American Graffiti (1973) – George Lucas

George Lucas’ nostalgic American Graffiti is the next stop on the list of recommendations from the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book following my screening of Jailhouse Rock.

While not a musical in the technical sense of breaking into song and dance, the music and the voice of deejay Wolfman Jack play an essential character in the film. The story is set in 1962 and follows one night in the life of a couple of recent high school grads on the cusp of change.

The cast is a comprised of some very recognisable names, Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss, Charles Martin Smith, Cindy Williams, Harrison Ford and Candy Clark.

Over the course of one night there lives are changed as they make choices that affect everything.

Funny, smart, touching, and filled with great music that can make viewers nostalgic for a time they didn’t live in, Lucas crafted a very entertaining film that takes us to the nights of driving the strip, fantastic music, and an innocence on the edge of being lost.

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But even the innocence we see isn’t perfect, because there’s Paul Le Mat’s John who is trying to hold onto his youth, and endangers himself nightly racing. And then there’s the high school teacher that Curt (Dreyfuss) making incredibly inappropriate things to a number of the female high school students, who then seek him out – that’s just creepy.

So even the perceived perfection of the time is only that, a perception. But it’s still a wonderful cinematic experience.

The characters stumble from one misadventure to another as they navigate the world of high school, graduation, college, love, cars, music, and that perfect night.

All the roles are perfectly cast, and it’s wonderful seeing all these actors that I’ve grown up watching going through recognisable scenarios – rites of passage to adulthood.

The film endures because the themes and character arcs constant through the ages. You can recognise yourself in them, but also because of the time frame in which it is set, you can see your parents in it as well. In fact this was one of the first movies, that upon seeing it, I realised my parents had been teenagers at one point too and hadn’t always been the people they are.

It’s been a while since I saw this one, and it was a lot of fun delving into this one again. Filled with great music, great moments, and some wonderful actors, this one was a lot of fun to screen again.

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