Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"The Last Picture Show" (1971) - Movie Classics

Monotony comes in different platter, sizes and tastes. You can swivel it flavours but the steps can never be altered. Such is the southern town in Texas which waits for the kids to grow up to repeat their parents. It is a town where one man owns the major hangout, kids expected to win the sports and suck in their studies and the people proving the life as it is. Peter Bogdanovich directed this film, adapted from the novel of the same name by Larry McMurtry has every bit of life of the little town, its people and shows that this town is the social behaviour pattern resembling the trend of suburbia boredom.

The boys of this town Sonny (Timothy Bottoms), Duane (Jeff Bridges) will become the men we see Sam (Ben Johnson) and Abilene (Clu Gulager) because that is the social atmosphere they grow up seeing and the women would like to keep them that way. It is an addiction to this feeling to be wanted and then once the goal is attained, it is back to square one. Most of the women in “The Last Picture Show” have a destiny to be unhappy.

It is not that nothing happens in this town, it only appears so to a passerby. The dusty windy downtown if you may call it has the hot spots Sam owns. A pool house, a cafe and a picture hall. Drink, eat and see. Having that covered, rest is all under the carpet. Most of the story, we see through the young boy in his final year of high school, Sonny. He is the likable kid inches away to embrace the institutionalized future he has for him. But he is not alone in this and his buddy Duane tags on to that.

There are seven to nine characters we get exposed to in detail. Each has their agenda and they form this cocoon of circle of life, this family hut where no one talks about nothing to outsider but everybody knows it even before it happens. Every one has the same opinion about the previous night’s game. We see people ridiculing and seriously advising on how much of a lack of tackling the football team of Sonny and Duane had.

In this little land happens people. The high school sex goddess Jacy (Cybill Shepherd) hangs out with Duane. A rough hard boy dedicating the precious beauty he had been offered by the town of not much options. She is at the stage of the early youth where she realizes her beauty if worth more than Duane. She is made to think so by her mother Lois (Ellen Burstyn). Lois is not the traditional witch mother but knows the hormonal reaction in her daughter and the big jaw of the homemaker encounter Jacy will be having in the oncoming future. Lois is dauntless in expressing her lifestyle. She openly kisses and dances with her husband’s employee Abilene she is sleeping with. Abilene behaves as he is to be with her as if it is a natural selection for him.

Sonny and Duane make some insignificant attempts to get off the town. That will be going to Mexico to party. When nothing is supposed to happen in this town, that time a tragic happens. Not that it will change the mood of this place. Sonny is asked to be the driver by the Coach for his wife Ruth (Cloris Leachman). When she neatly dresses and waits for her husband to come along, there comes Sonny and she laments this loneliness and how much of disappointment her husband has become. It becomes almost a sign for her to sleep with Sonny. Peter Bogdanovich makes this the reasonable love story in this picture. While both are attracted by the sexual voidness, soon they become fond of each other, genuinely. And when Sonny becomes the kid and well, the man the town nurtures him to be, he ignores and avoids Ruth.

Cybill Shepherd as the girl almost rolling on the floor to get attention is deadly in using her sexuality. She does not make it appear as a plan in attracting and humiliating men but makes it as a nature to be like that. She toys with Duane and Duane follows the line she draws on. She skips Duane for a skinny dip party and then falls for another man in the crowd. She makes it a mission to lose her virginity as the man expects him to be. One after another she goes for the men in the town.

Watching this film made in 1971 detailing the story happening in 1950s gives a picture of immense interest in comparison of the current trend in the suburbs. Much has changed but the social behaviour to go about the sameness in different forms remains untouched in its origin. Sam the generous resident is filled with regrets and memories. He reminisces the days of youth he left behind. He cherishes those by seeing it in among the boys Billy (Sam Bottoms), Sonny and Duane. There is Genevieve (Eileen Brennan) who can see right through the people especially Jacy and knows warning about them to others is a vain. Her years in the cafe has taught that because she seems to have not listened those from other people too. These are real people living, breathing and telling a lot about themselves.

Jeff Bridges as Duane is the only person out there to do something outrageous, like go to next city. But beyond that he is been caught up by the first love he had. He tries hard only to be beaten by the stain of the native he lived. People are nice, friendly and cozy but beyond the closed doors are the lonely crying and unheard whimpering. “The Last Picture Show” is filled with soul and honesty in its tale and moves us immensely in the characters. We love them, hate them, sympathize them and empathize them in their cornered place for existence.


Stace said...

Good Review.

Ashok said...

Thanks Stace !