Saturday, June 9, 2012
Movie Review: The Last Picture Show (1971)
The lives and loves of the residents of a small Texas town in the early 1950s, The Last Picture Show is monumentally winsome. Peter Bogdanovich creates a memorable set of complex characters who take a life of their own, and live on in movie folklore despite the irreversible fading away of their town.
Sonny does not much care for his girlfriend, and is soon having an affair with the much older Ruth Popper (Cloris Leachman), with the semi-tacit approval of her husband, the High School athletics coach. Duane very much likes his girlfriend, town beauty Jacy Farrow (Cybil Shepherd). But Jacy's mother Lois (Ellen Burstyn) thinks that Duane is not worthy of her daughter. Lois herself is not satisfied with her husband and seeks the affection of oilman Abilene (Clu Gulager).
Bogdanovich co-wrote the screenplay with Marty McMurtry, the author of the semi-autobiographical book, and filmed The Last Picture Show in brilliant black and white. The stark contrasts enhance the film's overall mood of an era of innocence ending, and a town crawling to a dusty death. Bogdanovich cajoles mature performances from a relatively inexperienced cast, Bottoms, Bridges and Shepherd creating characters desperately seeking better futures while struggling through a mundane present.
Cybill Shepherd effortlessly provides Jacy with a dangerous innocence that becomes increasingly formidable the more she listens to her mother. Openly using sex as a siren to lure men, Jacy's means of escaping the drudgery of life in Anarene is to test drive lovers, with her mother's encouragement, until she finds the one who offers the best chance of easier riches. Jacy and Lois are a daunting mother / daughter couple and make for compelling viewing while representing a harsh indictment of some women's mores in small town Texas.
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