The Last Picture Show (1971)

“The Last Picture Show” (1971)


the theorist, the lover, the filmmaker

In some fundamental respects, the 60′ in cinema were french. It doesn’t matter that now, four decades later, we can see so many things out of place, such grand ambitions materialized in such small practical achievements. What matters is that the generation of theorists turned filmmakers made its point get through. And the world followed them. Hollywood spent the decade recycling their own worn out models, and by 1970 they were in dire straits. The new generation embraced the french.

Bogdanovich is also primarily a theorist. He thought cinema from the point of view of an outsider, not a practical guy, before he got in. So naturally, among the generation of young American filmmakers, he’d be one of those more eager to transplant the “french method” more unchanged. Their kind of deliberately empty writing, characters as part of a certain style, images as supporters of a certain quite yet desperate mood, and only very indirectly of an actual story.

Map that into a certain idea of the end of a certain kind of rural, puritan way of life that America was going through at this time. This is something one can feel today, but probably will only connect with the people who know the context.

Add to it the sexual passion that Bogdanovich shows for his than lover, Cybil Sheperd. He undresses her on-screen, he puts male characters fighting for her. But behind that we know he’s the one caressing her. Their relation in real life affects deeply how the film and her character are presented to us.

The trouble here is that Bogdanovich is someone who knows a lot about what he’s making, but seems incapable of mastering it properly. He really engaged this crew, the acting is profoundly committed as it is rare to see. But the end result leads no where. I don’t mean this in the traditional sense of a story not having a classic conclusion or a clear climax. I mean that the film is supposed to be “like” some films, instead of having an autonomous life, even if linked to a number of predecessors. It was no easy matter to be successful in a film like this, and i feel Bogdanovich was really close to succeeding. But he doesn’t. At least not in the long run, not 40 years after the film was made.

My opinion: 3/5

This comment on IMDb


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