The Last Picture Show

1971

Drama /

4
IMDb Rating 8.1

Synopsis


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23.976 (23976/1000) FPS /
118 min
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23.976 (23976/1000) FPS /
118 min
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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Lechuguilla 10/10

This is a character study wherein the main character is a small WestTexas town, circa 1951. In the U.S., the early 1950s symbolized atransition from nineteenth century agrarian values to twentieth centuryurbanism. In the film, various people who live in the town mustconfront the reality that time moves on. Things change. Assumptions ofprevious generations give way to the untested assumptions of thefuture. The film's theme is thus American cultural change, and thepersonal disillusionment that such change can bring. It is a powerfultheme, and the film imparts that theme with logical clarity andemotional frankness.<br><br>In the hands of lesser talents, the subject matter of unimportantpeople doing unimportant things might have yielded a tiresome soapopera. But the film's script is poetic, the direction is skillful, theB&amp;W cinematography is artistic, the casting is perfect, and theperformances are superlative.<br><br>The story draws heavily from early American individualism. Life here ismostly physical, not mental. Human relationships are direct, immediate,one-on-one. Except for schools, which are given some prominence,cultural institutions exist in the film only vaguely or not at all. Forentertainment, people listen to radio, which features the mournfulcountry-western music of Hank Williams. Or, they go to the town'sdecrepit picture show, where an elderly Miss Mosey kindly returns moneyto the kids who got there too late to see the cartoons.<br><br>If the film has a weakness it is in the presentation of a realism thatis incomplete. We see mostly stifling bleakness, though that isameliorated somewhat by humor. What we don't see are the upliftinginfluences and the optimism that sustained agrarian generations throughhardships and rough times.<br><br>Nevertheless, within the film's story parameters, the film does conveyan accurate account of what life was like for ordinary folks in WestTexas in the early 1950s. I doubt that this film could be made today.Contemporary audiences have been conditioned to expect non-stop action,loudness, glitz, and overblown special effects, all of which areabsent, mercifully, from this film.<br><br>Low-key, perceptive, bleak, and melancholy, &quot;The Last Picture Show&quot;easily makes my list of Top Ten favorite films of all time.

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Reviewed by csplus

Perhaps the greatest tragedy to befall any artist is to have their lifebecome more compelling than their work; such is the sad case with PeterBogdanovich whose meteoric rise to fame was matched only by a trulyfamous fall from favor and a bewildering journey through tabloid hell.(Charles Shyer and Nancy Meyers mined the not inconsiderable drama ofthe first act of his life to sporadically great comic effect in 1984'sIrreconcilable Differences. And his tragic love affair with Playboymodel turned actress Dorothy Stratten is fictionalized in Bob Fosse'sastonishing, horrifying Star 80 (1983). How many directors becomecharacters in films?)<br><br>Bogdanovich's love affair with film is undeniable, though it has, inthe past three decades, yielded far more perplexing misfires (The Cat'sMeow, At Long Last Love, Nickelodeon) than unqualified successes. Thatsaid, The Last Picture Show is an extraordinary accomplishment andworthy of its place in the list of great films of the 1970s.<br><br>1971's other important films (Friedkin's The French Connection,Pakula's Klute, Kubrick's Clockwork Orange) are loud, angry, violentand contemporary &#150; in-your-face reflections of a society in which rageand nihilism, engendered by Vietnam and the growing discontent overgovernment corruption, is the currency of communication. Theuncertainty coursing through the veins of American pop culture alsobegat in equal, if not equally graphic, measure a palpable sense ofsorrow at the destruction of a simpler way of life (no matter how&quot;true&quot; that memory may be). <br><br>Like Jewison's Fiddler on the Roof and Altman's McCabe &amp; Mrs. Miller,The Last Picture Show is a powerful and poignant evocation of the deathof a community and a way of life. Thematically rich and imbued withBogdanovich's remarkable knowledge and passion for film, the movieworks on a dazzling number of levels; and Bogdanovich's use ofnostalgia and traditional, archetypal genre conventions both enrichesthe movie and compounds the heartbreaking loss at the heart of thestory.<br><br>His deft handling of a cast comprised of then (largely) unknowns(Bridges, Bottoms, Shepherd) is first-rate and he draws forth superb,often sublime performances from everyone (in particular, Johnson,Burstyn and Leachman). There isn't a false note or a misstep in themovie and there is a naturalness here that is not easily achieved orearned. The great production design (by Bogdanovich's then wife andpartner Polly Platt whose contributions to his work and her subsequentinvolvement in the best works of James L. Brooks should not gounderestimated) and the achingly beautiful cinematography by the lateRobert Surtees are vital to the success (emotionally, intellectually,thematically) of the film.<br><br>The Last Picture Show is a truly rare work of surprising depth andemotional resonance; and the heartache for a time and place forevergone and the desperate and quiet struggles of its very real, very humandenizens is matched only by the sorrow found in contemplation ofBogdanovich's Icarus-like fall from such exalted heights.

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Reviewed by Jasper Sharp

Adapted with director Bogdanovich by Larry McMurtry from his own novel, thisfilm remains true to its source. A modern adaptation would no doubt haveadopted the voice-over approach of narrative, but here each scene is playedout from a more objective point of view. The book consists of a series ofevents played out over a protracted period of time, with McMurtry's sparsebut effective prose acting as a bridging device between scenes. Thetranslation to the screen loses these links, giving the film a slightlyepisodic feel which runs counter to modern Hollywood film making practice.This is no bad thing, and in every other aspect the film follows the bookalmost literally, but watching it now does highlight the difference betweenthe formulaic approach we are now accustomed to, with mise en scene, plotturning points and climaxes crudely and obviously spelt out, as opposed tothat of Hollywood's final golden age, where the director was given more of afree reign to stamp his own identity on the film, and audiences were morereceptive to different styles. Here the spirit of the novel is capturedperfectly; that of the desperation and claustrophobia of small town life,where generation after generation undergo the same rites of passage, livingout the same lives of frustration and unrealised dreams. The films strengthis that it never forces us to identify with any one character, evenlydistributing the amount of screen time over the different generations and,almost like a fly on the wall documentary (though heavily stylised in itspowerfully expressive monochrome cinematography). Coupled with some sturdyperformances from all of the members of the cast, and some memorable images,&#145;The Last Picture' comes across as an enchanting, evocative and accessibleportrayal of a lifestyle most of us have never and will never experience.Now surely this is what the art of cinema is all about?

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