Story of teenagers in a small Texas town just prior to the hero leaving for Korea and the closing of the town's movie theater.
Genre: Feature Film-Drama
Release Date: 13-FEB-2007
Media Type: DVD
One of the finest achievements in all of the cinema
M. Burns | Columbus, Ohio | 10/26/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There are a handful of movies in history that can be summed up by the look in a character's eyes (Renee Falconetti's horrified stare in The Passion of Joan of Arc, Al Pacino's steely gaze in The Godfather Part II), and within five minutes of Peter Bogdonavich's controversial 1971...yes...masterpiece, I knew I'd have another one to add to the list. The Last Picture Show is wickedly funny, raunchy, and razor-sharp precise in capturing that post-Senior-year-summer state of mind, but the heartbreaking, jaded look on Timothy Bottoms' face hit me like a ton of bricks, and I'm still somewhat recovering from it.
Show takes place between World War II and the Korean Conflict in the sleepy, dying town of Anarene, Texas. Robert Surtees' camera wisely captures the desolated-yet-beautiful aura of the place in an opening shot that glides down a dusty street, past the movie theater, and into the complex lives of a bunch of horny high school students, nosy townspeople, and Anarene's one pillar of nobility, Sam the Lion. It's really difficult to even believe that Show wasn't made in the 1950's, when the film takes place. The stark, black-and-white cinematography is far-removed from Willis' lush images in Manhattan, but it's not quite low-budget gritty, either. It's mostly owed to shooting on location in the town that inspired Larry McMurtry's source novel, but the authenticity of a now-notable cast's performances elevates this to a class all by itself.
Do Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd, Cloris Leachman, Ellen Burstyn, and Randy Quaid ring a bell at all? In 1971, all were virtual unknowns, and - sadly enough - the giver of the greatest performance in the film, Timothy Bottoms as Sonny, remained virtually so. McMurtry and Bogdonavich's script takes these horny teens and jaded adults and creates a lurid entanglement of sexual liasons, secrets, and naked pool parties that would have Jerry Springer shaking his head. And this would all be patently ridiculous if it weren't for the fact that each and every character has a complexity that makes their actions completely plausible.
And that's the brilliant thing about Bogdonavich's film. He isn't exploiting the closed-door actions and flippant erotic gestures of these messed-up denizens of a rapidly dying town; he understands that everything they do, everything we did at that age, was all a result of the confusion, denial, and pure terror at the life that lies ahead for us all. There's a reason that the movie focuses on the adults in the town, as well: Jacy's mom, coach Popper's wife, Sam the Lion - these people used to be Sonny, Duane, and Jacy at one time, and their hopes and dreams were put on hold just to live comfortably and safely in Anarene.
Timothy Bottoms' Sonny is the guiding force of Picture Show; the character there from the first frame and at the cusp of true reality in its last. Sure, he has his share of American Pie-esque moments (an affair with his coach's wife rings a bell), but it's the bulk of the emotion of the film that falls on him. A deeply sad moment, in particular, lingered with me: a person in the town has just died, and he's riding along in a car, gazing out the window, looking at a distant Texas lake that means more to him than he knows. His eyes seem to take it all in until it's too much, and a tear falls from each cheek without the others even knowing.
A line that completely bowled me over is said to Sonny, as well, and it's proof of the screenplay's perfect hold on the language that we use. Who knows how to put a life-changing experience into the right words? Burstyn's Lois doesn't, and so we get this haunting gem of a line: "I guess if it wasn't for Sam, I'd have missed it, whatever it is."
