On a Wednesday evening in late February, Room 1057 at the New York University film school was crammed with young directors who were awaiting the start of a workshop with the director Peter Bogdanovich. Bodies in black turtlenecks packed the aisles; among film students, the legend of Bogdanovich has a dark glamour. He is their Icarus.
Like the students, Bogdanovich began his career by immersing himself in the history of film. After cultivating John Ford, Howard Hawks, and Orson Welles, he learned their craft so well that, starting with his classic meditation on small-town America, The Last Picture Show in 1971, he had three hits in eighteen months and became the most sought-after director in Hollywood. But his decline was as decisive as his rise.
"There is this aspect of 'Peter Bogdanovich died for our sins,'" says Quentin Tarantino, who let Bogdanovich stay at his guesthouse for a spell in 1999, just as Bogdanovich had put up Orson Welles in his Bel Air mansion for nearly two years in the seventies. "Peter was so famous that his fall was equally notorious. Even as a little kid, I knew that he'd had three flops in a row."
When at last Bogdanovich entered, the room fell silent. He looked around doubtfully, then placed a water bottle in a black mesh pouch on the table in front of him, like an assertion of principles. Professor Boris Frumin, a Russian filmmaker, began to ask questions in a melancholy tone: "You are started how?" "What for you makes difference, good script, no ...