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The Last Picture Show (1971)

2 Ratings: 4.5
A movie directed by Peter Bogdanovich

LikeEasy Rider,Bonnie and Clyde,The Wild Bunch, andThe Graduate,The Last Picture Showis one of the signature films of the "New Hollywood" that emerged in the late 1960s and early '70s. Based on the novel by Larry McMurtry and lovingly directed … see full wiki

Tags: Movies
Director: Peter Bogdanovich
1 review about The Last Picture Show (1971)

Raging Hormones in a Small Texas Town

  • Oct 13, 2004
Larry McMurtry is among my favorite contemporary authors and this film is one of the best of those based on his works. Others include Hud (1963), Terms of Endearment (1983), Lonesome Dove (1989), and Texasville (1990). Directed by Peter Bogdanovich and set in fictitious Anarene (Texas) but filmed in Archer City, the focus is primarily on Duane Jackson (Jeff Bridges), Jacy Farrow (Cybill Shepherd), and Sonny Crawford (Timothy Bottoms). When the film begins, there are several separate but related plots which focus primarily on Duane and Jacy as well as on Sonny, a senior at the regional high school who becomes sexually involved with Ruth Popper (Cloris Leachman), the love-starved wife of the school's football team coach. Leachman received an Academy Award for her performance in a supporting role as did Ben Jonson for his as "Sam the Lion," owner of the Royal Movie Theater. It is worth noting that the last picture shown in it is Howard Hawks's Red River, a director and film which Bogdanovich greatly admires.

The acting throughout the cast is outstanding. The film received nine Academy Award nominations and all were deserved. Much as Bogdanovich admires John Ford and Hawks whose western epics are among the finest films ever made, he chose to work on a much smaller, more intimate scale. (Hopefully there will be no attempt to "colorize" The Last Picture Show. As with On the Waterfront, for example, it is inconceivable to me that it would be seen other than in black-and-white.) There are moments in this film when poignancy is almost unbearable. Anarene is dying a slow, relentless death. Many adult residents as well as their sons and daughters express frustration and even despair. Anarene's best qualities are revealed by Jonson's portrayal of "Sam the Lion" but he, like the town, is deteriorating. Because there is more passion (and sometimes lust) than tenderness in most of the personal relationships, his integrity is even more significant. In terms of character, his "Sam the Lion" provides the film's gravitational center. Credit Bogdanovich and McMurtry with collaborating on a brilliant adaptation of McMurtry's novel and Robert Surtees with (as always) stunning, indeed compelling cinematography. Those such as I who have already seen this film several times can easily recount defining moments in so many memorable scenes. We envy those who see The Last Picture Show for the first time.

If those who are curious to know what happened to several of the lead characters many years later, I recommend the sequel, Texasville (1990). You may also enjoy Splendor in the Grass (1961), American Graffiti (1973), and Mystic Pizza (1988) as well as Fried Green Tomatoes and Rambling Rose (both in 1991).

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