Review: THE LAST PICTURE SHOW - Peter Bogdanovich's Coming of Age Classic

rating: 5

In the wake of Richard Ayoade's excellent teen drama, Submarine, it seems fitting to revisit one of the greatest coming-of-age films of all time with a new digital restoration of Peter Bogdanovich's 1971 classic The Last Picture Show that screens at the BFI on re-release from today, before moving across arthouse cinema's across the country. Bogdanovich along with the likes of Martin Scorcese, Francis Ford Coppola, Brian de Palma and William Friedkin made up the new wave of counterculture Hollywood film makers in the early 1970s, although unlike his illustrious company, Bogdanovich's career dwindled to almost nothing as a filmmaker with one critical and commercial failure after another, before eventually becoming a biographer on other great's careers (such as Orson Welles). Yet his one masterpiece alongside their many, will forever keep it's place in cinematic history. The year is 1951 in a tiny backwater Texas town. Best friends Sonny (Timothy Bottoms) and Duane (a staggeringly young Jeff Bridges) are co-captains of the useless high school football team. Duane's girlfriend is the beautiful Jacy (Cybil Shepherd) while Sonny sadly watches the two kiss in the picture house. Sam the Lion (Ben Johnson) who runs the local cafe, pool hall and picture house is the boy's guardian and mentor in all things from rolling cigarettes to young love. Ruth (Cloris Leachman) is the depressed house wife of the boy's basketball coach who takes Sonny under her wing. Anarene is a dying place with nothing to do but pass the time playing pool or engaging in impassionate and distant sexual relationships. There is little hope that these deviances will result in anything greater than fleeting pleasure, if even that €“ Sonny and his girlfriend share an indifferent relationship based more on convention than any pretensions of love, while elsewhere marriages unobtrusively fall apart amidst futile transgressions. Robert Surtees' wonderful black and white photography captures a battered town set in a vast desolated landscape while enforcing a sense of isolation and claustrophobia €“ as it is pointed out €œA person can't sneeze in this town without somebody offering them a handkerchief€. Even when Duane and Sonny take off for a few days in Mexico we are never allowed to leave Anarene with them. Escape for them always seems impossible and might only be achieved with a rifle and a uniform. A large cast of then unknowns mixed with a few veteran faces is universally superb; Jeff Bridges garnered his first Oscar nod for his performance as the naive but charismatic Duane while Cybil Shepherd's manipulative, cold and frustrated Jacy is a character who against are better judgement we can't help but fall in love. But it is Ben Johnson's granite like, cowboy philosopher Sam the Lion that is something truly special. Never has an Academy Award been more deserved than for the veteran western star who reluctantly took the role saying he'd sooner ride his horse €œa thousand miles than say any of these Goddamn words€. The Last Picture Show still manages to feel as exciting and original as it must have done back in 1971. It is pure cinema; capturing a mood and a place which seems so fresh yet so perfectly frozen in time, Anarene is barren and alien yet it feels so close to home. Bogdanovich may have made only one great film but it is one that any of his contemporaries would be more than proud of. The Last Picture Show is on limited re-release in the U.K.
Want to write about jeff bridges, The Last Picture Show, Cybil Shepherd and Reviews? Get started below...

Create Content and Get Paid


Contributor

Matt Conn hasn't written a bio just yet, but if they had... it would appear here.