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9/10
Last man standing
gleebs7523 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Set in a fictional town in Texas, this film is full of imagery of the dying west and the way of classic American life that people in the small town had become so accustomed to. It opens with the shot of a run down movie theatre, then spans the length of the whole run down town, and ends up focusing on a young kid in a run down truck. The situation appears very grim and rather hopeless.

The film focuses on the life of Sonny, the kid in the run down truck that we are introduced to in the opening. Sonny is a poor boy, who has been somewhat abandoned by his parents. He's friends with the other poor kids in the town—Dwayne, and Billy most notably. Billy is deaf, and a bit on the slow side—he's Sam the Lion's son and Sonny has a real soft spot for him. Sam the Lion pretty much owns the town. We find Sam and Sonny to have a complex relationship, and one that will end up providing a circular theme for the film. Sam owns the town's pool hall, movie theatre, and café and is well-known and loved by everyone. What Sam says, goes, and we get this image of Sam as the kind of old cowboy ruling over the land. The town has a kind of old glory day feel about it—the teenagers go to the movies at night and kiss in the back rows, they make out in cars and all seem rather innocent in their naiveté. However, there are more secrets to the town than are made apparent at first and we realize that this town is far from the perfect image of the west that we have been accustomed to in films up to this point.

For example, Sonny gets into a sexual relationship with his basketball coach's wife when she gets too sad for anything else to make her happy. Jacy, the town's classic blonde, ends up being very sexually confused and troubled due to the odd relationship between her and her drunken mother, who is having an affair. The town rich kids are all messed up, having naked pool parties and sleeping with one another. Basically, it's a town that is the result of a changing society with changing ideals. There are a number of times in the film, where the noise from a television is the only sound the audience hears. It seems as if television is part of the changing values of the town—especially after Sam the Lion dies. Once Sam dies, everything seems to take a turn for the worse. He leaves Sonny the pool hall and leaves the theatre in the hands of the old lady who had basically been running it before. Eventually, she needs to shut down the theatre, and even blames television as the reason why people don't want to go to the theatre anymore. Dwayne goes away to the army, he and Sonny get in a fight, and the preacher's son is even arrested for attempting to molest a little girl. It appears that with the death of the cowboy figure of the town, the whole town goes downhill, and at the same time, Sonny seems to be taking his place. He starts rolling cigarettes like Sam had, has his wild days with Jacy (coincidentally the daughter of Sam's old lover), runs the pool hall, and seems destined to simply follow in Sam's footsteps. The last scene, where Sonny returns to the house of his 40 year old lover, there is a loud laughter coming from the television. The conversation is serious, Mrs. Leachman is on the brink of nervous breakdown, Sonny has just witnessed the death of his friend Billy, Dwayne had just left for Korea, and Jacy was off at college. Sonny is the only one left, the last one standing. And the only sound of laughter coming from the sad house where Sonny is destined to spend the rest of his days with a married woman is coming from the television. The wild, wild west has been reduced to people in their houses wishing to be as happy as the people on the television. Instead, they have been doomed to live unfulfilling lives that will never live up to the standard of life in the old time western films in the closed down Royale theatre.
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9/10
The Texas Ice Princess
bkoganbing13 June 2007
The Last Picture Show, set in Texas during the early Fifties is about the coming of age of two Texas teens, Timothy Bottoms and Jeff Bridgesand the young lady who has an effect on both of them, Cybill Shepherd.

Cybill part of what passes for society in this small hole in the wall town that's seen its better days. Her father is rich because of some prosperous oil leases. Her mother Ellen Burstyn is thinking she's discreet in her affair with oil worker Clu Gulager, but there ain't any secrets in that town.

Shepherd is pretty, but spoiled. She flirts from Bridges to Bottoms, gets involved with Randy Quaid, Gulager and others. She breaks up the friendship with Bottoms and Bridges temporarily and causes all kinds of other havoc.

Bottoms is also taken up with his high school coach's wife who also is unhappily married. Cloris Leachman delivers a strong performance there, possibly the best among the female cast members.

However The Last Picture Show is known as the film that brought Ben Johnson an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Johnson drifted into acting, he was a rodeo performer who handled stock in several Hollywood films that John Ford took a liking to. He represented in his roles some of the best traditions of the American west as he does here.

The tragedy is though he represents a way of life that has come and gone. And that it has passed is not for the better.

Peter Bogdanovich as director got all kinds of deserved acclaim for this film that has become a classic. Sad to say Bogdanovich never quite did anything as good as The Last Picture Show.

