"Bogdanovich's coming of age story, set in 1950s rural Texas, is an achingly accurate portrayal of small-town life and the compromises and disappointments that mark the passage from adolescence to adulthood. In contrast to his contemporaries, who experimented with style and new filmmaking techniques inspired by the French New Wave, Bogdanovich looked back to classical Hollywood, utilizing stark black and white cinematography, deep focus and a traditional narrative structure. The film is striking in its lack of nostalgia for the past, focusing instead on the desperation of a dying community and way of life, embodied by the shuttering of the lonely movie house."
(Harvard Film Archive)
"The Last Picture Show", Directed by Peter Bogdanovich. With Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd. US 1971, 35mm, b/w, 118 min.
Majestic Micro Movies: Lloyd Fonvielle, James Lester, Kendra Elliot, Joe Griffin and Jae Song.
"It begins with young Charles Kane in long shot, playing with his sled in the snow. The camera then pulls back to reveal that it has been shooting through a window. This effect creates a visual metaphor. The boy playing in the snow is not as free as he at first seems. Just as his image is suddenly confined by a window frame, so his life will be circumscribed by a decision that is being made for him inside the house. Kane's mother appears at the window calling out to her son to 'Be careful,' and 'Put your muffler around your neck, Charles.' As the camera tracks back, wards from the window into the space of the house, it reveals Mr. Thatcher standing at the right of the window. He says, 'We'll have to tell him now.' Ignoring this comment, the mother replies, 'I'll sign those papers now, Mr. Thatcher.' From frame left Kane's father appears, saying, 'You people seem to forget that I'm the boy's father.' The camera tracks backwards as Mrs. Kane walks over to a desk in the foreground of the image and sits down to sign the papers, with Thatcher seated next to her. An argument ensues in which the father, who appears in the middle ground of the image, strongly protests the mother's decision to hand his son over to a bank and threatens to take the case to court. The mother is icily adamant in honoring the agreement she has made with Thatcher. In exchange for the bank's full assumption of the management of the gold mine (the Colorado Lode), the bank which Thatcher represents will assume full responsibility for all matters concerning the boy's education and place of residence. Mr. and Mrs. Kane will receive fifty thousand dollars a year as long as they both live. This last bit of information, which Thatcher reads aloud, silences the father, who mutters, 'Well, let's hope it's all for the best.'
Throughout the scene, while all this activity takes place, we can see the boy Charles playing with his sled far in the back of the image, in extreme long shot, framed by the window pane, and totally oblivious to the momentous decision his mother has made about his life. Because of the length of the shot and the careful blocking of the action, our eye is free to focus on whichever player we choose, or our attention can wander from one player to another, as if we were spectators in the theater.
At the same time, the camera places us sufficiently close to the actors in the foreground of the image that we can read their expressions with much greater clarity than would be possible in the theater. We can look for clues in the frozen but somehow anguished expression of Mrs. Kane for why she is so determined to separate herself from her son. We can wonder in observing the slightly exasperated and nervous expression on Thatcher's face what kind of guardian he will make for a young boy. Or we can observe the father's angry, worried expression and wonder why he backs down. The father's position further back in the screen space makes him seem smaller than his wife and Mr. Thatcher, his diminished size somehow appropriate to his lack of power to influence his son's fate. The crowning brilliance of the scene is the tiny image of Charles Kane far in the depth of the screen space. Although the film is about him and in later scenes he will loom large indeed, here he is a tiny speck. On first viewing the film, some may not even notice him. But his understated presence playing outside the window, shouting 'Union forever' as his mother is about to send him off into the world without her, is one of the most poignant moments in film."
(Marilyn Fabe, 2004, p.85-86)
3). Marilyn Fabe (2004). "Chapter 5 Expressive Realism" in "Closely Watched Films: An Introduction to the Art of Narrative Film Technique", University of California Press (3 Aug 2004)
James Cameron: "I think it's a myth that you want deep focus in 3-D shots. I find the opposite is true. Selective focus, created by working at low f-stops with longer lenses, evolved as a cinematic technique to direct the audience's attention to the character of greatest narrative importance at a given moment. With 3-D, the director needs to lead the audience's eye, not let it roam around the screen to areas which are not converged. So all the usual cinematic techniques of selective focus, separation lighting, composition, etc., that one would use in a 2-D film to direct the eye to the subject of interest, still apply, and are perhaps even more important. We all see the world in 3-D. The difference between really being witness to an event vs. seeing it as a stereo image is that when you're really there, your eye can adjust its convergence as it roves over subjects at different distances. Convergence is the natural toe-in that the eye does to align the left and right eye images of objects at specific planes of depth. In a filmed image, the convergence was baked in at the moment of photography, so you can't adjust it. In order to cut naturally and rapidly from one subject to another, it's necessary for the filmmaker (actually his/her camera team) to put the convergence at the place in the shot where the audience is most likely to look. This sounds complicated but in fact we do it all the time, in every shot, and have since the beginning of cinema. It's called focus. We focus where we think people are most likely to look. So I've found that just slaving the convergence function to the focus works exceedingly well, and makes good stereo a no-brainer on the set."
(David S. Cohen, 10 April 2008, Variety Magazine)