Tuesday, 8 November 2016

The Last Picture Show

New sensations. One of Lou Reed's most underrated albums as well as what Frank Zappa said when he tried to explain the Mothers' debut album. Freak Out! was supposed to give people what they had never experienced before 1966.

I have no idea how it felt back when Peter Bogdanovich released his film in early 70s, but as of 2016 - The Last Picture Show feels like a nervy bag of new sensations. Powerful, raw, utterly disturbing. There was a beautiful life beating next to me, in the dark, half-empty cinema, and I kept wondering how one could ever live it down. That kind of experience.

It is terrible, electrifying, wickedly appealing. The 'appealing' bit has little to do with the plot, which is typically non-existent in a coming-of-age story, and a lot with just how the film was made. The billiards scene? Christ Jesus those two minutes are unsettling. I can give you a million sex scenes that are much more racy and graphic and just plain direct, but this felt different. This was like a big black rat scuffling under your sofa.

Nothing is compromised and nothing is stylized about The Last Picture Show (except for its black and white surface), which is why it feels so different to the modern eye that needs to be harnessed and honed. However, this also means that when the sentiments come pouring towards the end of the film (like the beautiful revelation in the car or the inevitable death scene or the final minute), they knock you down. 

A friend of mine once told me that he no longer goes to the cinema all that much. 'Emotionally', he explained, 'I know what to expect. It just feels smooth. Because you have to understand, it's not about the gore and the guts. It's not about sex. It's about the feel of it'. 

This conversation took place a couple of days after he had seen Fritz Lang's M at some introspective screening in Newcastle. I would do that too, years later, and would be blown away by the new sensations that feel, somehow, out of this time. And possibly that time, too.