hotel manager asks Howard to leave the hotel immediately. Howard takes the wrong elevator and ends up in the attic where he finds that Judy is sleeping illegally. Howard is terrified, but Judy hands him the grant that the philanthropist has agreed to give to him thanks to Judy. Howard and Judy kiss, but Howard is determined to clarify the misunderstanding asap. He tells Eunice to join him at a meeting with the philanthropist. The spy sees that Howard has the same bag, realizes that he has a bag full of clothes, and follows Howard to the address of the meeting. The golfer, who lost the bag, follows the spy. At the same time, Judy pretends to be a secretary and phones Eunice giving her a new address, that she just heard from the hotel detective: it's the address where the hotel detective has to deliver the bag full of jewels (which instead contains the rocks). The old lady realizes she has been robbed and makes a scene in the hotel lobby. Eunice takes a cab and arrives to a dilapidated building where she finds the hotel detective being tortured by three thugs after delivering a bag full of rocks instead of jewels. She recognizes Howard's bag and the thugs realize that she knows where the identical bag is.
Howard, carrying the bag abandoned by the golfer, i.e. the bag with the jewels, arrives at Frederick's home, and again Judy sneaks in pretending to be Eunice. Howard's rival Hugh tries in vain to reveal that she is an impostor: Frederick is so charmed by Judy that he shuts Hugh up. The spy, the golfer and the thugs arrive and hell breaks loose again, with everybody chasing Howard and Judy, who flee on a delivery bike through the steep San Francisco streets taking with them all four bags. Then they steal a newly-wed car from a wedding in front of the cathedral. What follows is a comical and frantic car chase that, after several car accidents, ends at the port, where everybody ends in the bay. During the chase, the thugs take Eunice and the philanthropist as hostages. They are all arrested. Taken in front of a judge who is sick and hopes for a quiet day, they fail to explain what happened. The golfer reveals that he works for the government and has been chasing the spy. The old lady regains her jewels. Howard gets his rocks back and states that Judy caused all the trouble. And the judge recognizes Judy as... his own reckless daughter!
The following day Howard and Judy say goodbye at the airport, while Hugh boasts of having been offered the grant, and Eunice shows up engaged to the philanthropist. Judy quickly exposes Hugh as a plagiarist who appropriated another scientist's theory, which causes the philanthropist to switch the grant to Howard. On his plane, Howard is suprised to find Judy and admits that he loves her. She replies quoting a famous live from the movie Love Story (1970), i.e. "love means never having to say you're sorry", and Howard (played by the same actor who played in Love Story) replies that it's a dumb line. The title of the movie, What's Up Doc?, is the title of the (1972) is a frantic screwball comedy, inspired by "Bugs Bunny" cartoon that is playing on the airplane as it takes off and they kiss.

Paper Moon (1973) was filmed in black and white and is set in the 1930s.

(DeepL translation of my original Italian text):

A little girl is orphaned and a friend of the mother is forced to take care of her. He extorts $200 from the family of the man who caused her mother's death and plans to ship the little girl to her aunt and uncle, but she won't hear of it, threatens to sue him for the $200 she is rightfully entitled to, and he then keeps her with him. They drive across the nation, living off the man's petty scams (he sells fancy Bibles to widows he meets, pretending they were ordered by their deceased spouses), a scam in which the resourceful little girl cooperates. Claiming her own share of the spoils, smart and shrewd, ready to understand when he tries to con her, she acts like Bonnie to his Clyde. But she is also good-hearted and foils the scams against the poor away. She has a inferiority complex because everyone thinks she's a boy. She smokes in bed and in the car. She keeps the accounting and controls her partner, who often neglects her for women. A dancer they pick up with her black servant girl strains their friendship: he spends and spends on the dancer, the girl gets jealous and sulks. To dispose of the dancer, the little girl sets a trap by bribing the servant girl and having him find the dancer in the arms of another man. Even when they are arrested for smuggling liquor by a corrupt sheriff, she is the one who organizes and directs the adventurous drive-by escape. When, however, the sheriff's men catch up with them and beat the hell out of him, even taking away all his money, he makes up his mind to hand the little girl over to her aunt and uncle, having arrived in their town. But the little girl only lasts a few minutes with the good, petulant aunt. She runs after him with her two rags and when he refuses to take her back she reminds him that he still owes $200. They set off together on his rundown car down a long dusty road.

Daisy Miller (1974) is an adaptation of the Henry James novel. At Long Last Love (1975) is a musical. Nickelodeon (1976) is a period comedy. Saint Jack (1979) is an adaptation of Paul Theroux's novel "Saint Jack" (1973).

They All Laughed (1981) is a screwball comedy that turns into romantic comedy. The plot is complex but the happy ending is trivial and implausible.

