The Last Picture Show
Journalist-qua-cineaste Peter Bogdonavich really proved himself the movie know-it-all with 1971's The Last Picture Show, his first directing effort after which he could really call himself an auteur: a nostalgic looking and feeling drama that is unmistakably modern. Part coming-of-age story involving high-school football star Duane (Jeff Bridges) and his well-heeled girlfriend Jacy (Cybil Shepherd), part snapshot of the end of an era for a small Texas town, Picture gains a nostalgic mood from Robert Surtees' lovely black-and-white photography, but its storyline (there are more slightly discrete affairs going on here than in soap operas) and cinematic accents (pop music, sex unavoidably lurking beneath almost every male-female relationship) telegraph its larger themes: the closing of the 1950s and the encroaching '60s. Western vet Ben Johnson as the aged local Sam the Lion delivers a monologue that ranks up there with movies' best, but Picture belongs to Timothy Bottoms as a sensitive high-schooler and Cloris Leachman as his older, married lover, two people looking for something else that the town can't offer and having to settle for each other. Still haunting.