I tried to like this film, I really did, but it just couldn't be done.
Based off the semi-autobiographical novel of the same name and set in a dead-end Texas town of Anarene in 1951-52, it is primarily a coming of age film. It features Cybill Shepherd in her debut role, as well as a young Jeff Bridges and Randy Quaid. It was released in 1971 and nominated for 8 Academy Awards in 1972, 2 each for Supporting Actress and Supporting Actor (Cloris Leachman, Ellen Burstyn, Ben Johnson, and Jeff Bridges), Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, and Best Picture. Only Ben Johnson and Cloris Leachman won for their supporting roles.
It is said that the director, Peter Bogdanovich, was heavily influenced by Orson Welles and as a result the film was shot in black and white. It is also clear from the pacing and overall tone that he was trying to create his own Citizen Kane. While I am clearly in the minority on this one, I think he fails. At least in Citizen Kane there was a strong central character who was moving the plot forward and about whom you could care.
As I said above it is primarily a coming of age film, featuring teenagers losing their viginity, breaking up with each other, eloping but being foiled in the process, sleeping with older women. Fast forward 10-20 years all of these events would and will be played for laughs, here they are all deadly serious. Now that I think about it, there is not one genuinely funny moment in the entire film. The one potentially interesting thing which happens occurs completely off screen, Jeff Bridges' character and Timothy Bottoms' character make a road trip to Mexico. I would have paid to see that film but all we see of it is the beginning moments of hitting the road and the ending moments of getting back into town.
The one redeeming scene occurs about halfway through the film. Sam, the town's leading man and owner of most of the businesses, imparts some wisdom upon a couple of the young men. It is beautifully shot and acted, I am certain Ben Johnson won his Academy Award for that scene alone.
I would have to take a hard pass on this film, dropping it from the list. It is still worthwhile if one would like to see the start of a lot of actors who would later become famous. The Dude Abides!
Toy Story update: Netflix has finally decided to ship me a copy! I put it at the top of the queue after sending in Ben-Hur and they shipped me 15 different movies before they got around to finding a copy to ship to me. About time.