Deborah is a female taxi driver in New York. She gives a ride to a man who then welcomes a rich family arriving by helicopter and takes them to a limo. Another man approaches him and then gets into Deborah's taxi and flirts with her, calling her Sam. This other man, John, gets off at a place where two little girls welcome him excited: they are his children. The children discuss John's many girlfriends, especially Christy. The film shifts to two other men, the moustached and long-haired Arthur and the spectacled Charles, who are posted in front of a movie theater. They follow a classy and attractive blonde woman to a hotel, where she has a romantic rendezvous. The blonde and her friend take two different taxis, but end up at the same building. John and Arthur take a taxi and follow them and realize that they are neighbors. John is transfixed by the woman's beauty. John walks into the saloon where country singer Christy is performing, who is visibly upset by his arrival. She's mad at him for neglecting her. They have barely made peace that Arthur arrives to pick up John, claiming that Charles needs help. Charles has followed the blonde to a skating rink. She's an elegant skater while he is a clumsy beginner. Arthur jumps into the rink and starts flirting with a girl. Charles slips and the blonde grabs him before his head hits the floor. They introduce each other and Charles entertains Dolores until her lover arrives. Charles can't remove one of his skates and limps after them. Arthur and a comical Charles take a taxi to follow them. This time the lovers enter the same house, his house. Charles, who is already in love, is heartbroken. However, Dolores runs out right away and walks into her own house. And Charles smiles. Meanwhile, John has found Deborah/Sam and romances her. They spend the night together. John, Charles and Arthur meet in front of a restaurant. The Mexican waitress recognizes Arthur and runs after him yelling at him (another betrayed girlfriend). They are reporting back to their boss, Leon, who runs the private detective firm for which they work. Leon is the man we saw at the beginning in Deborah/Sam's taxi. He's mad at the trio because they have no report for him. We now understand that Leon has two customers: Dolores' husband and the rich man, Niotes. Both want to know if they wives are cheating on them. While the trio is meeting with Leon, Christy walks in and John gestures to Charles to take Christy away. When the trio leaves, we see that Leon himself is having an affair: with his secretary Amy. John runs into Dolores and her lover while escorting Christy, and manages to get introduced to her lover Jose, who hardly speaks English, and indirectly gets Christy introduced to Dolores. Dolores introduces Jose as her husband. Arthur and John are following Niotes' wife Angela. She meets with her husband and son, and then her husband takes the limo and leaves them. Arthur and John follow mother and son. By accident, they happen to run into Charles, Christy, Dolores and Jose, and Charles has to comically distract Christy so she won't see John. Christy and Dolores like each other and decide that they should meet later for dinner. Christy then drags Charles to her house and tries to seduce him. John and Arthur start chatting with Angela and her son. John shamelessly romances Angela, who doesn't reciprocate. John even tells her bluntly that he is hired to follow her. John is so determined to get Angela's attention that he even drafts his daughters to distract her son and Arthur leaves with them pretending to be John's oldest son. John finally has his romantic date with Angela. Christy takes Dolores, Jose and Charles to the saloon where she performs. At the end of her performance, she kisses Jose while Dolores almost falls for Charles. Christy seduces Jose while Charles takes Dolores home. He sees that she has an argument with her husband and then walks out again. She finds him hiding (he is paid to spy on her) and finally kisses him. Meanwhile, John takes Angela to his apartment, which Deborah/Sam has been using. Deborah is a sport, not jealous at all, and simply leaves them alone. Charles sleeps on a bench in front of Dolores' apartment and wakes up just in time to see Dolores and Jose leave together in a taxi carrying luggage. He follows them to city hall but loses them. We see that Dolores and Jose meet Christy in a courtroom. John, Charles and Arthur meet with their boss Leon who is desperate because his secretary Amy has disappeared, and they tell him that everybody knows she's his lover. Christy walks in inviting everybody to her concert and teasing them that she knows where Dolores is. Outside, Deborah met Angela and John finds them chatting like good old friends. Christy invites also Angela and Deborah to the concert, and then leaves with Deborah, still refusing to reveal where Dolores is. Angela seems amused, not disgusted, that John has so many girlfriends. It's Angela's last night in town, and they sleep together one last time. At the concert everybody shows up, including... Dolores. Charles proposes to Dolores, who accepts: she explains that she went to city hall to get a divorce. At the end of her song, Christy introduces Jose to her audience as her fiance'. Charles thought that Dolores had eloped with Jose when in reality Christy and Jose had helped Dolores get her divorce. The following day Leon meets Niotes before he takes off with Angela and their son on the helicopter, a mirror scene of the first scene: this time Leon is delivering the report. While Leon and Niotes chat, John says goodbye to Angela. John is melancholy but he rides back in Deborah's taxi: Deborah reveals that Angela asked her to console John. Two weddings are celebrated: Charles with Dolores, and Christy with Jose. As the titles begin to roll we see Leon having sex with his secretary and Arthur being chased by his angry Mexican girlfriend.

Mask (1985) is a romantic comedy.

(DeepL translation of my original Italian text):

A teenager has his face disfigured by an incurable disease. He still manages to gain acceptance in the biker community of which his mother (a drug addict and a bit of a nymphomaniac) is a member and at school, where his intelligence and good humor eventually win him the sympathy of everyone. He even manages to convince his mother to come to her senses. A blind girl falls in love with him, but her parents object, and the "monster" dies of heartbreak.

Illegally Yours (1988), Texasville (1990), Noises Off (1992), The Thing Called Love (1993), The Cat's Meow (2001) and She's Funny That Way (2014) were his last films. He died in 2022.

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