Tuesday, 1 June 2010
The Last Picture Show (1971)
Why don't you love me like you used to do?
This song, which plays over the credits of Peter Bogdanovich's The Last Picture Show, has so many inferences throughout this film. Relationships, friends, family, even the town itself gets cast aside eventually and the result is a sad, barren dust pile somewhere in Texas that is slowly dying.
This film, shot in black & white for an added feeling of melancholy, reminds me of Jim Jarmusch in its simplistic style, but at the same time looks fitting of the period. Despite being made in 1971, Bogdanovich and designer Polly Platt have created a world so starkly and believably realised that it's hard to tell it was filmed 20 years later. It focuses primarily on the relationship between Sonny (Timothy Bottoms) and Duane (Jeff Bridges), two high-school best friends at that awkward age when all there is to do in small town Americana is hang about the pool hall and try and have sex.
The odd juxtaposition of the 'Wild West' setting and the boring, unfulfilling lives the inhabitants lead make for an unusual setting for such an in-depth character study, but I think the contrast works well. By keeping the film's focus so inward facing, it allows us to get to know the characters more thoroughly. This, I think, give the final act a more affecting impact and the 'climax' is genuinely touching because of it.
It's a low-key, slow burning film which does tend to feel a little directionless at times, but I think this is the whole point. Like the wind rolling in at the start of the film, things just take their time rolling by, both on screen and in small-town life in general.