Picturing Peter Bogdanovich by Peter Tonguette

Peter Bogdanovich on the set of The Great Buster. Courtesy of Cohen Media Group.

Peter Tonguette’s Picturing Peter Bogdanovich: My Conversations with the New Hollywood Director is a critical breakdown of the filmmaker’s career.

Picturing Peter Bogdanovich by Peter Tonguette.
Picturing Peter Bogdanovich by Peter Tonguette (University Press of Kentucky)

Tonguette’s relationship with the critic-turned-filmmaker started with a phone call for an article in 2003.  The initial phone call has turned into a lengthy relationship including a meeting at an AFI Silver screening.

The first half of the book plays as a biography with Tonguette breaking down the director’s filmography.  What follows in the second half is a series of interviews taking place during 2003-2019 with the filmmaker answering all sorts of questions.  If you want to get inside a filmmaker’s head and ask about framing and whatnot, this is the book for you.

Bogdanovich may have came about during the wave of New Hollywood filmmakers but his work as a critic is what bridges him to the Classic Hollywood filmmakers.  This is a man that interviewed the likes of both John Ford and Orson Welles.  It’s the insight he got from those filmmakers that would have the way to his own career as a filmmaker.  All one has to do is look at the filmography in terms of setting.  In any event, the filmmaker breaks down his own career over a series of interviews.

Unfortunately, this book isn’t without its own disappointment.  It’s frustrating.  You can trust me on this.  During the book’s second half, Peter Bogdanovich discusses the films that got away from him.  Some regrets, others–not so much.  He turned down The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola), Scarface (Brian De Palma), and Dog Day Afternoon (Sidney Lumet).  Who turns down The Godfather?!?  He would have rather they did a re-release of the original Scarface.  It’s where he discusses why he turned down Dog Day Afternoon that becomes really problematic.

On turning down Dog Day Afternoon:

“It wasn’t really my kind of picture. I was not interested in it because there were no women in it.” [Laughs}

Tonguette points out the bank tellers are women. To which Bogdanovich replies: “Yeah, but I mean that there were no real women’s parts.”  It’s at this point in which I start to fume and cringe because of knowing what I know about the film.  Tonguette does note how Bogdanovich rarely makes a film that lacks good parts for women.

I don’t know if any other transgender writers have read the book but this answer is more than troublesome.  It is especially frustrating.  I get that the interviews were conducted over a period of years.  Tonguette’s Q&A also is in order by year of release. This is why I have no idea as to when this particular answer was given.  Was it before or after 2015?  Unfortunately, this book does not specify exactly when the interviews took place.  Transgender women are women–sure, being transgender was a taboo in the 1970s but the facts are facts.  It’s just sad.  One answer in particular can ruin what is an otherwise solid book and worthy addition to books on filmmaking.

Picturing Peter Bogdanovich: My Conversations with the New Hollywood Director is currently available in bookstores.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.