[box cover]

The Thing Called Love: Director's Cut

It could be argued that Peter Bogdanovich pissed away his talent, just as easily as it could be argued that — as Peter Biskind suggested in Easy Riders, Raging Bulls — much of his success was due to Polly Platt. Platt was married to Bogdanovich in the early part of his career and worked closely with him until 1973's Paper Moon — which is usually considered his last great film. The remainder of the 1970s were unkind, with failure (1974's Daisy Miller) after failure (1975's At Long Last Love) after failure (1976's Nickelodeon), only to be topped off by tragedy when Bogdanovich's girlfriend Dorothy Stratten was murdered in 1980 — who also starred in his 1981 misfire They All Laughed. Earning a brief respite from his funk with 1985's modestly successful Mask, his return to form was meant to be the sequel to his 1971's The Last Picture Show, 1990's Texasville, but it was re-cut and abandoned. Nowadays Bogdanovich's career is regarded as a cautionary tale of a critic turned upstart filmmaker who was known for lending a guest room to the out-of-favor Orson Welles during the '70s, only in a delicious irony to spend part of the '90s as a houseguest of Quentin Tarantino. And in creating a career summary, it's easier to say (as it is with Michael Cimino, or Francis Ford Coppola for that matter) that Bogdanovich lost his game, but then there's the interesting artifacts such as 1993's The Thing Called Love. Samantha Mathis stars as Miranda Presley, a struggling musician from New York who comes to Nashville hoping to make a name as a country star. Immediately she meets fellow musicians James Wright (River Phoenix), who seems destined for greatness even though he's a bit of a jerk; Kyle Davidson (Dermot Mulroney), who doesn't have the talent to sing his own material; and Linda Sue Linden (Sandra Bullock), who is just too cute to succeed. Together they form something of a quintet as Miranda falls for James as Kyle falls for Miranda while Linda waits in the wings for Kyle. The Thing Called Love is successful for much of its running time in showing the struggles of outsiders trying to make names for themselves, and it works as a character drama (and as an old-fashioned "Woman's Picture") rather successfully. Bogdanovich seems on his game for most of the proceedings, and he has a deft touch with the actors — until the film gets too plot-heavy in the final act when Miranda thinks about giving up. Otherwise, the film gives hope (or at least more hope than the last decade of his career) that Bogdanovich might have a good movie left in him. Alas, the title is more notable as one of Phoenix's last roles before his untimely death in 1993, and watching him here (he seems to be struggling with drug addiction through much of the film) it is something of a farewell piece. If nothing else, The Thing Called Love is evidence that Bogdanovich's later career is worth something more than a curt dismissal. Paramount presents the film on DVD in a "director's cut" (running two minutes longer than the theatrical release) in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras includes a commentary track from Bogdanovich, and the featurettes "The Thing Called Love – A Look Back" (22 min.), "The Look of the Film" (8 min.), and "Our Friend River" (8 min.), and the theatrical trailer. Keep-case.

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