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 <email@example.com>
The jukebox shown several times in shots of the diner interior is a Wurlitzer 2000 model; this was not produced until 1956. 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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This is a character study wherein the main character is a small West Texas town, circa 1951. In the U.S., the early 1950s symbolized a transition from nineteenth century agrarian values to twentieth century urbanism. In the film, various people who live in the town must confront the reality that time moves on. Things change. Assumptions of previous generations give way to the untested assumptions of the future. The film's theme is thus American cultural change, and the personal disillusionment that such change can bring. It is a powerful theme, and the film imparts that theme with logical clarity and emotional frankness.
In the hands of lesser talents, the subject matter of unimportant people doing unimportant things might have yielded a tiresome soap opera. But the film's script is poetic, the direction is skillful, the B&W cinematography is artistic, the casting is perfect, and the performances are superlative.
The story draws heavily from early American individualism. Life here is mostly 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. For entertainment, people listen to radio, which features the mournful country-western music of Hank Williams. Or, they go to the town's decrepit picture show, where an elderly Miss Mosey kindly returns money to the kids who got there too late to see the cartoons.
If the film has a weakness it is in the presentation of a realism that is incomplete. We see mostly stifling bleakness, though that is ameliorated somewhat by humor. What we don't see are the uplifting influences and the optimism that sustained agrarian generations through hardships and rough times.
Nevertheless, within the film's story parameters, the film does convey an accurate account of what life was like for ordinary folks in West Texas 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 are absent, mercifully, from this film.
Low-key, perceptive, bleak, and melancholy, "The Last Picture Show" easily makes my list of Top Ten favorite films of all time.
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