A few days ago I reviewed Bogdanovich’s Targets, my effusiveness knowing no bounds. You might very well ask why I neglected The Last Picture Show in that review, as it’s clearly the Masterpiece, the work by which all subsequent offerings from Mr. B have suffered.
The answer is: because everyone already knows this.
I loved The Last Picture Show. I loved Sam, and the subtle ways in which the characters revealed themselves over the course of the film, and the cinematography, the lighting, the script, the acting can’t be faulted. Which doesn’t make for a very fun review, does it? The Last Picture Show is so good at what it does, so thorough at what it says, that there doesn’t seem to be anything left to say. I could point out that Texas is really boring, or that the sex isn’t very good but they ain’t got nothin’ else to do, or that Jacy’s going to end up just like her mama, but it’s already been said.
But for those of you who haven’t seen it: Bogdanovich and Larry McMurtry, with the help of Cybill Shepherd, Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges, Cloris Leachman, Ellen Burstyn and Ben Johnson created a searingly dusty portrait of small-town life in the 1950’s. The kind of place where everyone knows what’s going on but no one talks about it, and where escape is illusory because it’s only possible in adultery, the movies, or the military. It’s a perfectly recreated little world, and displays the talents of all involved to their best advantage. It’s also a monument to failure, in that many of the people involved—and the director most of all—never achieved this kind of grace again.