Texasville is not just a sequel to The Last Picture Show, the film that put director Peter Bogdanovich on the cinematic map in 1971. The newer film also represents a sea-change in Bogdanovich's approach to content and style, hinted at in They All Laughed. In fact, Texasville finds director Peter Bogdanovich in a Renoirian mood, after previously embracing the aesthetics of Hitchcock and Ford.
But Texasville wouldn't even exist if Larry McMurtry, who wrote the novel on which The Last Picture Show is based, hadn't himself wrote a sequel. As a novelist McMurtry is addicted to sequels, and Bogdanovich, who has done a few himself over the years, picked up the cudgel. It would be easy to suspect that he was returning to the material that made his career at a time when he seemed to be in trouble, but narratively speaking the situation is a little more complicated than that. How often does a director have a chance to revisit characters and situations many years later with a real cast that has aged gracefully?
Texasville finds many of the same characters from the first film still in the quiet town of Thalia, Texas (based on McMurtry's home town of Archer, where both films were shot). Local high school football hero Duane Jackson Jeff Bridges) is now an oil man on the ropes, with a wife Karla (the exquisite Annie Potts) who is dissatisfied with Duane's Hud-like ways. They have four kids who come and go through out the film, like many of the characters. The viewer tends to lose track of them. Also still around fro the first film are Sonny Crawford (Timothy Bottoms) who is now the town mayor with three thriving business but still a blinded eye and a tendency to see movies in his head, Ruth Popper (Cloris Leachman, who won an Oscar for her first version of Ruth), and Genevieve (Eileen Brennan). And then there's rich girl swimmer Jacy Farrow (Cybill Shepherd), once a famous movie star but now returned to town to mourn her only child, who died in a freakishly funny set accident.
The Last Picture Show, was shot in the late '60s about events taking place in the early '50s, some 20 years earlier. Made twenty years after Picture Show, the events of Texasville take place in the late 80s, some 40 years after Picture Show. This is all very confusing but the point is that the characters, or at least the actors playing them, are much younger than they should be.
Which isn't really a criticism, because almost all of them are very good while reprising their earlier selves, and the new additions are just as good. Annie Potts is especially fine as Karla. Bogdanovich doesn't have much of a story to tell. What interests him is the shifting alliances within a group that still manages to stay successfully together, aligned by their appetites for drink and food. There is a feeling of good fellowship that permeates the film despite the fact that much of what is going on is fairly distressful to many of the participants. Yet as they floating party carries on, the viewer develops a real affection for the characters, some of whom speak with endless frankness, while others, like Duane, can barely speak at all (there is a charming scene wherein he explains that he can't talk to women because he always says the wrong thing, followed by a different scene in which he does exactly that—the film constantly validates itself). More is told by a looks among Shepherd, Potts, and Bridges in the end than whole sheets of dialogue.
VIDEO: MGM offers a bare bones account of Texasville. The single sided, dual layered disc offers a wide screen version of the film (1.85:1) enhanced for widescreen televisions. Photographed by a DP with the unlikely name of Nicholas von Sternberg, who actually is the son of the director Josef von Sternberg, offers up some quite beautiful images, and Bridges and Bottoms have never looked better. Von Sternberg excels with shots of the setting sun stretching the last rays of light across the long flatlands.
SOUND: In the sound department, MGM has listlessly supplied a Dolby Digital mono track, that comes in English and French, with English, French, and Spanish subtitles. Texasville is heavy with snippets of pop tunes from the time, which are not particularly well-served by the mono track.
MENUS: The static, silent menu offers 20 chapter scene selection for the 123 minute movie.
PACKAGING: The keep case this film comes in has a close-up photo of Bridges and Shepherd seemingly dancing, against a backdrop of clouds and water. This is a fairly misleading photo, given that the whole point of the movie is that Duane does not succumb to the lure of the past. Curiously, another disc released by MGM at the same time, of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, has a virtually identical cover, showing Daniel Day-Lewis and Juliette Binoche embracing in close up against a backdrop of moonlight and fields. I think the packagers mixed up the backgrounds. The label shows a two-tone image of Bridges and Shepherd, derived from one of the few stills that came with the press kit at the time of release. A one page insert gives the chapter breakdowns.
EXTRAS: Texasville comes only with the trailer, which does little to entice the viewer.
Final Thoughts: Texasville is a much-better film than most people give it credit for being, but you really have to love the film to buy this extras-free disc.