Some of my work on Updike was discussed on The Dish with Andrew Sullivan.
Some of my work on Ross Macdonald was discussed on Pretty Sinister Books.
Here is my interview with superstar music impresario Wendy Starland.
Here is my interview with Pulitzer Prize nominee Olympia Vernon.
Here is my interview with the editor of Best American Short Stories, Heidi Pitlor.
Here is my interview with acclaimed artist Emil Kazaz.
My musing on John D. Macdonald, Travis McGee, and the chicks was picked up on The Rap Sheet.

THE LAST PICTURE SHOW Peter Bogdanovich






The Last Picture Show

This film has always been very highly regarded - nothing else Bogdanovich has done in a very long career has come anywhere close to garnering this level of acclaim. Why?

1. The main theme of the film is a meditation on what seems to be an almost universal feeling - nostalgia for times gone by, for a disappearing world and way of life (symbolized by the closing of the movie house). At the risk of seeming to come out of left field, let me provide quotes from three sources - quotes that reconcileexactly with the message of this picture.

This is from the dust jacket of a collection of photographs by the great novelist Wright Morris:

The author tacitly admits that this volume is an effort to hold fast to what he knows is passing, to salvage, in words and pictures, the nature of an experience already historic. Is there something of value in this effort for those who now attempt to shape the future? GOD'S COUNTRY AND MY PEOPLE is one man's travels in a vanishing America, among those objects and places that still have a mystic meaning to give out.

In Jerome Loving's biography of Theodore Dreiser we come across an anecdote about Dreiser, at age 44, returning home to the Indiana of his boyhood:

In Bloomington, he discovered his old college so grown, not only in size, but in "architectural pretentiousness as to have obliterated most of the rural inadequacy and backwoods charm" he had once enjoyed. He could find only a few buildings he remembered, and he wondered to himself where all the young women he had know (or had wished to know) and the professors who had taught him had gone. "What is life," he asked himself, "that it can thus obliterate itself?...If a whole realm of interests and emotions can thus definitively pass, what is anything?"

The following is the first paragraph of George Jessel's foreword to a book entitled A Pictorial History of Vaudeville by Bernard Sobel:

People like myself - and there aren't many left - who have been before the public for a half-century, are all inclined to favor the yesterdays, and unless they are doing exceedingly well, they live in a capsule of the past, seeing beauty only in that which cannot return, believing to the full that everything old is sacred.

2. Consider this passage from Harold Hayes' introduction to Bogdanovich's book Pieces of Time:

Possessing this value he has learned to work with it, and it is his mastery of sentiment - hovering dangerously on the edge of sentimentality but never quite going over - that so brilliantly in these hard assed seventies informs his work.

Really? I guess the truth or falsity of this assessment is somewhat subjective but I'm skeptical.

3. There are numerous great individual shots and scenes, particularly close ups. The camera certainly loves Cybill Shepherd in this film, though not in a stupid or unskillful way.

Cloris Leachman owns the screen in a way we will see few actresses ever do; Bogdanovich plays to Hollywood convention in setting up the death of Billy a little too obviously yet it still pulls at our heart strings; there are about seven or eight very, very strong individual scenes.

About The Film: I haven't read McMurtry's novel, although I did read Texasville and found it to be excellent. Clearly for comparison purposes on the theme enunciated in paragraph 1 above we should be checking out films like Save The Tiger and Wild Strawberries. Bogdanovich has a huge body of work and, also, several excellent books on cinema.

No comments:

Post a Comment