Tuesday, September 20, 2011
The Last Picture Show
Today I watched The Last Picture Show, directed by Peter Boganovich in 1971. It stars a young Jeff Bridges, which is pretty fun. It's a great movie, focused on kids growing up in a small town in Texas. I loved their relationships and interactions. It was hard to believe most of these actors were pretty much unknown when the film was cast, because they were so great in it! I actually got this movie as part of Criterion's BBS box set, and although I never heard of it until now, I'm so glad that I own a copy.
I just want to use a really short summary, so I don't put you off the movie by rambling about it too much. It's a really simple movie, but the characters are just stunning. The film focuses on Duane and Sonny, two high school boys who are best friends. They do what kids do in small towns - try to score with girls, go to the movie theater, that sort of thing. Duane is dating the most attractive girl in the school, Jacy, whose mother thinks that she can do better and find someone with more money. Sonny is single, and finds himself involved in an affair with an older woman - which sounds uncomfortable, but they seem to have real, genuine feelings for each other. They struggle as they try to figure out what to do with their lives, and various events affect their plans.
I read on Wikipedia that the director was mentored by Orson Welles, who encouraged him to pick out a largely unknown cast and to shoot in black and white - awesome choices. Ebert points out in his essay a scene that is very similar to one in Citizen Kane as well, and I agree that the scene seems to be inspired (whenever I talk about Orson Welles and hear the word "inspired" I hear him saying it drunkenly in that champagne commercial) by the film. It's not really like, hugely important, but I thought it was really interesting, and it seems that some of the things that Welles pushed for were what made the movie very cool. I liked the black and white cinematography a lot - it seemed to just capture the time period of the film and really create this very cool timeless sort of feeling.
I think that this movie was just so impressive because the characters are so carefully constructed. The actors were all cast wonderfully and really shine here. Even though the characters aren't really the best people, we care for them. We can relate to them, or at least I could, because they reminded me of how I felt at that age at times. Their situation, however, is much more hopeless. The town is terrible. It seems to just leech the life out of people, and offers no opportunity to anyone. It's hard to watch the kids struggle to find what they want to do, because I felt like they were so stuck. I really felt bad for them. It was a strange town - Ebert points out there was so much sex in the film, but really, none of it was erotic. Everything is like that in the town. Sex without eroticism, lives without meaning, that sort of feeling. Empty.
I just love this movie. It's funny at times (some of the townspeople got some laughs from me, as did the two boys struggling to not puke as they drove back from their off-screen trip to Mexico, but it just endeared me more to them), the acting was great (Bridges was just awesome in it!), and the plot is fantastic. I don't really know why I loved the plot so much. It just worked so well for me! I really think this is worth checking out, and I wish I could write more about it, but I'm already up like, 2 hours past when I wanted to be in bed. Let me know if you do see it, though!
Have any thoughts about The Last Picture Show? Share them in the comments!
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on The Last Picture Show
Buy it on Amazon
(just so you guys know, since I live in Illinois, these aren't Amazon Associate links, I just thought it might be helpful to keep including them anyway)