Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Last Picture Show (1971)

*****
USA

Peter Bogdanovich’s adaptation of a Larry McMurtry novel set in the lonely, barren town of Anarene, Texas, 1951, centred around the local bored teenagers and their yearning for a sense of fulfillment (mostly sex) as they cross the threshold into a bored adulthood and its yearning for the past. The film is shot in a soft, melancholy monochrome, its soundtrack is speckled with crackle and subtle echo effects, and further strewn with a plethora of early 50’s radio hits (many of them by Hank Williams and all of them gems). Like several of the key figures in it, it’s suffused in nostalgia – not cheap, wholesome nostalgia, but the pained, paralysing kind that builds with years of disappointment and torpid regret. It’s an elegant, elegiac, intensely moving portrait of a steadily decaying mid-West. And with its relaxed depiction of budding sexuality and frustration, in some sense it plays like the de-chastened underside of the sunny rites-of-passage movies of the 50s – but done with subtlety and sensitivity, and no unnecessary fanfare.

dir: Peter Bogdanovich
wr: Peter Bogdanovich, Larry McMurtry
ph: Robert L. Surtees
ed: Donn Cambern
pd: Polly Platt
cast: Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd, Ben Johnson, Cloris Leachman, Ellen Burstyn, Eileen Brennan, Sam Bottoms, Randy Quaid

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