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PostPosted: Sun Jan 21, 2007 3:59 pm 
Waster of Cinema
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I was struck recently by how unique the style of George Lucas' 1973 paean to age of cruisin' is. Shot entirely on location at night, it has an aesthetic that is perhaps unmatched in American Cinema. But it is the natural performances that augment the mood of actually being in a 1962 Everytown. It was shot in Techniscope, which was unusual for an American film at that time, but on DVD at least, it looks sharp and well-defined. For me, this is Lucas' finest creation, even though it was a tough film to shoot. But one thing is for sure: it is greatest example of a movie having a perfect soundtrack of rock and roll songs.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 22, 2007 8:20 am 
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Not Dazed and Confused? (ducks)


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 22, 2007 8:47 am 
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Ah, that's a good point, foggy. That film is the equal of Graffiti, being the best film of American youth culture in the 70s, but Graffiti encapsulates the 60s in the most beautiful way. Both films are shot in a similar style - at night and on real locations - and the use of period songs is masterful. The sound design by Walter Murch was also groundbreaking and adds another unique dimension to the film.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 22, 2007 9:08 am 
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I think the The Wanderers captured the 60's perfectly.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 26, 2007 6:00 pm 

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Most people discuss The Star Wars Trilogy but I prefer to look at Lucas' 1970's Leaving Home Trilogy: THX 1138, American Graffiti, and Star Wars (just the first one). As with many trilogies, the second installment is the most fascinating one.

In many peoples' mind Graffiti is a silly film, but every time I watch it I am reminded that it contains some stunning, honest performances (Mackenzie Philips), a deep look at an important transitional time for the country/decade/teenagers in general, and some very well timed comedy (a bottle of Old Harper).

A stand out scene for me is when Dreyfus talks to his teacher/mentor at the dance who went to an Ivy League school but couldn't cut it and came back home to teach. At the end of the scene the teacher is called away and we see him talking in the shadows w/ a young girl. We never hear what is said, but so much is implied (she's probably pregnant and certainly under age) about how this guy who once had so much promise completely screwed up his life. How an authority figure like a teacher can in fact make mistakes and be a looser. This scene really helps you understand why the Dreyfus character seems so reluctant to leave town: He is afraid of failure.

It's probably the most understated scene Lucas has ever directed.


Last edited by BWilson on Mon Jan 29, 2007 8:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 29, 2007 6:54 pm 
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Yeah, that scene with Dreyfuss and Terence McGovern is simply sublime and I love the shots of Curt walking the underlit hallways, bumping his locker and saying goodbye to his school. It's a great, great film, I feel and one of the American films, rejoicing in everything that is (or was, depending on your view of things) good and exotic about America. Visually, it is unique and and breathtaking in places - the shot of the neon-bathed diner to "Sixteen Candles" has immense power. Shot on fast stocks and 2-perf Techniscope with bold framing and lots of headlights and neon, images of an almost mythical landscape flood past us and the underused technique of the "where-are-they-now?" is brave and poignant. Lucas was a wonderful talent in those days and could have made so many exquisite films like this had Star Wars never came to be.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 22, 2007 7:29 pm 
Great film and one of my favorites. I didn't have anything to say when this thread began because I felt that the film worked on such a simple and satisfying level, but after just watching it again I'm noticing how thoroughly Lucas went after his themes. The example given about the once promising teacher going down the shoot is a good one, but I think the whole film is filled with this kind of subtlety and irony that does more than just define the transitional 60s. Maybe what will keep this film a perennial classic is that it breaks down its own attempt at indulging nostalgia while at the same time rejoicing in a time and way of living in America's history. I say it tries to defeat its own nostalgia because, and perhaps this is obvious, Lucas subverts just about every typical character and relationship the period was known for. It's funny especially the depictions of authority figures: one previously mentioned teacher is a screw-up, another loses all power after trying to suspend a student who had already graduated, the older guy running the arcade is made a fool for idealizing too much of good ol' boy Kurt, the cops are ineffective etc. And then outside of that there's the nerd, Toad, getting a hot girl, while the town's tough guy gets stuck babysitting; there's the possibility of Kurt's dream girl being a hooker;the iconic Wolfman turns out to be just a regular guy with a freezer full of melting popsicles. The countering goes on all throughout the film and it's strange to me that I never noticed it because the film shoves none of it in your face and carries this modest, half-silly tone throughout. Upon reflection it seems that, like Casablanca, it's a film that goes beyond its historical context by serving as both a reminder that life requires a constant moving forward, but at the same time we needn't forget what was good about a time in history. I echo what was said about Star Wars, though a great film in its own right, it didn't do much for what looked like such a promising artistic career.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 22, 2007 8:41 pm 
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Greathinker wrote:
Maybe what will keep this film a perennial classic is that it breaks down its own attempt at indulging nostalgia while at the same time rejoicing in a time and way of living in America's history.

That's a great phrase: "breaks down its own attempt at indulging nostalgia". That's exactly what Lucas and the Huyck's had in mind, I think (or maybe not) and the actors execute this concept brilliantly. Later films and TV (Happy Days, Grease and even Back to the Future) indulge themselves too deeply, but Graffiti treads the historical tightrope with aplomb, which is much harder to do with past decades than it is with past centuries. Woody Allen's, Radio Days also has this sublime quality, though it is slightly more stylized, but not to its detriment.

Greathinker wrote:
Upon reflection it seems that, like Casablanca, it's a film that goes beyond its historical context by serving as both a reminder that life requires a constant moving forward, but at the same time we needn't forget what was good about a time in history.

