Monthly Archives: April 2011

Car Culture

American Graffiti (George Lucas, 1973) and

Two-Lane Blacktop (Monte Hellman, 1971)

The pair of car-culture themed films being screened by the Astor theatre in Melbourne as a double bill from the 24th to 30th of April make a fascinating pair; at once complementary and highly contrasting.

George Lucas’ American Graffiti was an exercise in instant nostalgia: released in 1973, it had the temerity to be nostalgic for 1962, only eleven years before. At one level this might be partly excused by the extent of social and political change that occurred in those years. These days, however, we might more readily cast it as a sign of something lacking in George Lucas. He’s known now as a cold and technocratic filmmaker, more interested in fantasy and machinery than with people; and it’s easy to see American Graffiti as part of that pattern. Its escapist revelrie of an adolescence untouched by the social upheavals of the 1960s but glammed up by rock and roll, drive-in diners and hot rods can be painted as Lucas’ rejection of all subject matter that was more complex, troubling, contemporary, and adult.

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