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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mask (1985) is a romantic comedy.
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.