Designing Authorship: Polly Platt’s Contributions to the Early Films of Peter Bogdanovich
(at time of presentation)
Aaron Hunter lectures in the Department of Media Studies at Maynooth University in Ireland. He has written and published on the topic of authorship in relation to a variety of media, including film, television, and the Internet web series. His article on performance as authorship on Buffy the Vampire Slayer is forthcoming in The Journal of Film and Video. He is the author of Authoring Hal Ashby: The Myth of the New Hollywood Auteur, which will be published in August by Bloomsbury Academic.
Polly Platt’s production design on the first four films directed by Peter Bogdanovich (Targets, The Last Picture Show, What’s Up, Doc?, Paper Moon) bears a recognizable authorial stamp. Arguably, Bogdanovich’s status as a New Hollywood auteur rests on the reputation of these films. Yet, Platt’s contribution to crafting their distinctive visual palette is undeniable. However, like many creative women of the New Hollywood era (Marcia Lucas, Julia Philips, Dede Allen), Platt’s authorial role in the films she worked on has been marginalized. This marginalization perpetuates the single-author paradigm that continues to dominate New Hollywood scholarship; it also helps maintain the notion that New Hollywood was fundamentally a cinema of creative men. This paper argues that Platt’s authorial contributions to these films can be discerned, and that they were essential to the development of Bogdanovich’s “vision.”
While developments in archival research and industrial studies as well as recalibrated formal analysis have emerged to challenge long-held conceptions of authorship in Hollywood, the auteur paradigm retains a powerful hold on the imagination and formulations of film scholarship. This is especially pervasive in work on New Hollywood–often conceived of as an era of genius, mostly male, directors who seemingly took Hollywood by storm and imposed their formidable artistic visions upon it.
In considering Platt’s contribution to these New Hollywood films, this paper combines formal analysis with recent theoretical inquiry to begin recasting received conceptualizations of New Hollywood authorship as something more complex and more nuanced than much of scholarship has heretofore allowed.