Classic of the Week: Paper Moon (1973)

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Paper Moon is a 1973 American comedy-drama film directed by Peter Bogdanovich and stars Ryan O’Neal, Tatum O’Neal, Madeline Kahn and John Hillerman. It is shot in black and white and is set in Kansas and Missouri during the Great Depression and is about a con man named Moses (Moze) Pray meeting 9 year old Addie Loggins at her mother’s funeral, where the neighbors believe he is Addie’s father.

This is a very unique film. It is entirely without color, making it seem a lot older than 1973. This isn’t completely exciting film, but it’s not completely boring either. A lot of this movie takes place on the road with Addie (Tatum) and Moze (Ryan) selling bibles door to door and with Trixie Delight, an exotic dancer and her destitute African American maid Imogen. The relationship between Moze and Addie is mostly harsh, both are demanding, hardheaded and enjoy bossing each other around.

Addie is not a typical 9 year old girl living in the Great Depression. She is clamorous, a tomboy, foul mouthed, picky, sneaky and a smoker. She would rather dress in overalls or jeans, than dresses and bows, even though Moze and Trixie force her into them. She does learn to appreciate girly clothes towards the end of the film.

The father and daughter duo Ryan and Tatum O’Neal and Madeline Kahn are all three equally outstanding in their roles. They portray their characters perfectly. The film is well directed and well written, taking you back to poor small town south during the GD. You learn how people struggled to make money and live.

This film has lots of anger, sadness and struggles, but also some humor. Most of the film is outdoors, traveling in southern small towns, mostly farming towns and that scenery, though black and white, is still beautiful.

This one of a kind film is a true work of art, a masterpiece in cinema that will still be cherished (like it was then) for decades more. Not many films come even close to being as original and artistic as this one. This is not a family film, it involves fighting, sex and a spoiled, smart mouthed girl that smokes and steals. Older kids may appreciate this movie better and it is better suited for them. Overall, this a wonderful film, one that needs to be on every movie bucket or must see list. 11+ 5/5

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