Almost 40 years later, The Last Picture Show still holds up well today and should not be missed.
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9/10
I Just Don't Understand...
DylanFan7 April 1999
I have seen this film at least five times and I still don't understand why I love it so much. Yes, it is a well written, well acted and a beautifully shot film, but I still don't know why this film found such a deep niche in my mind? I wasn't from a small Texas town, in fact I have only lived in big cities. I wasn't born in the 1940s or 1950s, but in the 1970s. And I sure as heck never went through what Tim Bottoms or Jeff Bridges characters did. Yet this movie has struck a cord in my heart and I think it is one that any fan of "New Hollywood" should see because it works as almost a precurser to the fall of that group of directors.

The film itself looks so wonderful in an airy black and white feel that sweeps over you like a gust of wind in the dry Texas heat. The young characters (Bottoms, Bridges, Sheppard, Quaid) are so wide-eyed and dopey, that it's like they aren't acting. And the older characters (Johnson, Leachman, Burstyn) are so bitter and jaded that you resent them for getting old and letting the world beat them. There isn't a false moment in the film. The last few moments of the film are so gut wrenching and pained that it was a wonder that the sequel ("Texasville") was so light-hearted and weak.

There isn't much fanfare for this film outside of movie buffs and Bogdanovich fans, which really amazes me because I think it was the high water maker of the decade (peaked too soon, I suppose) and of Bogdanovich's career. It wasn't even released on video until a few months ago. But that shouldn't stop anyone from renting it because it is a wonderful film.
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9/10
Cinema Paradiso
jmcsween907 July 2001
Peter Bogdanovich's adaptation of Larry McMurty's novel is a beautifully crafted look at life in a Texan backwater town in the 1950s. Featuring the entangled lives and loves of a bunch of teenagers as they come of age, it was one of the first American films to examine the complexity of life in a small town without painting it in shades of a Norman Rockwell white picket fence utopia. The town, once a part of the stable old west is slowly slipping into a new age, and the last picture show of the title represents the end of an era when the town's picture theatre closes down and its former patrons venture off into a life of uncertainty.

The film is slow but evenly paced, featuring a strong cast of unknowns, fledglings and established veterans. Timothy Bottoms and Jeff Bridges are Sonny and Dwayne, two boys who enjoy an elevated status in the town due to their positions on the high school football team. Cybil Shepherd plays a manipulative female who strives for amusement by playing all the boys in the town off each other. Cloris Leachman – who won an Oscar – gives a sterling performance as the neglected middle aged house wife of the basketball coach, who indulges in an affair with Sonny out of boredom and frustration. The character of Sam the Lion played by Ben Johnson (who also won an Oscar) represents the spirit of traditional western values. His death in the film symbolises the end of an era and the passing of a way of life.

In the true spirit of 70s film making, this film was mature, truthful and innovative, while at the same time it harboured a deep respect for the tradition of American cinema that preceded it. This film is a eulogy to the American Western that pays homage to John Ford's similarly styled ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence'. It examines a world that is caught in turmoil, where the defining values that once guided the people are disappearing and a lost generation is emerging. Bogdanovich and many of the cast members struck career peaks in this film, but sadly many of them were never to recapture that form again.
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9/10
Marking the end of an era with a milestone
Artimidor3 January 2013
If there ever was one movie capturing a certain place at a certain time, then it might very well be Peter Bogdanovic's "The Last Picture Show". It fulfills the function of a time capsule into times long gone like no other film. Where are we heading? To the fall of 1951, the date is the eve of the Korean war, and the place we plan to stay for a year is the small American town in Western Texas called Anarene. One might call "The Last Picture Show" a coming of age film, but this is true not only for the teens who are becoming men and women, but also for the adults who feel the weight of their past lives, their hopes and dreams and passed opportunities on them. It is the dawn of a new area. Times are achanging for everyone, economically, culturally, socially, in every respect. Things won't stay the way they have been, and it's inevitable.

