Before he made the "Star Wars" series of films, the director George Lucas made a few low budget films. One of them turned out to be the best film he ever made - "American Graffiti" and in 1995, the United States Library of Congress deemed the film "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.
The film is set in 1962 and is to a certain extent autobiographical in that it reflects Lucas' own teenage years in Modesto, California. The story line is in reality incosequential because the film is a study of the cruising and rock and roll cultures popular among the post–World War II baby boom generation. The film is a series of vignettes, telling the story of a group of teenagers and their adventures over a single night, that night being the last day of summer. The following day would see one of the principal characters leaving town to start college. The series of vignettes is set against a soundtrack of 41 popular songs of the period with the voice of radio DJ, Wolfman Jack, hovering in the background. Each of the songs reflects the story line as it unfolds which gives an operatic quality to the film, a teenage opera in fact.
It is 45 years since the film was released and I remember it well; looking at the clips it dawned on me that 1962 was a pivotal year. It was the end of an age of innocence and optimism, it was when the 'American Dream' died.
In 1963 JFK was murdered and then the country sank into the quagmire of Vietnam. Everything changed, nothing would ever be the same again.
Lucas was aware of the change of mood because the film ends with stills of the four main characters and captions telling of their subsequent fates.
But the music, ah the music. It was innocent, it was optimistic but above all it was singalong melodic and beautifully nostalgic for an oldie like me!
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