Yes! Magnificent stuff! To borrow a term from Nietzsche, Casablanca, Radio Days and American Graffiti are "supra-historical" works of 20th century art. To be supra-historical is the goal that artists (all exceptional people, really) have for their work, but that is the hardest of tasks. And with films set in the past, the risk of mythologizing events and individuals is run - even something seemingly easy like Gandhi was botched, as I see it - so to have subtle, poignant films of key eras in American history is something of a triumph, I feel. It's easy to develop a skewed view of recent American history - in fact, most of us still live in the 20th century, metaphysically, so trying to get a grip on it is still very difficult and most of what historians (serious and pop historians) highlight (the wars, scandals, most celebrities) is not of real value for the people of the 21st century. How people lived, their culture, their art, their ideas, their geniuses are only what really matters, ultimately and that is the supra-historical view of "the Past" and is the healthiest way to view things, I feel. Chronologies should always be avoided, as that is not how anything of value ever seems to progress, ie. there was about 600 years of useless philosophy before Descartes came along and rejuvinated it, yet in the interim, men had the same eyes, ears and brains, so something was obviously amiss. So, if you look at America in the 20th century from a certain perspective, it definitely appears as a glorious and exotic era for mankind. In more simple terms, viewing "History" apolitically can have striking results. Indeed, why ought we always pour politics - or more precisely, "the State" into the mix of History? I have found that it holds together fairly well without it.

In context: The country known as "the United States of America" has an amazing landscape; the people of it (aboriginal included) produced great art, great thinkers, great technology. But, of late, something has gone awry. Look to the past to rectify the future.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2007 8:08 am 

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Billy Liar wrote:
I think the The Wanderers captured the 60's perfectly.

Good choice...there was such a pervading sense of menace...that something was going to happen.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2007 10:30 am 
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And, I loved AMERICAN GRAFFITI because there was absolutely no sense of menace. Lest we think that great movies must have an "edge"; I want you to know that GRAFFITI restored my faith in the human race. I saw it in 1973, just as I had gotten back from Vietnam, and I was not in good shape. I saw it, then I saw it again and again, and I slowly came back to normal. So, for me, this movie proved extremely powerful.


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 Post subject: Re: American Graffiti
PostPosted: Thu Dec 19, 2013 9:42 am 

Joined: Wed Jul 24, 2013 12:59 am
Great discussion on American Graffiti. Just re-watched this for the umpteenth time, but for the very first time on BD. I have been watching this film for years in various home video incarnations and am, quite literally, stunned at how good the PQ is here - truly amazing. All BD releases should be this good. It's hard to believe the film is 40 years old at this point...

Note that in the BD release it is more obvious that the very beginning of the film takes place at dusk, re: the sky in the background over the drive-in diner. I don't think this was as obvious (or there at all) in previous releases...This is important, since it establishes that the film takes place over one night: It begins at dusk, and then ends at dawn (or close enough to dawn), when Kurt gets on the plane.

Re: the film itself, enjoyed the themes of change & the end of innocence. I always thought it was interesting how both Kurt & Steve (Ron Howard) change their minds about leaving to go away to school over the course of one night; Kurt has a lot of trepidation about leaving & then ends up going anyway. Whereas Steve is gung-ho about leaving and then stays. The reasons for this are obvious, but still interesting. I think what made Kurt decide to leave was his conversation with Wolfman Jack, who basically told him that he had to go out and experience the world while he was still young.

One scene in the film I always found curious: The cars are stopped at a stoplight (possibly the scene when John Milner & Carol spray shaving cream all over the car that threw the water balloon at them), and there are two huge spotlights/klieg lights on the side of the street that are going back and forth; I was never sure if these were here as part of the story (were spot-lights ever put on street corners like this?!) or if they were there as part of the film production because they needed more light; note that the film is very dark in many scenes (makes sense, since most of it takes place at night), though in the BD these are much sharper than before....


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 Post subject: Re: American Graffiti
PostPosted: Thu Dec 19, 2013 12:46 pm 
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LavaLamp wrote:
...Note that in the BD release it is more obvious that the very beginning of the film takes place at dusk, re: the sky in the background over the drive-in diner. I don't think this was as obvious (or there at all) in previous releases...

Digitally painting in a new "dusk" sky at the beginning is something Lucas did for the Blu-ray release. This is one bit of the filmmaker's chronic revisionism I agree with since the scene is clearly meant to take place shortly before sundown. However, the effect isn't particularly convincing, probably because the sky is too beautiful and hi-res which doesn't jibe with the grainier look of everything else.

LavaLamp wrote:
...One scene in the film I always found curious: The cars are stopped at a stoplight (possibly the scene when John Milner & Carol spray shaving cream all over the car that threw the water balloon at them), and there are two huge spotlights/klieg lights on the side of the street that are going back and forth; I was never sure if these were here as part of the story (were spot-lights ever put on street corners like this?!) or if they were there as part of the film production because they needed more light...

Could be both. I always assumed some business on the drag was celebrating a "grand opening" that night. Panning spotlights are still used for such events today, although I usually see them in the parking lots of strip malls...which have kind of replaced the main street drag of earlier days. Perhaps the shaving cream didn't read well without the additional light and Wexler recommended the spotlight conceit.


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 Post subject: Re: American Graffiti
PostPosted: Thu Dec 19, 2013 1:35 pm 
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Roger Ryan wrote:
Digitally painting in a new "dusk" sky at the beginning is something Lucas did for the Blu-ray release.

I remember seeing that new sky in a screening of the film at AMPAS around the time of the first DVD release, so I think it's been there for a while. It really annoys me. :x


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