The Last Picture Show ★★★★

Peter Bogdanovich's 'The Last Picture Show' serves as a time capsule for the '50s in a way that none of the censor-influenced films of the decade truly could. 'TLPS' is sexual and emotionally raw and a far cry from the eternal optimism of Hollywood. Instead we witness the death of a small Texas town that never really appeared to be living in any real sense anyway.

A young cast perfectly display the frustration of growing up in a town which culture has bypassed almost entirely - the closing of the town's cinema marking the end of its connection with the rest of the world. Without any real entertainment, sex is used as a game, which inevitably fractures relationships between friends and family alike. For much of its runtime the film meanders somewhat, but its final act is emotionally potent in an unexpected way, bringing universal sympathy for a group of teenagers without real support as well as the elders of the town who seem to have wondered down a cul-de-sac in life from which they can't escape.

Bogdanovich's decision to use monochrome film may have been more financially motivated than artistically but it works brilliantly, removing any possible vibrancy from the landscape, leaving only a depressingly empty townscape. That's not to say that this is an ugly film however; Robert Surtees at the very least deserved his Oscar nomination for cinematography. His assured work was surely an immense help to the relatively inexperienced director, contributing to perhaps his finest work. 'The Last Picture Show' has been described as a character study of small-town Texas and there's no better description than that. Although characters change over the course of the documented year, none do so as much as the town which they inhabit, which appears communal and friendly at first, the cracks only starting to appear upon closer inspection. 'TLPS' may not be glamourous or seductive (despite its sexuality) but its sympathetic characters are compelling in their own right, making this an important and still-relevant film.