One of Bogdanovic's very first and best films, "The Last Picture Show" has become an iconic depiction of American small town life rarely achieved again in such perfection. Even the director's very own continuation of the story made twenty years later cannot even be compared to this cinematic highlight. The film's forte aside from the strong cast (Ben Johnson, Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd and others), lies in its melancholy, in sketching the shadows that linger below the surface, in the tragedies buried there, in lives they shape and form, along with the aspirations the characters have. All these things are shown without going over the top and thus turning the picture into a melodramatic, overly nostalgic or sentimental elegy. These elements are all there of course, but the emphasis is different - on the realism of it, which makes us sympathize with the people involved, lets us feel at home for a while. Until the moment arrives when the very last picture is shown in Anarene's local cinema, a moment where we might be overwhelmed by a feeling of loss we cannot quite explain. Time then to head back in our capsule, endowed with the indisputable knowledge that things will never be the same again. Fortunately - thanks to this film - you can always come back to pay a visit.
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9/10
Where, for all of us, love's illusions live and die.
RJBurke194213 February 2012
This is a film about icons: small town America, Hollywood movies, the local cinema, country & western music, classic Cadillacs and Fords, and a graduation class in the town of Anarene, Texas, in 1951 (Anarene is the fictional name given to Archer City, the actual locale for this movie – and incidentally, where the shell of The Royal cinema still stands).

The noise of WW2 has faded, it's now the second half of the 20th century and America is on the move – internationally and nationally. The world is changing, and the winds of changes are not limited to dust squalls only down Main Street, especially for two young high school students in their final year: Sonny Crawford (Timothy Bottoms) and Duane Jackson (Jeff Bridges).

Like other small towns across the west, Anarene is dying – financially, culturally, socially and emotionally. Nothing much happens each day. Traffic is virtually non-existent; heck, there's not even a traffic light. Those who can, leave; those who can't – like Sonny, Duane and their school friends – must make do with whatever game in town there is...

Which means they spend a lot of time in the pool hall and picture theater owned by Sam the Lion (Ben Johnson) and the diner across Main Street run by Genevieve (Eileen Brennan). If not there, they're off sparking around town and maybe getting into trouble with the local prostitutes; or testing their mettle, so to speak, with their own girl friends, Duane's Jacy Farrow (Cybill Shepherd) and Sonny's Charlene Duggs (Sharon Taggart).

While Duane's difficulties center upon keeping all other males away from Jacy – she being the prettiest girl in town – Sonny and Charlene break up, thus allowing Sonny to innocently fall into a situation with a much older married woman, Ruth Popper (Cloris Leachman), and with the inevitable complications of such a lopsided affair. Hovering around them are Jacy's mother, Lois Farrow (Ellen Burstyn) and father, Gene Farrow (Robert Glenn); a local stud and serious womanizer, Abilene (Clu Gulager); Billy (Sam Bottoms), a mentally-challenged helper in Sam's pool hall; and Lester Marlow (Randy Quaid), who introduces Jacy to skinny-dipping at some rich dude's place, much to Duane's displeasure. How they all interact to resolve their emotional troubles forms the basis of the second and third acts.

But the focal point is Sam, Sam the Lion, and you'll find out how he got that name when you see this movie. Everybody comes to the pool hall at some time, and all the kids go to the movies at The Royal, where Sam shows great movies from the 1930s and 1940s. Ben Johnson, better known for his many roles in westerns, deservedly won Best Supporting Actor as the serious, sage and sentimental ol' timer. Equally, Cloris Leachman won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her work as Ruth Popper.

When I first saw this movie in 1972, I knew I had seen an American classic: picture perfect mise-en-scene, heart-breaking script, beautiful black and white photography that virtually puts you in that time and place, and a group of mostly young actors who acted and melded flawlessly under the direction of Peter Bogdanovich. Wisely, Bogdanovich avoided canned, moody music, allowing instead local radios, juke boxes etc to provide the perfect pitch of Hank Williams and other greats to keep this timeless illusion alive.

Forty years after I saw it for the first time, I still think that TLPS is one of the finest American movies ever made.

And just like the old saw says, they just don't make 'em like this any more. More's the pity.

Highest recommendation for all lovers of great cinema.

February 13, 2012.
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9/10
Gritty realism on the Texas plain
barryrd5 April 2007
Peter Bogdanovich assembled a great cast of the up and coming generation for this film, made in the early 1970's. It is almost anti-Hollywood in its grim and gritty portrayal of life in a small Texan town. Ellen Burstyn, as one of the characters, points out that the place is flat and empty. The town is about to lose its movie theater. Time is moving on and this place is being left behind.

The human element that Timothy Bottoms, the main character, brings to the film is the counterpoint to the melancholy of the film. More than another kid in a forgotten town, he rises above the others. His affair with his coach's wife, Cloris Leachman, gives her a new joy in life, albeit temporary. There is the bond with his buddy and rival, played by Jeff Bridges. Finally, there is his anger for another friend who lies dead on the street as the townsfolk stand around his dead body, making idle talk.

