The Last Picture Show (1971)

Emotionally compelling and gorgeous to look at, Peter Bognadovich’s exploration of a steadily dying Texas town and its long-time residents is a movie-lover’s delight: Terrific performances by all involved, a rich and layered screenplay, an active and focused camera that feels like a character in of itself, and a healthy dose of symbolism to spell out the movie’s themes without pandering or being exposition-heavy. Particular note goes to the women in the movie, including Ellen Burstyn, Cloris Leachman and Eileen Brennan for bringing stinging humanity and barely concealed resentment to their characters while the men are carefree and selfishly self-centered. It’s worthy of several rewatches to make sure one has caught all that’s going on, but it’s no chore to sit through a movie this good again and again. Watch for an unusually callous performance by Clu Gulager that manages to castigate the imbalances between men and women’s opportunities in the 1950s in just a few brief scenes.

Rating: ★★★★★ (out of 5)

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