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&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, "The Last Picture Show"easily makes my list of Top Ten favorite films of all time.
The Last Picture Show
The Last Picture Show
In tiny Anarene, Texas, in the lull between World War Two and the Korean Conflict, Sonny and Duane are best friends. Enduring that awkward period of life between boyhood and manhood, the two pass their time the best way they know how -- with the movie house, football, and girls. Jacey is Duane's steady, wanted by every boy in school, and she knows it. Her daddy is rich and her mom is good looking and loose. It's the general consensus that whoever wins Jacey's heart will be set for life. But Anarene is dying a quiet death as folks head for the big cities to make their livings and raise their kids. The boys are torn between a future somewhere out there beyond the borders of town or making do with their inheritance of a run-down pool hall and a decrepit movie house -- the legacy of their friend and mentor, Sam the Lion. As high school graduation approaches, they learn some difficult lessons about love, loneliness, and jealousy. Then folks stop attending the second-run features at the ...
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