The Last Picture Show (1971) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
34 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
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.
19 out of 26 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
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
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
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.
6 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
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.
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
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.
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
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.
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
Historically Funny
rogus200627 June 2020
Director / Writer, Peter Bogdanovich nailed "location as a character" with the timeless theme of teen and grown-up angst in a dried-up dust bowl of a town in Texas, that has a unique charm of its own. Larry McMurtry's original book with the same title was destined to become this film. And it makes sense it would be shot in black and white to provide the depth of the characters and town, coupled with Bogdanovich's close ties to John Ford and Orson Wells, masters of black and white film. The isolated charm of Archer City is shattered by the main characters' desires you feel in your gut. Dwayne's desire to go steady with Jaycee is overshadowed by Jaycee's path to explore her sexuality with a variety of partners and not just Dwayne, who either has no clue or will not admit the truth. As a result, Dwayne's loneliness is as desolate as the town. In a moment of frustration, Dwayne and Sonny (Timothy Bottoms) escape to Texas for the weekend and tell Sam the Lion with no shame (played by Ben Johnson, who said "I can't do this picture Peter, there's too many damn lines" and won the Oscar for his performance in this film). Here there is a pivotal moment of silence between these three characters, which portends Dwayne and Sonny's return to the silent deserted town that will now never be the same and mirrors the new hole in their lives. Sam the Lion has a big heart and protects those who need extra care. I fell in love with Johnson and his character, and as a screenwriter, strive to write characters as complex Sam. Jeff Bridges plays Dwayne and Cybill Shepherd is Jaycee. Shepherd has a few nude-scenes she does alone with the extras edited in later, according to Bogdanovich and TCM's Ben Mankiewicz in The Plot Thickens podcast. The pool scene serves to bring a cast of characters together to escape the monotony of their deserted lives and life in the desert. Another character worth mentioning is Ruth Popper, played by Cloris Leachman who also won the Oscar for this film. Ruth has a guilt-free love affair with Sonny, who is a generation younger than her when her coach "significant other" pays little to no attention to her. The relationship between Ruth and her husband is as bleak as the town and the squeaky door to the pool hall, with an underlying reason subtly suggested, literally left in the dust when movie producers and audiences were forbidden to accept or explore (according to Bogdanovich interviews). Other important characters include the lovable baseball-capped Billy (Sam Bottoms, Tim's brother in real life), Jaycee's mother (Ellen Burstyn), and Genevieve the waitress (Eileen Brennan). The main characters, like the desert, have no shame - the zeitgeist of the 1960s. I will not give away the ending but I will say, the desert wins. ~ by Martha J. Rogus June 27, 2020
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
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.
3 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
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.
3 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
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
2 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
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
2 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
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.
2 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
Evocative
gbill-748778 July 2020
Evokes an era and a small town in dusty Texas with brilliant black and white cinematography and all those old Hank Williams tunes, and it also evokes the end of an era in life, that time in high school and just beyond it when you're finding your path, trying to find love, and maybe increasingly disillusioned by the world. People move on and people die of course, but maybe saddest of all, people selfishly use each other, and we see that in so many ways here. Even the moments of connecting in sex are far from what we imagine in fantasies; instead there's a lot of bungling and fumbling. It's all very forlorn and sad, even with the strain of friendship running through it. Great cast from top to bottom, great direction from Peter Bogdanovich, and a film that you can see was highly influential.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
The Last Picture Show (1971)
fntstcplnt4 December 2019
Directed by Peter Bogdonavich. Starring Timothy Bottoms, Cybill Shepherd, Jeff Bridges, Ben Johnson, Ellen Burstyn, Cloris Leachman, Eileen Brennan, Randy Quaid, Clu Gulager, Sam Bottoms, Joe Heathcock, Sharon Taggart, Bill Thurman, Barc Doyle, Gary Brockette, Jessie Lee Fulton. (R)

Sharply-observed mosaic of individuals living (trapped) in a small North Texas town in the early 50s, some eager to come of age and either get out or cling to tradition, others well past that youthful prime and stung by a paralytic desolation. Director Bogdonavich, who also wrote the brilliant script with Larry McMurtry (author of the novel on which the film is based), correctly chooses black & white for his canvas, not just because it feels so appropriate considering the era and starkness of the location, but because of the Orson Welles/"Citizen Kane" influence, where deep focus is much more easily achieved. Not much of a plot, per se (which is kind of the point for these aimless souls); has as much a sense of place as nearly any film before or since, its setting becoming the dominant character in a film full of memorable, deftly-realized figures. Put many of the young cast members on the map; the adults are even better, with Johnson and Leachman both winning Oscars for their work (each one gets--and nails--a show-stopping scene, one of wistful nuance, the other of frustrated fury). Followed almost two decades later by a sequel, "Texasville."

93/100
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
Just Sittin' In the Balcony.....!
bsmith555210 November 2019
Warning: Spoilers
"The Last Picture Show" is Peter Bogdonovich's masterpiece about a fictional small and dusty little town of Anarane, Texas centering on the High School graduating class of 1951-52. Filmed in glorious Black and White (at the suggestion of no less than Orson Welles), it chronicles the lives of various townsfolk and their interrelationships with each other.

Sonny Crawford (Timothy Bottoms) and Duane Jackson (Jeff Bridges) are best friends and members of the school football team that apparently didn't know how to tackle. Duane is dating hottie and town rich girl Jacy Farrow (Cybil Shepherd) the daughter of Lois (Ellen Burstyn) and Gene (Robert Glenn) Farrow, oil rich citizens. Sonny is in envy of his pal. Sam the Lion (Ben Johnson) owns the local picture show, pool room and diner. He looks after the simple minded Billy (Sam Bottoms).

