American Graffiti

"Excellent"

American Graffiti Review


The Star Wars prequels have tarnished his rep a little, but give him his due --- George Lucas once understood the possibilities and limitations of film like few others. Lucas' second feature film, American Graffiti, was a self-assured gem that established him as a major director (though a lot of studios still didn't want to bankroll Star Wars, proving that studio execs weren't any smarter in the seventies than they are now).

A cinematic collection of slightly exaggerated memories from Lucas' senior year in high school (1962), Graffiti was well-timed; it caught a wave of fifties nostalgia that would crest with Happy Days, Grease, etc. While the iconoclasm of the sixties and seventies would continue to take youth culture in a very different direction, Graffiti helped spark a cultural backlash (or at least a flashback) after the free-love/acid-rock/anti-war era.

The autobiographical Graffiti was perhaps an easy film for the young director to make, but it's still a good film, and nothing good is ever easy. The storyline is fairly thin, but it is as it was -- a faithful depiction of drag racing and drive-ins, boredom and lust, the anxieties and dreams of small-town America in the early 1960s. The weekend rituals of Lucas' teenage hotshots and losers are set to an awesome soundtrack, the pop/rock & roll that was always on the radio in the early sixties -- a diverse continuum which included the Beach Boys' SoCal harmonies, Chicago R&B, Northeastern doo-wop and Texas rockabilly (so different from the Balkanized formats of today's radio). The songs which constantly play in the background in Graffiti are perfectly chosen and capture the moment when the musical tastes of white and black America finally merged.

The film gets the details mostly right, and the parade of classic cars demonstrates that Lucas was a true gearhead who once considered car racing as a vocation. Most important, Lucas's direction and pacing are (or at least were) flawless. With its large cast of young and hungry actors, Graffiti launched several careers (not only Ford but also Dreyfuss, Cindy Williams, Suzanne Somers, Kathleen Quinlan, and others).

Lots of people have sneered at the American culture of the fifties and early sixties -- examples are too numerous to mention, from opinion makers like historian David Halberstam to films like Pleasantville -- and we are supposed to believe it was a time of naiveté and paranoia and injustice. Well, screw 'em. The fifties and sixties were the last time when cultural aspiration was still cool, and to someone growing up today, the difference between then and now seems huge, and unfavorable. It was an era of dreams and possibilities -- Chuck Berry and Miles Davis were reinventing music and MLK was leading the civil rights movement during the same years that the first heart surgeries were performed and von Braun was building the rockets to the moon. The average Americans depicted in Lucas' film were unaware of all the ground that was being broken, but they shared the confident attitude and restless spirit of the time. American Graffiti is a successful tribute to an era of optimism and competitiveness which was bitchin' -- and now seems very far in the past.



American Graffiti

Facts and Figures

Run time: 110 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 1st August 1973

Box Office Worldwide: $115M

Budget: $777 thousand

Distributed by: Universal Pictures

Production compaines: Universal Pictures, Lucasfilm, The Coppola Company

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Fresh: 41 Rotten: 2

IMDB: 7.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Curt Henderson, as Steve Bolander, as John Milner, as Terry 'The Toad' Fields, as Laurie Henderson, as Debbie Dunham, as Carol, as XERB Disc Jockey, as Joe Young, Manuel Padilla Jr. as Carlos, Beau Gentry as Ants, as Bob Falfa

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Finnish artist Tuoko Laaksonen used the name "Tom of Finland" as he drew explicit illustrations...

A Ghost Story Movie Review

A Ghost Story Movie Review

Filmmaker David Lowery reunites the stars from his offbeat Western Ain't Them Bodies Saints for...

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

From the co-director of John Wick, this similarly styled action romp puts Charlize Theron front...

Girls Trip Movie Review

Girls Trip Movie Review

This movie's premise basically sounds like The Hangover with added black girl power. But it's...

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

There's so much manic energy in this animated action comedy that it can't help but...

The Big Sick Movie Review

The Big Sick Movie Review

It may be rather long for a romantic comedy, but this film has such a...

The Emoji Movie Movie Review

The Emoji Movie Movie Review

There's no reason why this animated comedy adventure needed to be this pointless. Solidly entertaining...

Advertisement
England Is Mine Movie Review

England Is Mine Movie Review

While this is billed as a film about The Smiths' singer-songwriter Morrissey, it's actually an...

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Movie Review

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Movie Review

It's been 20 years since French filmmaker Luc Besson shook up the sci-fi genre with...

Dunkirk Movie Review

Dunkirk Movie Review

Britain's epic 1940 evacuation of Dunkirk has been dramatised on film before, but no one...

Killing Ground Movie Review

Killing Ground Movie Review

From Australia, this dark and edgy thriller is skilfully made by writer-director Damien Power to...

City of Ghosts Movie Review

City of Ghosts Movie Review

This award-winning documentary plays like a thriller as it traces the work of a group...

Cars 3 Movie Review

Cars 3 Movie Review

It's been six years since the last Cars movie (there were two Planes movies in...

The Beguiled Movie Review

The Beguiled Movie Review

In her inimitable loose style, Sofia Coppola remakes the 1971 Clint Eastwood movie from a...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.