Orpheum Film Club is showing George Lucas’s seminal American film “American Graffiti” tonight at 9:00 p.m. in Combs 237.
The film follows recently graduated high schoolers, Curt Henderson and Steve Bolander (played by Richard Dryfuss and Ron Howard), on their last night in their home town before leaving for college “back east” the following morning. The characters meet up at drive-in burger joints and cruise the strip through their home town of Modesto, Ca. Steve and his girlfriend Laurie go to a “sock hop” at their high school to dance to songs such as “Sixteen Candles,” “At The Hop,” and “Louie Louie.” There is a heavy influence of the Beach Boys, although one character remarks “I don’t like that surfer shit. Rock and roll’s been going downhill since Buddy Holly died.”
“American Graffiti” is most characterized by its soundtrack and abundance of classic American cars, such as Steve’s 1958 Impala, bad-boy John Milner’s Deuce Coupe and the black 1955 Chevy driven by Bob Falfa (played by a young Harrison Ford).
Only Lucas’s second film, “American Graffiti” has gone down as one of the most important films to document the early 1960s.
Produced on a budget of less than a million dollars, the film was nominated for Best Picture at the 1973 Academy Awards. Roger Ebert called the film “a brilliant work of historical fiction; no sociological treatise could duplicate the movie’s success in remembering exactly how it was to be alive at that cultural instant.”
“American Graffiti” bears a striking resemblance to a more recent comedy, “Superbad.” Both films deal with an end-of-the-year adventures just before the protagonists leave for college. In “American Graffiti,” Toad fills the role of McLovin, a dweeby, bespectacled nerd in search of booze and ladies.
Toad ends up landing a rebellious blonde who likes the hard stuff and doesn’t mind giving Toad a little face time in the back of Steve’s Impala. Curt spends the night chasing after a mystery blond in a white Thunderbird while Steve deals with his own girlfriend issues.
The film is a must see for any high school or college age person. It completely encapsulates the few months between high school and college, and all of the questions and answers that go with that in-between time. Even though the film is set over 40 years ago, similar problems and emotions still arise today.