One day, the football coach (Bill Thurmon) asks sonny to drive his wife Ruth (Cloris Leachman) to an appointment. Unexpectedly, Sonny falls into the arms of the bored housewife and an affair ensues. Jacy meanwhile, accepts an offer from the nerdy Lester Marlow (Randy Quaid) to attend a swimming party where everyone skinny dips. Duane is visibly upset.

Later, the 'boys" including Sonny and Duane decide it's time for young Billy to have his first "experience". They set him up with the local "pillow" which doesn't work out. When they take him back home, Sam is infuriated and bans the gang from his establishments. Duane, who hid in the back seat of the car is not among the blamed.

In a very poignant scene at the local swimming hole, Sam reflects to Sonny on his youth describing his affair 20 years ago with a fair lady who was married. We later learn that that lady was Lois Farrow who chose money over love instead of him. We also learn that Sam once owned the large tract of land around the pond but had lost it over the years.

Duane becoming bored with life goes off to work in the oil fields On returning one weekend, he and Sonny go off to Mexico for the weekend. On returning they learn that Sam had died the previous day leaving his pool room to Sonny and the café to waitress Genevieve (Eileen Brennan). Sonny takes on the task of looking out for Billy. Jacy meanwhile is seduced by local oil rigger Alelene (Clu Gulager) on a pool table. Ashamed , Jacy having lost her rich boyfriend begins to play up to Sonny. Sonny stops seeing Ruth and she becomes despondent.

Duane goes off to join the army. On his last night home, he and Sonny go to the last picture show before the little theater closes down for good. Then one day, young Billy is killed in a traffic accident. ("He was just sweeping") Sonny having lost Jacy to college goes back to reconcile with Ruth and.........................

Excellent performances from the largely unknown juvenile cast particularly Timothy Bottoms and Jeff Bridges. . Cybil Shepherd, who was having an affair with Peter Bogdonovich off screen, makes an impressionable debut. Ben Johnson and Cloris Leachman both won best supporting Oscars for their roles. There were several other nominations as well. Ellen Burstyn conveys a sense unhappiness and boredom with her life and Eilenn Brennan the hopeless future of a café waitress with mounting hospital bills for her husband. Watch for John Hillerman as the high school teacher and future producer Frank Marshall as Tommy Luggan the new quarterback for the new season.

Followed by an inferior sequel "Texasville" in 1990.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
A Coming Of Age Film Of Importance.
powermandan26 August 2019
Warning: Spoilers
There was a boom of up-and-coming directors in 1970s America which included Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and Woody Allen trying to make names for themselves. The first to make this impact was Robert Altman in 1970 with his ant-war film, 'M*A*S*H'. But the first masterpiece to be released in the decade was Peter Bogdanovich's second feature film, 'The Last Picture Show'--the film said to be the finest work by a young director since Orson Welles and 'Citizen Kane' thirty years prior.

'The Last Picture Show' is a multi-person character study about residents in a dying town from 1951 to 1952. Shot on location, Peter Bogdanovich chose to make the film in black and white (a move he was surprised the production company allowed him to do) because shooting it in colour made many shots look nice and beautiful. The town is decaying and has no reason to exist. A nice look would have taken away from the whole idea of this town being blank. (Despite the drab look, it also succeeds in making it look like a movie from the 1950s since it is in black and white.) Bogdanovich succeeds in making this Texas town seem as blah as can be.

The first two characters we are introduced to are Sonny (Timothy Bottoms) and Duane (Jeff Bridges)--the co-captains of the high school football team. Duane wants to marry Jacy (Cybill Shepherd) and Sonny's girlfriend dumps him. Sonny then starts to have an affair with the coach's beautiful wife (Cloris Leachman). Getting to know Jacy a bit more, she's a virgin that wants to get sex out of the way as fast as possible. There's even a scene where she accompanies a very young Randy Quaid to a nude pool party. Her mother is played by Ellen Burstyn, who has fallen out of love with her husband and is unfaithful to him. The last of the major character we get to know is the wise Sam "The Lion" (Ben Johnson). Sam owns most of the businesses in the town including the movie theatre (called "The Picture Show"). Upon his death, he leaves many things to each of the characters we get to know, including the pool hall to Sonny. Each of these characters are in search of bigger and better things in life. They just don't know what these things are or how to achieve them.

The two films that I would compare this to are Spike Lee's 'Do The Right Thing' and 'American Pie'. It is like 'American Pie' because of the abundance of sexual content that drives the characters. And it is like Spike Lee's breakout hit because of its ambiguity in its message. 'Do The Right Thing' is obviously about racism, but 'The Last Picture Show' gets people wondering even more. (Peter Bogdanovich agreed to direct this film because he had no idea how he would make it, which is an odd paradoxical approach.) We get that the film is trying to tell us something, but what? My guess is the pursuit of happiness. Each character strives for something greater in the residents of a dead-end town. Regardless of what the overall message is, each character is deeply and honestly fleshed out. Because of this, the movie is fascinating. Why not show simple honesty in people? Character-driven films are always great.

None of the characters are perfect. The town is dead. The message is muddled. But what Peter Bogdanovich captures is the essence of emerging adulthood in its finest form.

3.5/4
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
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.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
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.
2 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
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.
1 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
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.
1 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
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.
1 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
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.
1 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
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.
1 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
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 ****
1 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews


Recently Viewed