For my lifetime and probably yours the proclamation has been out that HOLLYWOOD IS DEAD, and the question of its survival has been "How will they get that young audience?" Curren t fads and ideas are seized upon and crushed into insipid stories designed to get that money out of your pocket.
The nostalgia craze has gotten totally out of hand in American Graffiti. The night I saw it at the Fox Village Theatre the audience was filled with young and expectant people. After the show I asked a lot of them what they thought of it. and the consistent answer was, "It's O.k."
O.k.? O.k.? and it is one of the major money-making films in the country right now? It's a big deal because American Graffiti is about the good old simple days of the early 1960's - terrific cars. great tunes, drive-ins and car hops on roller skates, cruising downtown, unabashed teenage sex drives and desires. The movie knows exactly what young audiences go for these days - the whole cult of nostalgia is handed out on the silver platter of the screen, and the confused feelings of youth and high school status are made to look funny in retrospect.
But on every count of what makes a good movie, American Graffiti stinks. The script is slow and tedious, neither humorous, realistic or well written. The acting is superficial, unconvincing and clumsy - the people in the movie come across as an idealized and simplistic picture of teenagers in the sixties. The film seems to have no director, no person to pull together two hours of film into something concise and integrated.
American Graffiti does succeed in the areas of lighting, props and camera work. Cameraman Haskell Wexler shoots with the skilled and objective documentary quality he has become well known for. The lighting, particularly of the cruising cars at night, has an appreciably funky quality. And then there are the cars, those wonderful weird cars, and the sets, like the drive-in and the high school gym, that are some of the more remarkably visual American items of the previous decade.
But as a whole it doesn't work. Lighting, cars and props make for a good auto show, not a good movie. The music is certainly some of the finest of that rich musical period and it's great to hear and see d.j. Woltman Jack, but the songs are cut up so much and in such ways that they lose their impact
. Maybe you really liked American Graffiti. A lot of people did. But it gave me a sense of being raped for my money. It is particularly disappointing because the film was made by one of the few independent production companies in the country, American Zeotrope. This San Francisco based organization was founded on fantastic purposes and enormous talent, but they apparently decided to make some bucks with this movie and then go on to other business.
The film industry hits up on today's hip sexuality problems with Bloom in Love. Producer-director Paul Mazursky showed he had some insight into this area a few years ago with Bob, Carol, Ted and Alice. The banal, boring and superficial story recommends the hip Los Angeles couple try meditation, dope, non-binding affairs, and divorce. The questions the film raises are real ones, but did a soap opera ever tell you how to run your life?
It would be bad sportsmanship or extensive self-indulgence to only write reviews of bad movies. The point here is that Hollywood is trying to get money out of your pocket and into their hands by making films that are supposedly about what we like and believe. Sort of like falling in love with someone because they look like you. The Hollywood youth appeal here is a white washed avoidance of the complexity of human beings.