WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Peter Bogdanovich attended the screening of his film “Paper Moon” at the RiverRun International Film Festival in April to accept the Festival’s Master of Cinema Award.  He’s also teaching a class this fall at the N.C. School of the Arts.  Apart from his work behind the camera, he’s famous for his tireless work on behalf of film preservation.  You can see him in dozens of making-of documentaries on classic film DVDs like Budd Boetticher’s “Seven Men From Now” (’56) and Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” (’58).

His film articles for Esquire magazine led to a series of interviews with the great directors of the Golden Era of Hollywood, including Orson Welles and Howard Hawks.  These culminated in the classic documentary, “Directed by John Ford” (’71), and it remains one of the most candid portraits of the great American director on record.

After the screening, Bogdanovich slowly shuffled onto the stage of the ACE Theatre.  He might not move as quickly as he used to, but there’s still fire in the man’s eyes.  And they burn for film. He was dressed in his identifiable uniform: jacket and scarf.  For half an hour or so, he let us into his world, seeing film through his eyes.  He is greatly respectful of the medium, but never takes the trappings of fame or craft too seriously.  He was completely down-to-earth.

Throughout the evening, we witnessed his frighteningly accurate impersonations of stars from Jimmy Stewart to Orson Welles.  And his personal stories capture his love for film.  He recounted the time he called Orson Welles to ask for his opinion on the title, “Paper Moon.”  “It’s great!” Welles told Bogdanovich.  “It’s so good, don’t make the movie, just release the title!”

Oh, and he doesn’t like it when people say, “I just watched an old movie.”  Does anyone say I just saw that old Shakespeare play? he asked.  Does anyone sit down and listen to that old Mozart opera?  So why should it be any different for film?

The former dean of the N.C. School of the Arts presented the director with the award.  It wasn’t much bigger than a paperweight and looked like a crystal ball.  Bogdanovich, a smirk on his face, curled his fingers around it to predict the future.   “I see great things,” he joked.

If his future is anything like his past, it should be a bright one.

– Jonathan Michels