The Last Picture Show ★★★★½

I'm going to save some time and space here and just say that The Last Picture Show might be the greatest coming-of-age movie I've ever seen. I cannot come up with a single aspect about it I could find fault in, and the amount of content it packs into its two hour run-time is incredible. Heartbreaking, hilarious, moody, moving, Bogdanovich and McMurtry capture that small town feel, and (like Stand By Me or even A Christmas Story) manage to authentically and honestly date the film in a way that nostalgia for a time and place I've never experienced was overwhelming. There's a good deal of humor to go along with the almost physical growing pains Timothy Bottoms goes through. While it's not filmed as crisply or is as focused as Paper Moon, it makes up for it in the volume of vignettes, none less than the rest. Of particular praise is the way he weaves television, film, and music into the picture, along with peripheral characters that bubble with lives unseen to create a texture for the town and time to boost Sonny's story above the rest.

I suppose if I absolutely had to choose one thing that Bogdanovich could have improved, it would be an little too much screen time devoted to Cybill Shepherd's Jacy. But then again, keeping our eyes on the lovely and nubile Ms. Shepherd is really a blessing in disguise, innit?

And Sam the Lion. What a silly name. However, after spending those two hours with Sonny and Duane and Ruth and Jacy and Billy, Sam the Lion started turning into a mythological character for me, as well. The heart of the town, and the protector of these folks' souls. Little do we actually know about him, only that he is good, and just, and gone too soon. Never simply Sam, always Sam the Lion.

In the end, 12 hours later, I can't decide whether I prefer this to Paper Moon or not. Both are exceptional films with a distinct style and feel to them. Both are full of wonderful performances and incredible soundtracks. I think I'd have to say The Last Picture Show feels like a fuller experience. The atmosphere of Anarene, and the lives of its citizens were there long before Bogdanovich and his cameras showed up. It might lack the quality of performances by the O'Neals, but not by much, and makes up for it in volume. It's one of those films where I struggle to start writing about, and here I am, unable to stop. Like I felt while watching it, I'm guess I'm just not ready to leave North Texas quite yet.

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