Things are looking good early in '09 for the inestimable New Beverly

Cinema, over a year into a well-deserved renaissance thanks to

consistently excellent revival programming and the frequent, unmissable

filmmaker-hosted events which have drawn faithful regulars and all-new

crowds to the theater in recent months. (The place looks better than

ever, too, thanks to the support of the crowds – a brand-new screen

plus new upholsteries, light fixtures, and most recently, a makeover to

their restrooms over the Thanksgiving holiday. Shiny.)

The New

Bev is in the midst of the first director-docented lineup of the year,

and it's a big one – the legendary (and legendarily hilarious and

irascible) Peter Bogdanovich, who dropped by on Wednesday and Friday

last week to discuss some of his own work including The Last Picture Show, What's Up Doc?, and at Friday's packed-house screening, Paper Moon and Mask. Paper Moon

screened first, in a flawless, recently-struck archival print that

demonstrably showed off the film's Midwest locations and

cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs' stunning black and white photography;

fans filing out for bathroom or cigarette breaks afterward could catch

the director arriving right as the credits were rolling. Ace timing,


The New Bev staffers had talked up Bogdanovich's presence at

the previous Wednesday screening, and the auteur didn't disappoint;

launching directly into an anecdote about his fondness for listening to

music of the era when working on a period film, he described landing on Harold Arlen's 1933 track “It's Only a Paper Moon” and being so

taken with the image that he fought the studio to change the title from

that of the best-selling book, Addie Pray on which it was based.

Stymied by their resistance, he phoned up Orson Welles in Rome (“What

do you want?! I'm busy cutting.”) and asked for a second opinion on his

hunch. (“Paper Moon?! That title's so good you don't even have to

make the picture, just release the title!”) Never argue with a master.

Tatum O'Neal and Ryan O'Neal, Paper Moon

Besides fielding questions on everything from his favorite film of his

own (1981's They All Laughed) to how many bandanas he owns (in

reference to his ubiquitous neck accessory… and no, he doesn't upgrade

to ascots on dressier occasions), Bogdanovich talked shop about the

talent in the evening's films, from the father-daughter O'Neals to the

great Madeline Kahn (who had made her screen debut in What's Up Doc? the

year before Paper Moon.) Things took a predictably acerbic but no less

entertaining turn once the topic shifted to Mask, as his war of wills

with Cher on set and afterward has long been the stuff of legend.

(“You look at her eyes, and it's like she has all the pain and

suffering of the world in those eyes. And then you realize it's just

self-pity.”) Personality clashes aside, he spoke fondly of both her

performance and the director's cut of the film, which was about to

unspool on the big screen for the first time after being available on

DVD for a couple of years. With all the Springsteen tracks he'd

originally wanted to include restored (The Boss gave Universal an offer

they most studios can't refuse – he didn't charge them a dime) and two

key sequences edited back into the film, it's one the filmmaker feels

he can be proud of again. (“I made a sad film, certainly, but not

depressing. The one they released [in 1985] was depressing.”) A final

word of advice for aspiring filmmakers? Fight as hard as you can for

as long as you can, but whatever you do… “Never sue the studio.”

Eric Stoltz and Cher, Mask

The New Beverly's Bogdanovich series continues this week with a

selection of his favorite films, including North by Northwest and Touch

of Evil; in February, Brick director Rian Johnson programs “The

Festival of Fakery.” See their entire upcoming schedule at

LA Weekly