Wednesday, August 07, 2002

Life in bleak Anarene: Citizen Kane revisited

The movie for the evening yesterday was Peter Bogdanovich's critically acclaimed Oscar winner The Last Picture Show, set in Anarene, TX (shot in Archer City, TX). This was my second Bogdanovich film, the first being the hilarious Noises Off. The film is shot in black and white to complement the completely bleak lives it catalogues: Sam the Lion (which won Ben Johnson a well-deserved Oscar for Best Supporting Actor) runs a movie theatre, which affords us both the opening approach and closing retreat shots (a la Citizen Kane, which has an obvious impression on Mr. Bogdanovich). The theatre acts as the titular icon for the town that seems to be filled with people who have a lot of issues in life. There is clearly no happiness. Every potentially happy moment in a frame is offset by a contrasting vision, thanks to deep focus (another trick made legendary by Citizen Kane). The film is full of marvellous visuals that say a lot. Some wonderful scenes too. But I am probably watching this film out of its original context, both in place and time. Most of the events have been reduced to clichés by now: Duane's inability to please Jacy, Sonny's bittersweet affair with Ruth, the wife of his homosexual coach (reminding us that the whole town is aware of this clandestine relationship and subtely telling us about Coach Popper's preferences are things Bogdanovich does a good job with)... In fact, I got to a point where I was predicting scenes and encounters, making it difficult for me to appreciate the efforts of the director and the rather capable and talented cast. There is no score for the film: the only thing we hear are songs on the radio (Hank Williams being a favourite) introduced by the director doing a vocal cameo as the announcer. I don't want to question the opinions of critics or even doubt that this film was an important one in its time, but frankly, it's all lost to me now.

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