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American Graffiti

American Graffiti

By Patrick Samuel • May 1st, 2012
Static Mass Rating: 4/5
Universal Pictures

Original release: August 11th, 1973
Running time: 108 minutes

Director: George Lucas
Writers: Gloria Katz, Willard Huyck, George Lucas

Cast: Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Charles Martin Smith, Harrison Ford, Cindy Williams, Candy Clark, Paul Le Mat

More American Graffiti Review

As a teenager, there was nothing I loved more than hopping into cars with my friends and driving aimlessly through the night.

Being grounded never mattered, I was always grounded for something so I figured I might as well be grounded for something good, like staying out until morning.

Watching George Lucas’ American Graffiti brought back those memories and even though the time period was off by about 30 years, teenage rebellion somehow transcends those barriers of time.

American Graffiti

It all takes place in the course of one night, set in the early Sixties in pre-Vietnam America, where the annual school dance has just finished. Rather than heading home, a group of teenagers decide what better way to end their high school years than by cruising the night away. Among them are Steve (Ron Howard) and Curt (Richard Dreyfuss) who are supposed to leave for college the next day. The story more or less centres on them.

Steve’s girlfriend Laurie (Cindy Williams) doesn’t want him to go and this leads to them having a big fight when he suggests they start seeing other people. Meanwhile, Curt is wrestling with the idea of not going to college, despite having received a scholarship. He gets distracted by the sight of the most beautiful woman he’s ever laid eyes on as she drives past him and he makes it his mission to find her. His plan doesn’t run so smoothly though and he gets mixed up with a group of hoodlums who egg him on to commit a series of crimes.

The real rebel and charmer is John Milner (Paul Le Mat) who cruises in his Yellow Deuce Coupe. Milner ends up with Carol (Mackenzie Phillips), an underage girl, in his car. As the night progresses, the two seem to hit it off like brother and sister, but there’s no denying that Carol has a schoolgirl crush on the rebel.

American Graffiti

Terry (Charles Martin Smith) can’t believe his luck when an older woman, Debbie (Candy Clark) takes notice of him; he’s so into by her that he forgets to keep an eye on the car Steve has lent him for the night!

At the climax these storylines criss-cross. Bob Falfa (Harrison Ford), an arrogant racer, has a bone to pick with Milner. With Laurie on the passenger side, he attempts to race his rival on Paradise Road. As dawn breaks, their fateful night comes to a sobering end, leaving them each to decide what to make of their lives now their best years are behind them.

American Graffiti

It’s easy to see why American Graffiti is often named as a high school favourite along with Animal House (1978) and The Breakfast Club (1984). There’s something cool and unique about it, making you want to remember your former glory days, perhaps a little more gloriously than they actually were.

“As George Lucas explains, American Graffiti is a movie about cruising, a uniquely American sociocultural phenomenon that defined teenage culture during the 1950’s. Polished chrome and freshly waxed bodies are displayed by males as the plumage to attract females in this rather bizarre mating ritual. By focusing on this activity specifically, Lucas aimed to document for posterity a facet of personal and collective history.” ¹

  • Sprengler, C. (2001) Screening Nostalgia, Berghahn Books ¹

Backed by a rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack we hear blaring out of the car stereos, American Graffiti delivers a genuine sense of nostalgia for an era that’s now long gone. While Lucas’ other films might be ones he most famous for, it’s this one I can relate to the most. With it, I can easily remember what my own teenage years were like back in the early 90’s, and regardless what time I came back home after a night of cruising, I’d always be grounded.

American Graffiti

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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