Paper Moon

Paper Moon (1973)
Paramount Home Video
Cast: Ryan O’Neal, Tatum O’Neal
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurettes

Peter Bogdanovich’s wonderfully crafted "Paper Moon" has been absent from DVD far too long. Fortunately for all fans of this movie, it is finally available through Paramount Home Entertainment in a version that also contains a few interesting extras, making this DVD all the more worth a viewing or two.

Moses Pray (Ryan O’Neal) is a conman in 30s depression-ridden America, trying to make a buck whenever he has a chance. His main income stems from selling personalized bibles to widowed prospects, making them believe their recently-passed partner ordered them for a keepsake.

One day the smooth-talking Moses visits the funeral of a former girlfriend of his and finds that her daughter Addie (Tatum O’Neal) is now orphaned. He promises to take her to her relatives in Kansas, but not before he extorts some $200 from a local business owner on Addie’s behalf.

As they travel together, Addie quickly develops an incredible knack for Moses’ line of work and quickly the two become a team that is undefeatable. Though their love-hate relationship makes working with each other a bit tricky, both keep finding warmth and comfort in each others’ company – and after all, the money’s right, too. All that changes when Moses befriends Trixie Delight (Madeline Kahn), a neurotic showgirl trying to make her own fortune by dating rich men. Addie realizes that Dizie gets in the way of their plans and she starts to devise a plan to get rid of the loud, obnoxious woman. Once that is done, the two are back on the road, more vicious than ever, but eventually Addie’s plans of a life with Moses are shattered when she realizes that he still plans to drop her off at her relatives’.

"Paper Moon" is one of those films you just have to love. It is masterfully put together from beginning to end. Alvin Sargent’s script based on the Joe David Brown Novel is tight and intricate, yet allows for very nice character development at its own leisure. We get to see the different sides of Moses and Addie as they grow closer and as they grow further apart. The witty dialogues and the impeccable delivery makes "Paper Moon" a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

Tatum O’Neal won an Oscar for her performance of Addie at the age on 9, and it is very easy to see, why. The ferocity and personality she put in the part is unmistakable and simply knocks you off your feet. A smoking and cursing tomboy at one moment, she turns into the loveable little girl from next door in an instant, giving you the most charming smile you can imagine and with innocent, glittering eyes. Ryan O’Neal also puts in the performance of a lifetime in this film, making this comedy a most memorable ride.

Paramount Home Entertainment has prepared a beautiful <$PS,widescreen> presentation for this DVD that is <$16x9,enhanced for 16x9> TV sets. The transfer is free of defects and blemishes and is revealing a very high level of detail. Grain is visible on various occasions, but it has been a deliberately used device by director Peter Bogdanovich to create the illusion of an old movie, which is, of course, further stressed by the use of only black and white footage throughout the film. Combined with the music and the period setting, Bogdanovich truly manages to conjure up vivid images of America in the 30s, adding immensely to the experience with his style.
Black levels are very well balanced and shadows are solid without breaking up. Highlights are also carefulyl reproduced without blooming, giving the film plenty of gradients to work with. No edge enhancement is visible and the compression is also free of artifacts.

To maintain the authenticity of the material, the film is presented in its original mono audio track. It is free of distortion of hiss and the dialogues are well integrated, always understandable and clear. The frequency response is natural, though without notable bass extension.

A few bonus materials can be found on the release, such as a very insightful and exciting <$commentary,commentary track> by Peter Bogdanovich. He is very good at analyzing the theory of successful films, and translates it into an informative <$commentary,commentary track>. Covering all sorts of aspects of the production, the cast, of course, the history of the film, and countless other topics, the <$commentary,commentary track> is definitely worth checking out.

Three featurettes covering various aspects of the film are also included. "The Next Picture Show" is a featurette in which Peter Bogdanovich remembers how the film came together. While some of the information is duplicated form the <$commentary,commentary track>, it is nonetheless an entertaining addition.

"Asking For The Moon" is covering many of the technical aspects of the film, most notably the cinematography. With many interviews, this featurette shows how the selection of visual styles affects the effect of the movie and how these decisions came about.

The third featurette is "Getting The Moon," covering the release of the film and its subsequent success, and it even includes a few hilarious outtakes.

Film historian, producer, director, Peter Bogdanovich certainly knows how to put movies together "the old way." Having learned his trade from the greats, such as Orson Welles, Bogdanovich’s style is firmly rooted in classic movies and it is a real pleasure to see films like "Paper Moon" come to life.

"Paper Moon" is a very funny film that is also very touching. It is one of those few films that are virtually perfect and flawless. I had almost forgotten, how great a movie it actually is, and it certainly took a long time for Paramount to release this gem on DVD. Go, get yourself a copy of this marvelous film. You will have a great time experiencing it.