The summer of 1984: 32 years after Duane Jackson captained the high school football team and Jacy Farrow was homecoming queen, the small town of Anarene, Texas prepares for its bicentennial... See full summary »
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 ... Written by
Mark Fleetwood <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Peter Bogdanovich had originally offered the role of "Sam the Lion" to James Stewart, who liked the part but had already committed to a TV series and couldn't get out of it. The role was then offered to Ben Johnson, who took it eventually won an Academy Award for it. See more »
When the boys are running in the high school gym, the basketball court has a 6 foot lane. In 1951 the lane would have been only 3 feet wide. See more »
President Truman'll be here tomorrow, so all you folks in Dallas turn out, chuh hear? This is Cowboy Rhythms on KTRN, Wichita Falls, here's Hank Williams' big hit tune, "Cold Cold Heart".
Sam the Lion:
You ain't ever gonna amount to nothing. Already spent a dime this morning, ain't even had a decent breakfast. Gimme the chalk. Why don't you comb you hair Sonny, it sticks up, look like you smelled'm wolf. I'm surprised you had the nerve to show up this morning after that stomping y'all took last ...
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... worthy of its place in the list of great films of the 1970s
Perhaps the greatest tragedy to befall any artist is to have their life become more compelling than their work; such is the sad case with Peter Bogdanovich whose meteoric rise to fame was matched only by a truly famous fall from favor and a bewildering journey through tabloid hell. (Charles Shyer and Nancy Meyers mined the not inconsiderable drama of the first act of his life to sporadically great comic effect in 1984's Irreconcilable Differences. And his tragic love affair with Playboy model turned actress Dorothy Stratten is fictionalized in Bob Fosse's astonishing, horrifying Star 80 (1983). How many directors become characters in films?)
Bogdanovich's love affair with film is undeniable, though it has, in the past three decades, yielded far more perplexing misfires (The Cat's Meow, At Long Last Love, Nickelodeon) than unqualified successes. That said, The Last Picture Show is an extraordinary accomplishment and worthy of its place in the list of great films of the 1970s.
1971's other important films (Friedkin's The French Connection, Pakula's Klute, Kubrick's Clockwork Orange) are loud, angry, violent and contemporary in-your-face reflections of a society in which rage and nihilism, engendered by Vietnam and the growing discontent over government corruption, is the currency of communication. The uncertainty coursing through the veins of American pop culture also begat in equal, if not equally graphic, measure a palpable sense of sorrow at the destruction of a simpler way of life (no matter how "true" that memory may be).
Like Jewison's Fiddler on the Roof and Altman's McCabe & Mrs. Miller, The Last Picture Show is a powerful and poignant evocation of the death of a community and a way of life. Thematically rich and imbued with Bogdanovich's remarkable knowledge and passion for film, the movie works on a dazzling number of levels; and Bogdanovich's use of nostalgia and traditional, archetypal genre conventions both enriches the movie and compounds the heartbreaking loss at the heart of the story.
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 the movie and there is a naturalness here that is not easily achieved or earned. The great production design (by Bogdanovich's then wife and partner Polly Platt whose contributions to his work and her subsequent involvement in the best works of James L. Brooks should not go underestimated) and the achingly beautiful cinematography by the late Robert Surtees are vital to the success (emotionally, intellectually, thematically) of the film.
The Last Picture Show is a truly rare work of surprising depth and emotional resonance; and the heartache for a time and place forever gone and the desperate and quiet struggles of its very real, very human denizens is matched only by the sorrow found in contemplation of Bogdanovich's Icarus-like fall from such exalted heights.
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