This is a very sad film but one of the most human and touching of the films to come out of the 1970's.
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9/10
Heartachingly beautiful and perfectly acted
Pedro-3712 January 2002
"The Last Picture Show" is one of the most amazingly acted movies out there. The performances of Ellen Burstyn, Ben Johnson, Cloris Leachman, Timothy Bottoms and Jeff Bridges are just flawless. Even Cybill Shepherd is very good. This is only Peter Bogdabovic second feature and he already knew how to stimulate his actors to get the best out of them - and then catch it on beautiful black & white film. Every shot is wonderfully composed and sometimes, I have to cry just by looking at it. When Miss Mosey announces to the boys that nobody wants to go the movies anymore, I normally can't stop it and cry until the end - for no particular reason actually: It's not just the sad things that happen towards the end, it's more the tone of the movie, its melancholy.

That said, "The Last Picture Show" is one of the best American movies of the early 70's and definitely Bogdanovic's best. A must see.

Rating: 9/10
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9/10
Surprisingly Poignant and Realistic!
g-bodyl23 October 2015
The Last Picture Show is a very poignant coming-of-age story set amidst a dying Texas town, culturally and economically. That adds a sadness to the story. A sadness about changing times and the new way of life replacing the old way of life. That is a recurring theme in the film. I loved the use of black and white photography, which helps those themes. The film explores many things all teens go through such as exploring their sexuality, keeping friendships intact, graduating high school, and moving on to the next stage of life. The film explores all of those very well. The film is set in a town where everyone knows each other, which in turn enables the viewers to get to know the characters better.

Peter Bogdanovich's film has a plot that is hard to describe, other than to say it is about growing up in a town that weeps of the past. Sonny Crawford is the main character here. He was a co-captain of his football team along with his best friend Duane. Sonny just broke up with his rather tasteless girl, while Duane dates the hottest girl in town. Sonny enters an affair with the middle-aged wife of the football coach, thus showing how far this town can get you.

The film has many fine actors in it. Timothy Bottoms does an underrated job as Sonny. I really loved Jeff Bridge's performance as Duane, the guy who seems to have it all. Other performances to keep an eye on are Ben Johnson as the fatherly figure and most important man in town, Sam the Lion. And Cloris Leachman as Ruth, the wife Sonny has an affair with. She has quite a few powerful scenes.

Overall, The Last Picture Show is a better film than I expected. A beautiful, poignant film about the pains of growing up. The tone is often bitter and sad. We don't often see happiness in the picture, from beginning to end. But we see our characters make most of their lives and that is what matters. All of the sad moments or in other words, the realism influence just how powerful this movie is, set against the 1950's Texas background. There are many great scenes, but I loved the funny scene involving running away from Texas just to head to Kansas. If you want a movie about growing up, this should be your first film to watch.

My Grade: A
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9/10
a film that plays even better long after it's been seen, for its unforgettable characters and classic mode of subversion
Quinoa198423 June 2007
Peter Bogdanovich obviously loves the old Hollywood films, Hawks, Ford, Sturges, Hitchcock to a degree, but has also claimed that "there's Renoir, and there's everybody else." This can be seen, in a sense, in how he treats the material of Larry McMurtry's source. The Last Picture Show deals frankly with sexuality, but more impressively, and with more of a lasting impact, on how not being able to deal with emotions leads to a kind of nakedness and vulnerability that is shielded away, particularly in a small Texas town such as Anarene. Not much goes on- sometimes the only thing to do is to split town and see if it'll be possible to take an aimless trip to Mexico in the middle of the night- though that is just on the surface of a tiny town such as this.

There's a sense of sexual paranoia, of loneliness, that gets tapped into very well by Bogdanovich on his two main plot-lines: one involving teens (i.e. Cybil Shepherd as Jacey, Jeff Bridges as Duane Jackson, the Bottoms brothers), and their escapism into movies, sports, and sex, and a middle-aged woman (Cloris Leachman) and her lack of companionship, mirrored in her sort of loneliness by the barren side to the town itself, as people move out in droves.

From the opening shot- one of the best of any film of the 70s- to the final scene with the screening of Red River, this is a near classic of the period, where there was an overlap between the past films with more of an emphasis on the proud and beautiful side of Americana, and the not exactly darker side but the one people usually wouldn't put on film. It's sometimes very funny (how could finally 'making it' with Jacey go wrong?), and a little surprising in how it gets explicit (pool scene is actually very steamy for a black and white movie), but there's an undercurrent that Bogdanovich doesn't play up too much into the last act, which has been building steadily through the film.

