Review: More American Graffiti
DVD: More American Graffiti (1979)
In 1973 America was in a mess: a President deeply dividing the nation, its involvement in a war that no one wanted and the streets were erupting in demonstrations. It was a little surprise that American Graffiti a film that looked to an America a decade earlier and whose soundtrack featured music that had gone out of fashion was a box office success. Couldn’t happen in 2017 eh? *pauses to ironically whistle City of Stars….
The story involved a group of high school students in California over the course of 24 hours and helped to make stars of three of its main actors; Graffiti’s director George Lucas teamed up with Harrison Ford to fight an Empire in a galaxy far away. Richard Dreyfuss would fight a shark with Steven Spielberg, and Ron Howard who would go back in time to hang out with a greaser and Ralph Malph.
George Lucas apparently always envisaged a follow up and More American Graffiti Is based on some of his ideas. The sequel is spread over consecutive New Year’s Eve’s from 1964 to 1967 and reprises four of the characters from the original film. John Milner (Paul LeMat) is now a drag racer, Toad (Charles Martin Smith) is trying to survive his tour of duty in Vietnam, Debbie “Deb” Dunham has embraced the counter-culture and living with a bunch of hippies. We also discover Steve Bolander (Ron Howard) has embraced middle-class domesticity, much to the chagrin of his wife Laurie. Harrison Ford pops up in a cameo as a motorcycle cop and acting more storm trooper than Rebel Alliance.
In a brave move each character is given a separate storyline with a cinematic style and this works excellently with the use of grainy super 16 mm film for the Vietnam sequences and less so with Brady Bunch style split-screens for Deb’s story which distracts from the action. The timeline is also confusing as the narrative keeps cutting to each individual story leaving the viewer often confused as to where they are.
There are some genuinely funny moments including a laugh out loud attempt at a self-inflicted shooting and as in the original film its strength is in its soundtrack. It doesn’t just rely on throwing a few psychedelic numbers to explain a decade but draws on middle of the road numbers, R&B stompers and rolls out Country Joe and the Fish for a bit of protest.
While not exactly a Banksy, this bit of Graffiti is worth a look at.