film critic turned director Peter Bagdanovich's adaptation of Larry
McMurty's novel The Last Picture Show is a startling examination
of a semi-fictional dusty old Texas town and its everyday inhabitants,
who make up its seedy sex fuelled underbelly whilst hiding behind
the conservative smoke screen which was the 1950's.
The cast is made up of veteran talent mixed with fresh faces. There
is Timothy Bottoms, who plays the films main protagonist Sunny,
a brooding teen who embarks on an affair with his high school gym
teacher's wife, a fragile waif played magnificently by Cloris Leachman.
Sunny's best friend is Duane (a young and vibrant Jeff Bridges)
who is finding it hard to meet the sexual and social demands of
his spoilt rich kid girlfriend Jacy (Cybil Shepherd in her film
Additional support is provided by Ben Johnson, who is a revelation
as the town's wise old sage Sam the Lion, and a pre-Exorcist Ellen
Burstyn turns heads as Lois, a boozed and bored older seductress
and mother of Jacy.
The town's lone sanctuary is its movie theatre, which must close
down due to insufficient funding.
The Last Picture Show is a prime example of dullness at its
most electric. Shot in black and white (at the behest of Orson Welles),
Bagdanovich - along with cinematographer Bruce Surtees - frames
the broad picturesque imagery of small town Texas with a deft touch.
Also, silence is a virtue in this film, with Bagdanovich omitting
a film score in favour of the sounds of the town's jukebox and various
Put together, the Last Picture Show comes across as a sad, mournful,
and always thoughtful character study of small town U.S.A.
Its material - especially in regards to its strong sexuality - is
handled with the upmost maturity, and its acting is raw, powerful,
and uncompromising, thanks to Bagdanovich's meticulous direction.