Featuring other good supporting work from Burstyn and Ben Johnson, alongside the outstanding Leachman and promising Bridges (Shepherd works best in the role when she has to quietly subvert, as Bogdanovich does more often, with the material), and a true sense for period as well as reality, the Last Picture Show has been fresh in my mind for years now, and I look forward to seeing it again like few other American films of 1971.
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9/10
Powerful and passionate
sme_no_densetsu15 July 2008
"The Last Picture Show" is a coming of age story set in Texas in the early 50's. It deals with sexuality in a frank manner with much of the plot revolving around the romantic entanglements of the main characters.

The acting is excellent, with four cast members receiving Oscar nominations in supporting roles (Jeff Bridges, Ellen Burstyn, Ben Johnson & Cloris Leachman). Johnson & Leachman both won and in my opinion Leachman's performance in particular was nothing short of awe-inspiring. I also feel that Timothy Bottoms was worthy of a nomination.

Peter Bogdanovich's direction is well-handled throughout but it's the subtle touches that impress me the most. For instance, shooting in black & white was an inspired choice. Also, several times I was struck by the way that he focused on body language rather than dialogue to convey a character's emotions. Additionally, the authentic country & pop soundtrack (rather than a score) really adds to the atmosphere.

In the end, what we have is an admirably directed, impressively acted film with a story that will captivate you for two hours and haunt your thoughts long after the screen has faded to black. Do not miss this film.
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9/10
True classic. The loss of innocence.
michaelRokeefe16 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The world will now know the name Peter Bogdanovich, who directed this great movie about an often forgotten time. THE LAST PICTURE SHOW is set in a small intersection on the highway Archer City Texas. A look at coming of age, disllusionment and the beginning of the end of innocence. There is the hangout owned by Sam the Lion(Ben Johnson). And there is the rugged carefree Duane Jackson(Jeff Bridges)and pretty and spoiled Jacy(Cybill Shepard). There is the lonely pensive Sonny(Timothy Bottoms)who has an affair with the ignored coach's wife(Cloris Leachman). Filmed in brilliant black and white to take you back to the naive early 50's.

Great character development and a slew of memorable supporting performances from: Ellen Burstyn, Clu Gulager, Randy Quaid and Sam Bottoms. Plus vacillating the story is an almost vintage soundtrack featuring: Frankie Laine, Jo Stafford, Tony Bennett, Lefty Frizzell and Pee Wee King. This movie is an example of a film becoming an instant classic that you can watch ten maybe twenty times without getting tired of it.
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9/10
Sad, But Incredibly Powerful Movie!
gab-1471218 October 2017
I really loved Peter Bogdanovich's The Last Picture Show. This was a film that was never on my radar, but then when I heard about the talent behind the film, I knew that I should check it out. Everything about the film is nearly perfect from the spot-on performances to the masterful direction to the technical side of the film. I very much enjoyed how the movie was filmed in black-and-white. It added to the surprising realism the film showed us. The film is about life and how people try to figure out the meaning of their lives in the rather desolate town of Anarene, Texas.

There is no denying how depressing the film can be. It's certainly moody and there is no happiness to be found. The lives of everyone is like living in an empty void. People move on from one thing to the next with nothing to look forward too. This is one of the factors that make this movie so powerful. Also adding to the depression of this dying town is the changing times. The town resembles an old Western town way past it's due date. You understand the reasons the tumbleweed rolling through town. The film points out rapidly-evolving urban centers nearby as people flock to these towns to start new lives. But for the people remaining in town, the old-timers fondly remember the happy days while the young people wonder what to do without being so bored. After all, downtown only consists of a diner, the pool hall, and an old-fashioned movie theater all owned by one man known as Sam the Lion.

Something that really surprised me is how much of a factor sex plays in the film. Of course, sex is necessary in everyone's lives. But this film really pulls the strings with that sentence. People have sex with each other in the film because there is nothing else to do. They use sex as a way to get through their rather meaningless day. Except for a few cases, there is no sense of eroticism in the sexual activities. There is this one girl named Jacy who uses her looks to seduce every man in town and there is the relationship between our main character Sonny and the older wife of the local gym teacher, Ruth. After Sonny cheats on Ruth with Jacy, there is a very powerful scene between Ruth and Sonny (that involved chucking a coffee pot at Sonny's head) that shows the deep, real feelings that people did have. The feeling that love actually existed inside of these people.

