I’ve been susceptible to the perceptions of UCLA film professor Howard Suber since the mid ’90s, which is when I first listened to his smooth, buttery commentaries on the Criterion Collection laser discs of Mike Nichols‘ The Graduate, Fred Zinneman‘s High Noon and Billy Wilder‘s Some Like It Hot. In 2012 I asked Suber to pass along some specially burned DVDs of these discs, but they didn’t look so hot and they skipped from time to time. Now, lo and behold, a YouTube post does it right — the entire Graduate synched with Suber’s commentary, the exact same trip offered to those who watched and listened to the original Criterion laser disc.
If you love and value The Graduate, this version will add to your appreciation of the film in ways you never quite gathered on your own, I swear. And it’s a perfect opportunity for a seance with the spirit of Mr. Nichols, who left us three days ago.
Yes, Suber’s commentary is an academic analysis, a bit dry and professorial, a formal instruction…but it’s very wise and knowledgable, and ripe with all kinds of allusions and connections. Suber gently explains how there’s a lot more to this 1967 classic than just story, dialogue and performances. It’s really quite an integrated audio-visual tour de force.
For one thing he points out the highly significant contributions of The Graduate‘s production designer Richard Sylbert with the black-and-white wardrobes and interior designs, and how the leopard-skin prints suggest the jungle domain and primal instincts contained in a certain predator played by Anne Bancroft.
As with Some Like It Hot, Suber also mentions his belief in the journey of most lead protagonists in most good comedies — desire, deception and discovery. The discovery phase, mind, is not just about the main character realizing what he/she truly wants but who he/she really is in the eyes of others. It happens when Dustin Hoffman‘s Benjamin Braddock, after an hour of uncertain, anxious behavior, finally stops reacting and makes a decisive move on his own. Suber calls it the “one-hour pivot point.”
An excerpt from Suber’s commentary, contained on the Criterion site, mentions “the startling montage of the affair between Benjamin, the film’s protagonist, and the wife of his father’s best friend. Cutting back and forth between hotel bedrooms and his parents’ swimming pool, it ends with the young man diving into the pool and, in a perfectly matched cut, landing on top of his mistress in her bed, at which point we hear the voice of his father ask, ‘Ben, what are you doing?’ Justly lauded by critics and historians, the scene was the result of careful collaboration between Nichols and Sam O’Steen, one of Hollywood’s foremost film editors.”
This video was uploaded on 7.31.14 by “Brian Streem.”