Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges, and Cybill Shepherd prepare for adulthood in THE LAST PICTURE SHOW
THE LAST PICTURE SHOW (Peter Bogdanovich, 1971)
Museum of the Moving Image
35th Ave. at 36th St., Astoria
Saturday, December 26, and Sunday, December 27, $12, 7:00
Series runs through December 27
Peter Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show is a tender-hearted, poignant portrait of sexual awakening and coming-of-age in a sleepy Texas town. Adapted from the Larry McMurtry novel by the author and the director, the film is set in the early 1950s, focusing on Sonny Crawford (Timothy Bottoms), a teenager who works at the local pool hall with Billy (Timothy’s brother Sam), a simple-minded boy who needs special caring. Sonny’s best friend, Duane Jackson (Oscar-nominated Jeff Bridges), is dating the prettiest girl in school, Jacy Farrow (Cybill Shepherd, in her film debut), who is getting ready to test out the sexual waters, sneaking away on a date with Lester Marlow (Randy Quaid), who takes her to a naked-swimming party in a wealthier suburb of Wichita Falls. Meanwhile, Sonny breaks up with his girlfriend, Charlene Druggs (Sharon Taggart), and becomes drawn to the sad, unhappy Ruth Popper (an Oscar-winning Cloris Leachman), the wife of his football coach (Bill Thurman). The outstanding all-star cast also features Oscar-nominated Ellen Burstyn as Lois, Jacy’s mother; Eileen Brennan as a waitress in the local diner who makes cheeseburgers for Sonny; Clu Gulager as a working man who has a thing for Lois; Frank Marshall, who went on to become a big-time producer, as high school student Tommy Logan; and Oscar winner Ben Johnson as Sam the Lion, the moral center of the town and owner of the pool hall, diner, and movie theater, which shows such films as Father of the Bride and Red River. Cinematographer Robert Surtees shoots The Last Picture Show in a sentimental black-and-white that gives the film an old-fashioned feel, as if it’s a part of Americana that is fading away. Bogdanovich also chose to have no original score, instead populating the tale with country songs by Hank Williams, Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, Lefty Frizzell, Tony Bennett, and others singing tales of woe.
In many ways the film is the flip side of George Lucas’s 1973 hit American Graffiti, which is set ten years later but looks like it’s from another century; it also has a lot in common with François Truffaut’s 1962 classic Jules and Jim. Nominated for eight Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director, The Last Picture Show is an unforgettable slice-of-life drama that will break your heart over and over again. It is screening December 26 & 27 at 7:00 in the Museum of the Moving Image series “The Hollywood Classics Behind Walkers,” which is being held in conjunction with the exhibition “Walkers: Hollywood Afterlives in Art and Artifact,” consisting of Hollywood-related photography, drawing, sculpture, print, and video by such artists as Francis Alÿs, Richard Avedon, Jim Campbell, Gregory Crewdson, Douglas Gordon, Isaac Julien, Ellen Mark, Tom Sachs, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and many others. Also screening December 26 & 27 is Sam Peckinpah’s classic Western, The Wild Bunch.