THE GRADUATE screening at No6 on Thursday 12th Oct.
A young man returning home from college is seduced by the wife of his father’s business partner and then falls in love with her daughter. This unusual love triangle, presented both in erotically charged and in touchingly emotional scenes, is at the centre of The Graduate (1967), but there is much else going on in the film. Despite all his great achievements at university and the obvious wealth of his family, the film’s ‘hero’, Benjamin, has ill-defined and paralysing anxieties about the future and is at odds with the views of his parents and their friends, especially when he is told that the future is ‘Plastics!’. The story of The Graduate, then, is about how Benjamin overcomes his lethargy, first through sex and later through love. This is done with plenty of verbal, situational and visual comedy, a playful handling of cinematic conventions (especially where editing is concerned) and the lyricism of Simon & Garfunkel songs on the soundtrack, most famously ‘Mrs. Robinson’, which is a tribute to the older seductress in the movie.
Mrs. Robinson was played by Anne Bancroft, the only established star in the movie, who also received top billing. In the role of Benjamin, the film introduced Dustin Hoffman to the world and immediately established him as one of the defining movie stars of the era. Katherine Ross, playing Mrs. Robinson’s daughter Elaine, was another newcomer, who went on to feature in more classic films of the late 1960s and early 1970s, notably Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969).
Upon the initial American release of The Graduate in December 1967, reviewers were not always sure what to make of it: Were audiences really meant to sympathise with Benjamin and his ‘rebellion’, and did the film offer a valid critique of contemporary society? Yet, there was general agreement early on that The Graduate was an important film, a milestone even. When, on 8 December 1967, Time magazine’s cover announced ‘The New Cinema: Violence…Sex…Art’, with the cover story inside declaring that there was a ‘renaissance’ in Hollywood cinema, which was connected to upheavals in American culture, society and politics often to do with generational conflict, the forthcoming release of The Graduate, described as ‘an alternately comic and graphic close-up’ of a young man ‘whose central fantasies come terrifyingly true’, was offered as evidence. This was confirmed when, to everyone’s surprise, The Graduate became one of the biggest box office hits in the United States, not only of the late 1960s but of all time. In the months and years after its initial release, the film also accumulated critical accolades, soon being regarded as one of the great masterpieces of American cinema.
While the film’s original audience was mostly made up of young people who could see themselves reflected in Benjamin and Elaine, today it is of equal interest to older people, looking back on their own youth and on the turbulent period of the late 1960s. At the same time, the film speaks to us (as much through the character of Mrs. Robinson as through the youthful leads) about timeless concerns: the burden of life’s many disappointments, the power of sexuality, the ideal (or fantasy) of true love – and about the magic of cinema itself.
The screening of the film will be preceded by a fifteen minute introduction by Peter Krämer, author of The New Hollywood: From Bonnie and Clyde to Star Wars (Wallflower, 2005). There will be a chance to discuss the film after the screening.
Hotel Salvation on Thursday evening is an indie Indian film of great joy. This debut film from a young director combines modernity and Hindu philosophy so artfully you will be swept along as if in a haze of marijuana laced lassi.