Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Capital Celluloid - Day 104: Friday Apr 15, 2011

The Last Picture Show (Bogdanovich, 1971): BFI Southbank, NFT1 6pm & 8.30pm

It was the music that got me the first time I saw this film, back in the days when BBC2 were showing films worth watching on a Sunday evening. The soundtrack to this achingly sad drama set in 1950s American small-town wasteland, coming out of cars and home radios, is the country music that was prevalent pre-rock and roll in the States.

The music elicits the mood of stultifying lives the characters lead; the only escape is the army, an affair or the picturehouse. The last film screened at the cinema, symbol of a dying town and of an era, is Howard Hawks' Red River. Impossible, naturally, but a romantic gesture from cinephile director Peter Bogdanovich and one of the many memorable scenes in this key 1970s movie.

The acting from Timothy Bottoms, Ben Johnson as Sam the Lion, Cybill Shepherd and Jeff Bridges, here in his first Hollywood role, is uniformly excellent in a film made with real passion and commitment.

Geoffrey Macnab writes here in the Independent about the film's lasting impact. And here is Sam the Lion's famous monologue.

A brilliant re-release which is on an extended run at BFI Southbank. Now can we have Bogdanovich's What's Up Doc please.

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