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In the town of Anarene, Texas, 1951, naïve young teen Sonny (Timothy Bottoms) begins an affair with Ruth Popper (Cloris Leachman), the neglected wife of the local football coach. Meanwhile, his more confident buddy Duane (Jeff Bridges) is making a play for the spoiled but beautiful and virginal Jacy (Cybill Shepherd), but her mother Lois (Ellen Burstyn), who had a past fling with pool hall operator Sam The Lion (Ben Johnson), knows that Duane is not Jacy's ticket out of town. Much like its inhabitants, Anarene is a dustbowl of not much hope and not much future ... the dying theatre Royal in the dead heart of town is proof enough of that. But things do change ... when there is yearning, tragedy and war.

Review by Keith Lofthouse:
Ahhh...if only all film critics could make pictures like The Last Picture Show and then you'd know that we know what we're on about. Former critic Peter Bogdanovich admired the films of John Ford and befriended Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock; wrote books about them. He thought he knew what made a "great" director and so turned his back on journalism in 1968 to fumble around with a bit of nonsense called Voyage To The Planet Of Prehistoric Women, but then did much better with Targets the same year.

In another era, The Last Picture Show might have been known as The Virgin (debutante Cybill Shepherd), The Young Hunks (Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges), The Old Cowboy (Ben Johnson), The Lonely Wife (Cloris Leachman) and The Retard (Sam Bottoms) - all ordinary people desperate to squirm free of their desolation and boredom; all enduring the death rattles of a crumbling Texan town in the early 50s. Originally, James Stewart, Dorothy McGuire and Vera Miles were mentioned for parts, but for authenticity Bogdanovich insisted on unfamiliar faces and secured the kind of ensemble that you pray might meld one day.

The eventual rollcall included future Oscar winner Ellen Burstyn (as Shepherd's mum) and future nominee Eileen Brennan; Leachman and Johnson won Oscars; Bridges, Burstyn and Bogdanovich were nominated, as was Robert Surtees for his stunning black and white photography. Stripped to the bare bones of plot and circumstance, the synopsis might seem like a TV Soap opera on the scale of Dallas, except for the pall of melancholy that hangs like the suffocating dust in the air.

The film is meticulously played and so pure in its period detail that it defies any inkling of false notes. The focus is on Sonny (the elder Bottoms), a sensitive boy who grows as an individual through the influence of seasoned pool hall operator, Sam the Lion (Johnson) and Billy (Sam Bottoms), the slow-witted boy in Sam's care. In his finest two hours, Bogdanovich was inspired by The Magnificent Ambersons, the Orson Welles classic about the end of a way of life caused by the coming of the motor car. And he likened it to McMurtry's elegiac novel; the end of another chapter in life, the final curtain of the town's picture theatre, due to the arrival of television.

Filmed on location in Archer City (McMurtry's home town) and made at a time when the trend was to send audiences cross-eyed with split screens, flashy wipes, swipes and crazy cutting, Picture Show emerged like salvation itself from the swirling dust and the scuttling tumbleweed. This is an ageless film about innocence lost and maturity found...as innocent as an absence of CGI. With songs of love, hope and pain from Tony Bennett, Frankie Laine, Johnny Ray and Jo Stafford it wears a kind of grim nostalgia on its sleeves, which you'll use in the end to wipe away tears.

Published February 16, 2006

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(US, 1971)

CAST: Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd, Ben Johnson, Cloris Leachman, Ellen Burstyn

DIRECTOR: Peter Bogdanovich

SCRIPT: Peter Bogdanovich, Larry McMurtry (based on his novel)

RUNNING TIME: 121 minutes

PRESENTATION: Widescreen 1.85:1 enhanced for 16.9 TVs. Languages: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian. Subtitles: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Greek, Arabic, Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Swedish, Turkish

SPECIAL FEATURES: "A Look Back" - a retrospective Making Of documentary with cast & crew interviews. Theatrical re-release featurette

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: February 6, 2006

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