American Graffiti


George Lucas is, unfortunately for him, a figure of fun. This grieves me sorely. He has given us so much happiness. In order to counter these atrocious slanders and sideswipes, I have written a defence of his early masterpiece, American Graffiti. Needless to say, I haven’t seen it. 

Oh, to have my youth again. Or, even better, to have George Lucas’s youth again. In the 1950s things sure were sweet for the pubescent director, if American Graffiti is to be believed. By day he drank soda-pop and root beer, whilst bopping and jiving to a wild new beat. It seemed like the fun would never stop, and every new bottle of syrupy carbonated liquid promised, upon opening, to spray out an invigorating mist of neat fun and bebop times. But as the twilight approached, then came George’s visions. As he lay in his humid, musty bed, George closed his eyes and dreamed ridiculous infantile dreams about big hairy men and glowing swords that go ‘swwvvvooom’.

This is film is half ode, half paean and half elegy to the hot pop-fuelled jiving of George’s days and the absurd imaginings of his nights. The young George Lucas is played by his older self, which jars at first, not least because he sports a fearsome grey beard and is two feet taller than the other actors. But after a while we accept this theatrical necessity and enter into the spirit of things. His friends, Chumpchump, Curly and Beeswax are played by an assortment of child actors. Most interestingly of all, the role of his love interest, Sindy, goes to an nearly convincing animatronic puppet. George’s acting during the love sequences with this puppet is a tour de force. We almost believe that George sees her as an actual woman.    

American Graffiti features all of the staple elements of the 50s-based teen drama: games of ‘chicken’, knife fights, self-mutilation. But shot through every scene, no matter how bleak or tedious, is the warm, womb-like red glow of fond remembrance. And this is where Lucas really comes into his own: as a sort of Pied Piper leading us back into a pre-birth state, rescuing us from the cynical, bankrupt world of adulthood and taking us back to a more meaningful time, when we were, each of us, suspended in pellucid ante-natal bliss. This is a profoundly umbilical film. It reaches out to us from the mind of a man who, endearingly, wishes himself unborn and believes in aliens, and nourishes us with its nutritious viscous formula. We are all babies in the womb of George Lucas’s brain. Consequently, I have given it 7 out of 10.


2 Responses to “American Graffiti”

  1. Joe Says:

    Apparently the strapline to the film is ‘Where were you in ’62?’ – well I for one am immediately alienated by that. He should have stuck with ‘A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…’

  2. johnlebaptiste Says:

    That does seem to delimit it a bit you’re right. Far be it from me to reference myself, but the tagline should have been: ‘Step into the womb of the past’.

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