The films (nostalgia) and The Last Picture Show provided ample fodder for discussion in our recitation, spaced between two presentations regarding the reading.
We began by sharing our opinions on the screening of The Last Picture Show. Many, including myself, were surprised at some of the more audible reactions in class to the blossoming relationship between Sonny and Ruth Popper early in the film. We were especially surprised by this considering the comparatively tame, silent reaction elicited from the class by the far more obviously confrontational and shocking imagery present in the film Fuses. We agreed that this probably had a lot to do with the warning the class received prior to Fuses regarding its content; however, we failed to go much further into what it says about us as students of film when our reactions to a piece of work are obviously so informed by how our professor has told us to respond. Bruno added that many of our classmates might’ve been expecting a more typical “teen movie.” We discussed how the sort of relationship Sonny and Ruth share is still a taboo one, even now, many years after The Last Picture Show was made.
We moved on to talk about (nostalgia). Reactions in the class were mixed, especially when it came to the film’s meaning: it seems most people had a completely unique reading. One person mentioned that it spoke most directly about “false memory,” that the film used the burning photographs as a metaphor for the imperfect recollections of past events being related by the narrator. Another person preferred to make purely aesthetic judgments, remarking that he thought the burning of the photos was captivating and beautiful; in his own words, the crumpled, twisting forms of the physical photographs, languished on for such long shots by the director, were “the most beautiful forms the photographs could take.” In her presentation, one person made the assertion that (nostalgia) is an “ironic commentary on the past.” She read the film as one mocking film audiences, and further mocking directors as pretentious for feeling the need to lift their own life stories up to the level of art and present them to an audience.
We then moved on to discussing the auteur theory’s rise in prominence, along with the MPAA’s rating system. One of the most interesting parts of this discussion, to me, was Bruno’s assertion that Hollywood used auteur theory as more of a marketing strategy than anything else. It struck a nerve, since more and more recently it seems that control of a film has been all but stripped from nine out of ten directors, and the tenth gets a budget a quarter the size he deserves. We all agreed that Coppola’s Apocalypse Now likely scared the pants off of many studio executives wary to give the director too much control over a hefty chunk of the studio’s money, even years and decades later.
Overall, successful recitation. In my view, perhaps the presentations took up a bit too much class time (and didn’t add much to the reading), but our discussion was meaty.