Reviews - The Graduate
Reviewed By Vaughan Ames
Like most people there, I had not seen 'The Graduate' for many years; my memory of it, originally, was of identifying with Ben as a young inexperienced guy who has no idea how to be with women. This mixed so well with the embarrassment of how poorly he copes when given the chance(s)!
(You will recall – most people will have seen this film I am sure – that the story follows a disillusioned Ben coming home from college, being seduced by his parent's friend, Mrs Robinson, before falling for her daughter Elaine. Pretty obviously, Mrs Robinson is none too pleased about this...).
With the passing of the years and the sexual enlightenment that has gone with it, I was intrigued to see what I would think of the film now; I need not have worried. Within a few seconds, the fantastic sounds of Simon and Garfunkel's vocals made it worthwhile regardless, and then, as the story unfolded, I realised that I had missed much of the humour when I first saw it; Yes, Ben was still SO embarrassing, but what a lot of fun there is here too. I remembered, for instance, his 21st birthday party where he is forced to 'model' a frogman's suit in front of his parent's friends; I relived his feeling of "get me out of here!", but this time I could laugh at the ridiculous situation.
I was also able to look at the 'politics' of the film this time. There are many digs at the dying sexual norms of the early 1960s here, with the growing freedom of the late 1960's youth. Likewise, the attitude of the young to the adults – how much more respectful of their parents they were then (you can take this as a good or bad change – that is up to you!). Lastly, the attitude to marriage: right at the end, when Ben and Elaine run off together in the back of a bus with everyone staring at them; it had just seemed romantic to me back then, but she had literally run away from her new husband at the altar to be with Ben - was this a deliberate attempt to show that marriage was becoming less sacred, or just a way of finishing the film on a high (and funny!) note?
Still a great film then; despite the news about Dustin Hoffman this week, it was really hard not to see his role as pivotal here. Apparently the director, Mike Nichols, originally wanted Robert Redford for the part, but Hoffman's gauche and, yes, embarrassing portrayal surely makes the film...oh, I mustn't forget the still great Simon and Garfunkel songs... 'The Sound of Silence' was just perfect.
We then had a discussion about 1960's movie experiences, led by Doctor Patrick Glen, a researcher from University College London. They have spent three years researching this – covering anything and everything from what people remembered of the films, to the cinemas and the snacks, right through to the bad experiences of single women fighting off 'dirty old men in raincoats', so relevant to today's scandals (Dr Glen told us of a young woman who carried a six inch hat pin to ward them off!). They have discovered that a lot of the differences we remember are regional (my memory of the sitting through the National Anthem at the end of performances, for instance, was typical of Essex and the East). Equally fascinating was what we remember wrongly; just because we think it happened, doesn't mean it did! For instance, Dr Glen told me how several people separately recalled a scene in 'Lawrence of Arabia' which never happened at all.
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