I try not to interject my pushy self into these posts, dear readers, but American Graffiti is personal. I'm not sure how many times I've seen this movie -- in dark theaters, over a big Red Moon pizza at the Cinderella Twin, on television, on video and DVD and probably in my dreams. It's the epitome of a nostalgia flick, even for a time I didn't exactly live through, because I was, like, six years old. But I still have a soft spot for it all these years later.
That's partly because I'm a pop-music encyclopedia of sorts, and the musical heritage of American Graffiti is rich, but it's also because I simply love the way it's gilded around the edges with a mixture of hotrod exhaust and bittersweet experiments in the realm of love and confused adolescence. I know, maybe that's hokey in this 21st century -- but so it is.
The film George Lucas made immediately before he embarked into that now-famous galaxy far, far away with Star Wars, only his second feature after THX 1138, Graffiti is unpretentiously fueled by the same out-of-time innocence we all loved about the original Star Wars trilogy...except that in this case, it's well-anchored on planet earth.
Add a perfectly matched soundtrack of oldies and a smart ensemble cast led by Richard Dreyfuss as the uncertain high school senior destined for college at the end of the summer, and you have a movie -- a movie! -- that is the essence of summer, full of chance meetings and intermingled stories all cruising together down the boulevard. Following are a few more reasons why I recommend digging it up this gem from 1973.
One side story involves Mackenzie Phillips as an underage girl looking for a thrill and tough guy Paul Le Mat as a hero whose time in the limelight is running out. Along the way, they bump into a young Harrison Ford as his competition.
Charles Martin Smith, as the high school geek, gets lucky with the beautiful bimbo of his dreams in a poignant turn.
Richard Dreyfuss as the protagonist Curt gets mixed up with a street gang.
And Curt later has a prophetic meetup with the infamous Wolfman Jack.
Susan Froyd, in another life, toiled for a few years in some of Denver's most beloved and belated repertory cinemas. She has also seen a lot of movies over a lot of years. In this weekly series, she'll recommend forgotten films, classics, cult favorites and other dusty reels of celluloid from the past. You might like it.