The Last Picture Show (Peter Bogdanovich – 1971) A

There are towns like that, like the West Texas town in Bogdanovich’s film. I might think what the hell is everyone living there, but I’m betting for those who lived there at least some of them liked it or even loved it. It’s 1951, shortly after the war with another war going on in Korea. It’s nothing but one dirt street, a diner/pool hall, movie theater and gas station. There is nothing to do but football, watching movies at the picture show and make out. What there is in this film is a slew of characters that we get to spend some time with over a year period. We learn a lot about how shitty the high school football team is, we have a classic love triangle, bored housewives and lots of adultery. Even though most of the characters here are senior high schoolers (early roles for Jeff Bridges and a first role I think for Cybill Shepherd) the heart and soul of the film is in the character of Sam the Lion played by the late Ben Johnson. He owns the pool hall, the movie theater and cafe and he is almost the father figure for the town and especially for Sonny (Timothy Bottoms). The Last Picture Show is a classic and I can see why. It’s a well-made ode to bygone eras be them tiny towns, big cities or whole generations.

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