It's 1951 in this small, hapless town of Anarene, Texas. The only person who seems to enjoy life is Sam the Lion (Ben Johnson), a father figure of almost everyone in town. Life does not hold much of a future in this town for the younger generation. Two kids the film keeps an eye on are the co-captains of their terrible high school football team; Sonny Crawford (Timothy Bottoms) and Duane Jackson (Jeff Bridges). Sonny is more of the sensitive kind of person while Duane is a brash, outgoing man-but they happen to be best friends. Duane also happens to be dating the best-looking girl in town, Jacy (Cybill Shepherd), the daughter of an oil baron. Meanwhile, Sonny just broke up with his long-time girlfriend who only were together for the lack of anything to do. Jacy begins a pursuit on her mother's Lois (Ellen Burstyn) to find other men that could give her a future. Meanwhile, Sonny begins an affair with the older Ruth Popper (Cloris Leachman). These events show exactly how much of a future is left for the younger generation in Anarene.

The film has a very strong cast, whom many would go on to have strong careers. There really is not a single standout because everyone gives an incredible performance each depicting their own sense of sadness. If I had to choose the best performance in the film, I would pick Cloris Leachman as the unhappy wife who begins an affair. That fore-mentioned scene in the argument with Sonny is very powerful. Ben Johnson would be a very close second as Sam the Lion. He's a stern man content with life in the town, but he understands the plight of the young ones. His scene where he takes Sonny out fishing and reminisces on his younger life concerning love actually brought a few tears to my eyes. There is Jeff Bridges, who gave a very steady performance and despite his young age, he already held a commanding presence on screen. Cybill Shepherd was an unrecognizable name at the time, but her sexual turn as Jacy opened up some eyes. Ellen Burstyn likewise as her mother.

Also, I have to mention the cinematography, which was used in black-and-white. That gave to the overall realism of the movie. But it is the little things on camera that showed the emptiness of the town. Whether its the tumbleweed, the dust blowing the air, the sad faces of everyone, the broken-down cars, etc. Everything that was shot, in some shape or form, showed what life was in this town.

Overall, The Last Picture Show is a bleak, sad movie that is nonetheless a very powerful feature that is masterfully directed by Peter Bogdanovich and brilliantly adapted to the screen by Bogdanovich as well. He gets powerful performances from everyone in the film, and that is a rare feat for a young director. It goes to show that growing up is not all golden and wonderful as some people struggle to live because of the area they reside in. This is surprisingly a very powerful film and one of my favorites from 1971.

My Grade: A
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9/10
Bogdanovich peaked in his first major film
mjneu5930 November 2010
It could have been little more than an impeccably produced soap opera, but this moody portrait of a dying Texas cow town remains, instead, one of the essential Hollywood films of the 1970s. The timeless isolation of the American West has rarely been more vivid: that sense of lonely, desperate lives caught in a limbo of suspended decay, victims of terminal boredom and frustrated libidos. Sometimes it seems as if the only action in town is motivated by raging hormones, but the more each character yearns after gratification the more they find only heartache and pain.

The screenplay (co-written by Larry McMurtry from his own novel) is relentlessly downbeat, and made to seem even darker by director Peter Bogdanovich's inspired decision to shoot the film in black and white (something almost unheard of in American movies at the time). The often stark photography by ace cinematographer Bruce Surtees removes all the joy and artifice from the setting, leaving only a bittersweet feeling of alienation and loss.
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9/10
Nuanced--a wash of subtle sensation, character, and sad determination
secondtake12 August 2010
The Last Picture Show (1971)

This is a miracle of a little big film. It's small in the details, it plays hard with nuance to the point of losing any sense of plot, and ends up creating better than almost any film of this type, a place and time, the whole mise-en-scene.

Director Peter Bogdanovich, often now seen as a film commentator on DVD extras, is a real film devotee, a scholar but also an insider with a feel for "the movies." And he has made several remarkable films, some of which do nothing for me, like "At Long Last Love," and at least one other masterpiece, also in black and white, "Paper Moon." At his best his films are both penetrating and oddly weightless, in the sense that they keep you floating through an imagined world without apparent effort. They are virtuosic without seeming virtuosic.

