Michael C here. I think it's safe to say a lot more people can relate to Cybil Sheperd's striptease in Bogdonavich's The Last Picture Show than they can to Magic Mike.
Strippers in movies usually hit the stage with the confidence of Greek Gods and the choreography of Madonna's back-up dancers. Rarely do movies strippers capture the truth that even for people as stunning as a young Cybil Shepherd, the idea of undressing in front of a room full of strangers is the stuff of nightmares. The Last Picture Show Bogdanovitch captures that feeling in excruciating detail.
In one of those scenes impossible to forget once seen, Sheperd's small town heartbreaker Jacy Farrow has given her sweetheart the slip and run off with doofy Randy Quaid to an out-of-town party where it's rumored there will be skinny-dipping. Cut to a record player and a dozen naked Texas teens arrayed around an indoor pool, filmed by Bogdonavich with a matter-of-factness that must have left jaws on the floor in 1971.
One of the ringleaders delights in informing Jacy that newcomers have to undress out on the diving board in full view of everybody. Jacy feebly agrees, and it's here that the tension spikes...
The camera stays on Sheperd as she makes her way to the diving board with the enthusiasm of a condemned prisoner marching to the gallows. She sheds her shoes on the way, that's an easy call. Once out on the board she takes a deep breath and, struggling to act nonchalant, loses her dress. After that she tosses aside stockings and garters until she's down to just bra and panties.
In a moment of exquisite awkwardness we watch her hand behind her back as it flutters between the two, unable to decide which should go next. Mercifully, a stumble on the diving board cuts the tension and allows her to finish with a minimum of agony.
The whole sequence really does feel like one of those dreams where you've accidentally shown up to school naked and everyone is staring. That's what etches it so powerfully in the memory. It certainly isn't eroticism. It's a coldly clinical scene which lingers on Jacy's hesitation more than her body. And if the tension wasn't enough to put the kibosh on any sexiness, then the creepy, naked little brother ogling Sheperd from the water certainly gets the job done.
The Last Picture Show is filled with sexual scenes that aren't sexy, from Timothy Bottoms bored grope sessions in the front scene of his car to the scene where Jeff Bridges fails to deflower Shepherd because he's too hungover. It isn't until you rewatch the film as an adult that you realize that a thirty-eight year old Ellen Burstyn playing Jacy's mom is the most genuinely sexy thing in the movie.