We watched “The Last Picture Show” on Netflix the other night; a movie I hadn’t seen since it first played while I was still in high school. Arguably Bogdanovich’s best (and perhaps only significant) film, it’s aged well. Skillfully adapted from Larry McMurtry’s semi-autobiographical novel, it features a wonderful cast who deliver superlative naturalistic performances.
McMurtry’s novel is set in the bleakly fictional North Texas town of Anarene, which stands in for his actual home town of Archer City. And that’s where Bogdanovich shot the film (Archer City standing in for Anarene which is standing in for Archer City). The street scene in the poster above is the corner of Main and Central (or highways 97 and 25, if you like) where much of the action takes place. This corner is where Timothy Bottoms drops off Jeff Bridges to catch the bus back to his army base. And this is the same corner where the character played by Sam Bottoms is struck by a cattle truck and dies. But despite marking the centre of the novel’s action and the only major crossroads in town, the intersection is windswept and lifeless.
The town’s bleakness is no movie artifice and represents in a very real way the dearth of emotional support in this barely-hanging-on community. And according to Google Street View, it still looks pretty much as deserted and soulless now as it did in 1971. Archer City hasn’t aged much in 40 years, but not in a good way.