You'll never doubt anyone here, their motives, their inner viability. And you won't question that this place exists, this small, wide street town with almost no one left, a true ghost town in the making. The cast is made of known but not famous actors, and as you watch you appreciate how beautifully, and with what fluidity, they are pulled together. The cameraman is Robert Surtees, a veteran from the 1940s and 50s, and who had recently pulled off the astonishing photography in "The Graduate." You can feel the influence of all of Bogdanovich's film-loving, film-going days, and his deep friendship with Orson Welles.

Most of all, "The Last Picture Show" feels relevant. It's a metaphor about finding meaning amidst futility, about the escape from troubles and confronting them, about superficial beauty and the real thing, about sex in a way that seems appropriate for the period (the early 1950s), and about community in the that Spoon River Anthology kind of interwoven way. Remarkable on every score.

Does all this make for a compelling experience? Do we normally want to sit and watch life go by and a parade of different characters, none of them heroic, none of them criminal, none of them especially singular in a cinematic way? Maybe. It depends if you're the type to take the window seat in a diner, or a bench in the park, or the corner of a busy room, and people watch. You can't participate, but you can pay attention. And watch, and watch again.
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9/10
A great film with a real sense of scale
555piero8 December 2002
A great film with a real sense of the scale of the lives and country involved. The growing up and maturing of the central characters high-lighted nicely the disintegration of the town and its community. 9/10.
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9/10
Desire in the dust
lib-411 April 1999
West Texas- bleak and barren on the outside but seething inside. This film is a classic- the performances of Cloris Leachman, Cybill Shepherd and Timothy Bottoms set standards for years. Having lived in Texas, yes- football is almost a religion- and so is boredom in a small town- where if you sneeze everyone knows. Nothing can compare to the anguish and anger of Ruth Popper when she confronts Sonny after his 3 month absence. the whole ensemble make this a well balanced movie. In today's movies the youth usually get the good parts- but the adults in this are just as strong as the kids. Luminous in a subdued way. True to the novel and great cinematography.
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9/10
"Never you mind"
smatysia16 October 2000
What a fantastic film. All of the actors were great, and Ben Johnson and Cloris Leachman really earned their Oscars. Bogdonovich was an absolute genius with this film. Too bad he hasn't matched it since. There were a number of things that were different in this film, like using no opening credits, no soundtrack, just music played through the characters' radios, etc. and of course being in black and white. Black and white really brings out the bleakness of the area, reflected in the bleakness of the characters' lives. I also thought that black and white is very evocative of the times, seen through the lens of someone around 40 years old. This is a must-have movie.
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9/10
Evocative, desperately important, cinematically exciting...
moonspinner554 April 2011
Small town Texas lives in 1951: the teenage girls are busy thinking about boys and marriage, while their boyfriends take sex in stride. All the while, time is ticking away on their adolescence, and turning their community into a shadow of its former self. "The Last Picture Show" was only Peter Bogdanovich's second directorial achievement, which won critical raves so filled with exaltation that it immediately put the noses of his competitors and counterparts out of joint (Bogdanovich was nominated for a Best Director Oscar, but lost). This adaptation of Larry McMurtry's novel, by McMurtry and Bogdanovich, is an unblushing look at randy, impatient young people and their elders, most of whom are living in the past. It has a somewhat cynical eye (often for a comedic affect), but also an intimate spirit and a dazzle that sweeps the audience up. You can't help but be moved by it, with those rich, warm echoes of Hank Williams songs on the radio and screen-doors squawking in the dusty wind. It's a touchstone movie, and has stood the test of time. Superlative performances by an amazing cast; Cloris Leachman and Ben Johnson won well-deserved Supporting Oscars. Bogdanovich revisited these lives in 1990 with "Texasville". ***1/2 from ****
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9/10
DVD quality not up to the original silver screen.
C-Slim5 February 2005
I was a film student in 1971 when I saw this masterpiece on the big screen. The very first thing I noticed was the quality of the black and white. The tones were that of a fine Ansel Adams photo... the silver glowing at you with breathtaking gradations. It was one of the best I'd ever seen. In color, it would have been a completely different experience. Jump forward more than 30 years and something is wrong. Either the transfer to DVD cannot bring us the fine tones of the original, or the original had degraded over time. I realize that it may be impossible to see it in its full glory because of technical limitations. However, the image I see now is worse than that of most of the B&W movies I've seen transferred to DVD from any era. It should be much better than it is here. So, in that respect, I was disappointed, as were others I had spoken with who had also seen the original screenings. I do hope Bogdanovich or someone else will consider a restored release some day. Otherwise, most of you will never experience what can be done with the extraordinary dimension and depth found in fine B&W by a master like Robert Surtees.

