Picture This: The Times of Peter Bogdanovich in Archer City, Texas ★★½

This is pretty weak compared to Hearts of Darkness, the same director's extraordinary documentary about Apocalypse Now that -- for me, at least -- outruns its subject as a film. And it's not because the production of The Last Picture Show is any less ripe for incisive investigation, with a filmmaker who's gone mad in a very different manner, allowing his personal life to be subsumed and destroyed by the movie he's making. (For those unaware, Peter Bogdanovich left production designer Polly Platt -- to whom he'd been married for nine years -- in the middle of production for his lead actress, Cybill Shepard; incredibly, both continued working on the film and Bogdanovich and Platt's working relationship did not cease afterward.) Meanwhile, there's perhaps an even more fruitful parallel: Bogdanovich shot in the hometown of author Larry McMurtry, who clearly based the major characters in his novel on real people he knew then, several of whom Hickenlooper interviews and most of whom are forthcoming with their resentments about both novel and film. (One reason The Last Picture Show and Fast Times at Ridgemont High make other films about teenagers seem so laughably phony, especially those like American Graffiti that are suffused with insincere, pandering nostalgia is that these were real people.) But the result is shoddy, rushed (at just fifty minutes, for some odd reason) and disorganized, with mere quick excerpts from what appear to be fascinating interviews, especially those with Ellen Burstyn and Cloris Leachman, whose Oscar win is never even mentioned while Ben Johnson's gets an entire segment, but also those with McMurtry's mother and with various locals from Archer City. The film ends abruptly, only hinting at the insights it could have presented... and it doesn't seem to be because those involved are unwilling to discuss a tumultuous time, with Bogdanovich, Shepard, Platt and Timothy Bottoms -- in the middle of production on a sequel, Texasville -- all surprisingly frank. Fascinating for fans of The Last Picture Show since it includes input from nearly all of the main cast apart from Eileen Brennan but not nearly what I always hoped it would be.

Report this review