Masters Of Cinema #113 - Paper Moon - Blu-ray Review

'Ryan and Tatum O'Neal deliver performances packed with charming idiosyncrasies that make both Moses and Addie figures with whom we very much want to spend our time'.

Whilst Paper Moon's father-daughter pairing of Ryan O'Neal and his nine-year-old progeny Tatum may initially sound like something of a gimmicky casting decision, the fact that Tatum became the youngest ever Best Actress Oscar winner at the ripe old age of ten for her performance (an honour she still holds today) does something to assuage such worries before watching. Indeed, any such qualms are misplaced, with the co-leads presenting two generations of impressive acting talent.

O'Neal and O'Neal play Moses Pray (Ryan), a swindler passing through Kansas, and Addie Loggins (Tatum), the nine-year-old girl Moses is entrusted to transport to her aunt in Missouri after attending Addie's mother's funeral. At first finding the child an inconvenience - and not an easy way to make a quick buck as he had originally hoped - Moses quickly realises that he and Addie make quite a grifting duo. It's this central partnership that fuels much of Paper Moon's success, with both Ryan and Tatum delivering performances packed with charming idiosyncrasies that make both Moses and Addie figures with whom we very much want to spend our time. Together, father and daughter exude a warm and genuine chemistry that makes it effortless to believe in their characters' odd couple relationship.

Moses and Addie's journey through Kansas to Missouri is an enjoyable one to be along for, with moments of out-and-out humour peppered throughout. However, director Peter Bogdanovich ensures that the story's Depression Era setting is never sidelined, giving Paper Moon a touching tragicomic tone throughout. Moses may be a con man, but we believe entirely that he does what he does out of desperation, counting every dollar and constantly looking for where his next source of income might be. Bogdanovich's scenery is reminiscent of that described in the work of John Steinbeck, retaining the hardship and desperation of the historical period whilst also clearly being crafted with affection by the director. The choice by Bogdanovich to film Paper Moon entirely in black-and-white lends an extra note of authenticity, whilst also giving his film a crisp and refined simplicity reminiscent of a bygone age of cinema.

Structurally, Bogdanovich's film is simple, with three distinct and episodic acts focusing on the experiences of Moses and Addie and the way in which their affinity towards each other grows. The strong opening third establishes both the central pair and presents a number of entertaining cons they pull off. Whilst the second act loses some momentum through the introduction of Trixie (Madeline Kahn), who takes the focus off Moses and Addie's core relationship a little too much, the final thirty minutes picks matters up once again, however, concluding Paper Moon in an exciting and emotional fashion. Bogdanovich's film is first and foremost a showcase for Ryan and Tatum O'Neal's beguiling screen partnership, however, allowing any relative shortcomings in the story to largely be forgiven.

Founded in 2004, The Masters of Cinema Series is an independent, carefully curated, UK-based Blu-ray and DVD label, now consisting of over 150 films. Films are presented in their original aspect ratio (OAR), in meticulous transfers created from recent restorations and / or the most pristine film elements available.

Paper Moon is released in the UK on Monday 18th May 2015

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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