The Last Picture Show (1971)

(On Cable TV, December 2017) As I’m dutifully checking off my list of acknowledged film classics, I usually side with the critics in appreciating what generations of reviewers have seen in them. But there are exceptions, and Peter Bogdanovich’s Oscar-nominated The Last Picture Show is one of them. It’s not as if the film is objectively bad—it’s that it manages to be boring despite deaths, drama and sex scenes. It’s that it may be too successful in portraying the dead-end monotony of a dying town and what people do to escape it. The black-and-white cinematography makes it look even more lifeless, and the two-hours running time feels even longer. From a technical perspective, I found much of the film jarring—the cuts between angles are awkward and the editing is just as lifeless as the rest of the film. An impressive number of actors such as Cybil Sheperd, Jeff Bridges, Randy Quaid, Ellen Burstyn and Cloris Leachman all show up in significant roles, but it’s Eileen Brennan who steals scenes as a very tired waitress. I still haven’t decided where the film is a success or not, given how I suspect that the whole point of it is to be as dull as possible in order to put ourselves in the character’s lives. I’m just glad that I made it out of there, and can now check off The Last Picture Show from my list of films to see so that I never have to see it again.

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