Picture This (Documentary)
C Sound: C+ Extras: B Film: B
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.
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.
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.
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