Jeff Bridges and Cybil Shepard in The Last Picture Show. Image courtesy of Sony Pictures.
The Last Picture Show (1971)
Three high-schoolers come of age in a dusty West Texas town in 1951.
Peter Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show is utterly spectacular. It isn’t just a movie about three very different teenagers learning how to navigate the transition from child to adult; it’s also about how culture shapes who we are. It’s also, partly, about the changes to the film industry itself. Bogdanovich is a director whose cultivated a love of classic cinema that’s evident in works like Paper Moon (1973) and What’s Up, Doc? (1972), which is also playing at this year’s festival. In The Last Picture Show, not only is the movie theater literally closing up shop, it puts the final nail in the coffin of the Golden Age of Hollywood, when the studio system was in vogue.
Wipe away the film history and The Last Picture Show is a blistering exposé of being a teenager, questioning what you know and what you should know. The film’s examinations of sexuality, responsibility, and personal identity are expertly written, and they should be, since Larry McMurtry is the screenwriter. The Last Picture Show is one of those films you’ll be analyzing long after it’s over, and you’ll be eager to consume other films from Bogdanovich. (Though I’d say you should steer clear of some of his latest endeavors.)
Next: Love Crazy