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The Last Picture Show

The Last Picture Show – 1971
Peter Bogdanovich

Larry McMurtry
Peter Bogdanovich

Timothy Bottoms
Jeff Bridges
Cybill Shepherd

Review by Wayne Malin

Fascinating but VERY depressing,

Film depicts life in the small Texas town of Anarene in the early 1950s. It follows three high school teenagers–Sonny Crawford (Timothy Bottoms), Duane Jackson (Jeff Bridges) and Jacy Farrow (Cybill Shepherd)–from their senior year to a few years after.

Some people said this is like a soap opera. That is true, but it’s a GOOD realistic soap opera. The script is just wonderful (Larry McMurty adapted from his book along with dir. Peter Bogdanovich) and the characters are like real people. It deals with all three of them coming of age, their first sexual encounters (all of which are played awkwardly–as they should) and dealing with a dying town. It’s (appropriately) filmed in beautiful black and white–the cinematography by Robert Surtees is exceptional–it brings the whole film to life. This would never have worked in color.

The acting varies. Bottoms, Bridges and Shepherd are just OK–but that’s understandable. It was one of Bridges’ first films, it was Bottoms’ second and Shepherds’ first! They were all still learning. Everyone else though is great. Ben Johnson as Sam the Lion is just wonderful and won a Best Supporting Actor for this. Cloris Leachman is heart-breaking in her role and won Best Supporting Actress. Ellen Burstyn has the best lines and is also very good (and was nominated for Best Supporting Actress also) as Cybill’s mother. And Timothy Bottoms’ brother (Sam Bottoms) has a small part as Billy. It works in the films favor–Sonny and Billy are supposed to be best friends and the affection the two brothers had for each other comes through on the screen.

I’m giving this a 10. It’s just great–I didn’t want it to end. But it is VERY depressing. You probably won’t notice until the film is over. A must-see.

Avoid the commercial TV print–it’s cut to ribbons.

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70s Films

A tour through the great and not so great films of the seventies The seventies saw a huge change in styles and genres from the advent of the slasher horror movies like Halloween and the blockbuster summers films started by Jaws. More...

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