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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Filmmaking > Acting > Picture This (Last Picture Show documentary)

Picture This (Documentary)


Picture: C     Sound: C+     Extras: B     Film: B



Too many recent classics of American cinema are being forgotten, despite being ripped off in soulless, gutted-out films of the last two decades.  Picture This (1991) is a raw look at the making of Peter Bogdanovich’s ever-brilliant The Last Picture Show, the 1971 drama about life in a Texas town on the decline in the 1950s as television and flight add to the break-up of its problematic community.


Director George Hickenlooper is on-target in his coverage of the people who came together for an experience that changed their lives and the life of the town itself.  It also features the actors, some of whom had great careers after (Cybill Shepherd, Jeff Bridges) and those who did not (Timothy Bottoms, who since had a brief reprieve as President Bush in the wacky Comedy Central TV show That’s My Bush!, before the events of 9/11/01 got the show wrapped-up by its South Park creators).  It is Bogdanovich who inevitably becomes the biggest focus, with his decline as a filmmaker coinciding with Hollywood’s shift to more mindless, shallow for-cash garbage that no one could truly be proud of.  As noted in the very recent audio commentary by Hickenlooper, Bogdanovich did make quite the artistic comeback with The Cat’s Meow (reviewed elsewhere on this site) and has courted controversy again with his TV movie on Natalie Wood.  He has kept his integrity and this documentary shows that, even when the result of his later work failed him.


The full frame, filmed image is from a dull analog video transfer, while the extra shorts fare barely better.  I hope the next time it is issued, new widescreen clips will replace the bad footage.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 throughout is basically monophonic in every case.  Extras include trailers for three Hickenlooper film, including this film, Dogtown (reviewed elsewhere on this site), and Hearts of Darkness – A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (1991, still inexplicably unavailable on DVD).  You also get a smart commentary by Hickenlooper that lasts almost the entire main program and two shorter films on Dennis Hopper (Art, Acting and the Suicide Chair at about 22 minutes, shot on analog videotape in 1988) and Monte Hellman (American Auteur, 17 minutes from 1997, also featured in somewhat better shape on Anchor Bay’s DVD of Hellman’s great film Two Lane Blacktop and also originating on videotape).   That adds greatly to an already solid DVD.


That leaves us with The Last Picture Show, which Columbia-TriStar issued on DVD back in 1999, with trailers, Laurent Bouzerau’s own documentary on the film and some production notes.  It featured the better recut Bogdanovich made for a theatrical reissue that added 7 minutes and was followed by a deluxe Criterion Collection 12” LaserDisc boxed set.  It also has a never-reissued commentary track by the cast and director, trailers, stand-alone screen tests, location footage, screenplay excerpts from it and the unfortunate sequel Texasville (1990, the occasion for Picture This to be made in the first place) and lobby cards.  Columbia and Criterion, who did many titles during the LaserDisc era, no longer co-produce anything together.  That is why The Last Picture Show needs a remastered reissue in digital High Definition, under their Superbit moniker.  Throw in the plentiful extras that already exist and it could be a Superbit Deluxe set, though another new program would be interesting.  The Last Picture Show is a classic that only gets better with time.  Picture This is a great look at the classic and who made it.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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