The adult residents of Anarene did miss it, whatever it was. But this film holds on to a group of people we learn to love, struggle with hating, and eventually don't want to leave, all because we don't want to see them miss whatever it is. The Last Picture Show is one of the most deeply haunting, brutally funny, and real moviewatching experiences I've ever had. I'm glad I didn't miss it, whatever it is. A+
A Beautiful Movie, An Awful Reality
C. N. Gallimore | Annapolis, MD | 01/26/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For me there are two kinds of depressing movies, there are the kind that make you want to go out and kill yourself, and then there are the kind that just kind of numb you into beleiving that in your life you will never find meaning or fulfillment. This film falls squarely in the latter category. This film, along with Pekinpah's "The Wild Bunch" and Leone's "Once upon a time in the West" make up the core cannon of the death of the west movies yet they view it from very different angles. This film focus's on the death of the innocence of small town middle America as those few rugged individuals who had the courage to seek some sort of answer and fulfilment to their lives who were once thought to populate the west are dying off and leaving behind a dissalusioned populace without compassion, decency, and being slaves to their passions and not masters of their fates.Set in a small town in Texas and loosely following the odyssey of one young man (Sonny) and his interaction with his fellow man (and most importantly woman) over the course of one year in 1951. Sonny isn't anything real special, just a mediocre high school football co-captain with a girlfriend he doesn't really like and who is about to graduate and likely work for the local oil drillers. Some notable traits do immediately become apparent in Sonny however, namely his apparent compassion and comoradery for an outcast mentally retarded boy, and the shine which a strong likeable old cowboy type (Sam) has taken to him. Sonny is at that terrifying stage in life where a person just begins to realize what an awful place the world really is and how awful most people in it really are. We see his flounderings through his reach towards maturity by means of his affair with his coach's wife, his indiscretions with his best friends ex, and his contemplation on the words of the old timer Sam.
There are other characters given almost as much screentime as Sam leading to multiple subplots, this movie follows the "Winesberg Ohio" model of painting smalltown life thorugh the rich tapestry of the individuals that compose it. Thematically this movie is all about the loss of innocence, of the west certainly, but also of man in general. One of the most painful aspects of growing up is realizing that hardly anyone is truly what they seem. The movie seems to look most favorably on the outlooks of those who least try to conceal what they are and simply deal with themselves and their fellowman honestly, and this is certainly not a bad view to take; to view yourself and the world around you as it really is without a lense. And yet, the movie shows the barreness of such a view, ultimately leaving itself relatively unresolved. The movie behaves exactly as it should, and as a result is a joy to watch. Still, you do leave feeling as though you've just run a marathon through a murky swamp believing nothing and no one to be innocent. This might be true, but even if no one is innocent (which seems likely) hopefully we won't fall into mere mediocrity and keep striving for some kind of innocence. A must see for any lovers of existentialist philosophy and lovers of beautifully depressing cinema."
Raging Hormones in a Small Texas Town
Robert Morris | Dallas, Texas | 10/13/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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). "
Beautifully nostalgic...yet honest and realistic:
Todd C. Martin | North Carolina | 01/29/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Viewing "The Last Picture Show" is like making a quantum leap to a small southern town in the early 1950s. I don't believe I have seen another movie which evokes such a distinct sense of time and place. Although I was not alive in the 1950s, I have heard relatives discuss what it was like to live in a small southern town in the 1950s, and I am impressed by how much of what I've been told is reflected in this film. For example, the makers of "The Last Picture Show" clearly conveyed the importance of the local movie theater as a place for entertainment at a time when many people did not yet own a television. Also, the music played on radios and record players throughout the movie seems very authentic (with the poorer people listening to Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell, and the wealthier people listening to Tony Bennett and Frankie Laine). I don't want to give the impression that "The Last Picture Show" is a two-hour version of "The Andy Griffith Show." These characters seem like real people rather than the romanticized versions of 1950s small-town people we see on TV sitcoms (not that I have anything against Andy and Barney). The characters in "The Last Picture Show" have visible weaknesses as well as strengths. Furthermore, loneliness, aimlessness, and selfishness are the most pervasive topics dealt with in this movie, so don't rent it expecting the feel-good movie of 1971.And yet, in spite of the sobering themes, I have to admit that "The Last Picture Show" does put me in a good mood. It is always a joy to witness convincing dialog, acting, and setting combined in a memorable and thought-provoking story! I strongly recommend "The Last Picture Show.""
One of the finest films ever made
DVD buff | Austin, TX USA | 04/08/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"THE LAST PICTURE SHOW is a perfect, if depressing, film about small-town Texas life in the 1950s. The film combines some of the most intersting characters ever put on screen (masterfully created by writer Larry McMurtry) with an amazing film technique from director Peter Bogdanovich, with superb performances from such actors as Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd, Timothy Bottoms, Ben Johnson, Cloris Leachman and several others. This film operates at many different levels, both figuratively and literally (observe the infinite depth-of-field sharpness to the black-and-white film, reminiscent of Orson Wells' CITIZEN KANE). It is truly one of the most important, and perfect, films ever made."