Days of Heaven + Paper Moon

Double feature: These two movies put rural America’s vast reserves of space in service to their tonally divergent yet surprisingly similar stories.

Where “Paper Moon” jauntily bounces along, “Days of Heaven” takes you for a sleepwalk through its dreamy narrative.  With a light touch, “Paper Moon” embodies resilience; with a serious outlook, “Days of Heaven” emblemizes sensitivity.

Yet both feature salty, scrappy tomboys making sense of their place within improvised families.  Both underscore the tension between desires for a settled and a wandering life.  Both involve triangles that jealousy must break up, and a scheme that goes wrong.

Both movies, through their visual eloquence, transport you to eras when desperation and limited options forced difficult choices to be, if not simpler, made more quickly.

And both give you ample room – seas of hayfields, dusty roads unfurling into the horizon – to move around in.

For a marathon: The cons perpetrated in “Paper Moon” carry with them an undeniable element of fun, along with flashes of a Robin Hood-like morality.  The same could be said for those in “Catch Me If You Can.”  Both films make a show of being evenhanded in their characterizations, but ultimately want you to root for those on the wrong end of the law.

(Creative Commons licensed original images courtesy of “TheDeliciousLife” and Cyndie@smilebig! at Flickr)

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