Good-for-You Film: The Graduate
I felt so bad after last week’s junk TV article, I’ve decided to start a thread of posts called “Good for You Films (and Television).” These are the must-watch classics/quality films and TV shows that, lucky us, are available for free on Netflix, Hulu, or wherever I can find them. Maybe this will help us pull ourselves into a less depraved state of viewing.
And by us, I mostly mean me.
The Graduate (1967)
Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft
Running Time: 1 hr 45 min
Plot: Dustin Hoffman is a tremulous college graduate (hence the title) who isn’t sure what to do about this future. While he’s figuring out life, the universe and everything, he carries on an affair with the wife of one of his parents’ friends. Then, because he doesn’t have enough issues, he begins a relationship/falls in love with her daughter.
Available on: Netflix
Once in a while, it’s fun to watch a movie that makes you feel super smart if you went to film school or have a naturally cinematic eye. I could spent an article talking about the cinematography and how at every turn it constricts or marginalizes Hoffman’s character, reflecting the way he is constricted in his life…but that feels kinda impersonal. Plus, if my textbooks were any indication, it’s nothing new that you can’t find covered in a dozen other books by people who are way smarter than I am.
I will say that, having seen this, I can see it’s influence in a lot of other films. Garden State is really the one that I kept occurring to me in terms of cinematic style, general themes, and the role of music in the story. Watch them back to back and see what I mean.
Instead, I’d like to talk about something that really effected me: the treatment of the main character, Ben (Dustin Hoffman) by the film as a whole. The only reason the cinematography is so effective is because it puts you in touch with Ben’s psyche, and the only reason that works is because you spend the entire film with Ben. He is in every scene, certainly every shot. I feel like in contemporary film, it is rare to spend an entire film with one person–not a pair of people, not jumping back and forth between subplots, but with ONE person. Especially someone who spends so much time in silence, wrapped up in his own brain. These silences are where the cinematography really has a chance to shine and it feels like he is speaking volumes.
It’s this connection between the excellent camera work and a hands down brilliant acting job by Dustin Hoffman that really drives this movie into your heart. You’re not placed inside the character, but right next to him, and you go through everything with him, feel exactly what he feels, especially the really uncomfortable stuff. It’s the kind of reaction, and the kind of film that you watch and say, “I want to make a movie like that.”