Peter Bogdanovich & The Essentials
Nobody's laughing: Bogdanovich & Stratten
Peter Bogdanovich seems like a natural choice to host The Essentials on Turner Classic Movies (TCM). It's hard to believe, but it was only relatively recently (maybe three years time) that I "discovered" TCM, Robert Osbourne's mellifluous voice wafting from our television. Although their programming can be a times a bit repetitive, they exhume films that I manage to consistently miss. I didn't realize it at the time, but outside of New York City, repertory cinema is in much the same place it was before it was appreciated, which means that for me and others in Philadelphia, TCM is sometimes the only place to turn to see something rare. Imagine my dismay when I tuned in to see Rossellini's Europa 51 reaching it's climax - it might not be so bad if I didn't know these films weren't available for rent anywhere.
Fortunately, TCM tends to be a sharp bunch of film enthusiasts who do a fair job of programming (but why screen Kubrick's 2001 at 1 a.m.?), but Bogdanovich cast as film expert, while entirely appropriate, seems cruel at best. Having lionized classic American directors while his peers saw fit to devour them along with the studio system, fueled by speed, Italian Neorealism and French New Wave cinema, Bogdanovich finds himself a relic of that heyday and practically the only member of that club that didn't experience lifelong success financially or critically. Maybe the Schatzbergs and Mazurskys don't immediately come to mind, but those names vanish in the looming skyscrapers of Scorsese, Coppola, Spielberg and Lucas.
So it strikes me as odd and disappointing to see such a bland array of films (many admitted favorites among them) on Bogdanovich's list. My anxiety grows when I think that Wes Anderson has seen Bogdanovich's precious notecards which it seems he may never publish - a work that I think would rival Sarris' congenial outlook to America's past masters as well as the Hollywood hacks who popularized the artform. Nevertheless, I can't wait to see his introduction to It Should Happen to You tonight.