However, the story and most of the acting is as fresh as ever. Aside from Cybill Shepherd, who, unfortunately, appears to have been cast only because she was the babe of the times, Cloris Leachman's gripping performance is a reason to see this movie. It's one of the best I've ever seen and still chokes me up when I see it. Very highly recommended for that alone.
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9/10
Bogdanovich's Best!
shepardjessica-110 November 2004
Early Peter Bogdanovich is quite good with great ensemble acting - Ben Johnson (noble and stalwart as Sam the Lion), Ellen Burstyn (who should have won the Oscar over Ms. Leachman) is sexy, fesity, and all too knowing, Jeff Bridges (in a very early role) as the semi-lout Duane, Timothy Bottoms subtle and human as Sonny, Cybill Shepard (for once) is believable, Eileen Brennan always realistic and savvy, Cloris Leachman touching and tragic as Ruth, and Randy Quaid playing another dumb character that he's so good at.

An 8 out of 10. Best performance = Ellen Burstyn. Beautiful B/W cinematography and script from fine book by Larry McMurtry. Highly recommended lonesome prairie Texas-style in the 50's.
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9/10
Excellent Film; A definitive highlight of the memorable decade
Runinrider20 June 2004
1971 was a hell of a memorable year in film. William Friedkin re-invented action films with "The French Connection" (the film's car chase still remembered), and controversial films from Sam Peckinpah's "Straw Dogs" to Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange" broke all the rules. It is fitting to start then, by saying that the year was one for the young directors. After all, this was the year that Coppola began work on "The Godfather", Friedkin won his Oscar, and Bogdanovich broke out with his masterpiece, "The Last Picture Show".

Had he not had the freedom to make such a film, director Peter Bogdanovich would never have set out to make such a film based on a novel written in the 60's. The film itself barely escaped with a "normal" rating. After all the scene in the pool showed much more then the rape scene in "Straw Dogs", but it was all done with such a happy demeanor, nothing in here ever goes as far as to break the rules despite the nudity and colorful language.

The film, written by Larry McMurty (who also wrote the novel), stars Timothy Bottoms as Sonny and Jeff Bridges as Duane. Both live in a dying town near Texas, and their lives are vividly shown as they survive through broken relationships and the death of a good friend. Both actors give amazing performances, and they are helped by an outstanding supporting cast that includes Cybill Shepherd, Ben Johnson, and Ellen Burnstyn.

I really can't say anything more other then the fact that you should definitely watch this. Anyone interested in great film would find helpful servings of just that, and will be, just like me, thoroughly impressed by the young actors and the direction and writing. Plus the soundtrack is fantastic as the songs perfectly fit in to the film.

9.0/10 (***+/****)
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9/10
Good examination of 1950s rural America
grantss4 July 2015
Good examination of 50s rural America, and the death thereof. Interesting character- and relationship-based plot. Direction by Peter Bogdanovich is solid. The black & white cinematography is irritating at first, as you feel that the main characters, in the primes of their lives, deserve colour. However, the B&W becomes more relevant the further into the movie you go.

Great performances, from then-unknown actors in their earliest roles: Jeff Bridges, Cybil Shepherd (debut role), Timothy Bottoms (2nd movie). The veterans - Ellen Burstyn, Ben Johnson, Eileen Brennan, Cloris Leachman - are superb too.

Only negatives are that the movie drifts a bit in the middle, and it is only the very powerful ending that makes it great. This, and the soundtrack - every song seems to be by Hank Williams. Didn't they have anything else on the radio in 1950s Texas?
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9/10
Terrific Cast Scores an Unforgettable Film!
Sylviastel13 June 2013
This is truly a great film. It's set in 1951 in a small town Texas. Cybill Shepherd made her film debut in this black and white classic. There are a number of great performances by first rate cast. Ben Johnson played Sam the Lion and won a worthy Oscar for it. Cloris Leachman earned her Academy Award as Ruth Popper, a lonely wife who has an affair with one of her son's players. She is unforgettable and sensational in this role. Timothy Bottoms and Jeff Bridges played best friends in this small dying town where not much except football games happen and they see a movie at the picture house before television. Other great performances are Ellen Burstyn who played overprotective mom of a teenager with a history. The film is memorable as it is nostalgic for a different time. Eileen Brennan also gives a memorable performance as Genovieve, the waitress at the local diner.
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