From Joe Leydon, sometime this morning: “Something else about The Graduate and not unlike The Sterile Cuckoo, which followed two years later. It appears timeless because it’s not at all reflective of its time. You’d never know from looking at these films (both of which I love, and both of which I saw back in the day) that the Vietnam War was going on.”
HE response: “The Graduate actually was reflective of its time as far as your vaguely stifling upper-middle-class norms were concerned. Anti-Vietnam War and anti-Dow Chemical napalm fervor (‘Dow shall not kill’) was hot on university campuses but in your cushy suburbs this political current only caught on in the aftermath of all the ’68 convulsions (MLK and RFK killings, LBJ folding his tent, Chicago Democratic Convention riots) and beyond. In ‘67 the middle-class miasma was mainly about dreaming about the Beatles and getting high and zoning out…an odd blend of vague resignation and regimentation and cruising around for nocturnal adventure. Whiffs of sexual secretions (as well as ‘blue balls’) and Brooks Brothers shirts that smelled like pot and the sounds of Buffalo Springfield and Sgt. Pepper.
HE commenter Pete Meisel also asked if “we’re about to have the great reappraisal of Catch-22 now that Henry and Nichols are both gone. I always thought it could have been an all-time great but that it had the misfortune of coming out at the same time as Robert Altman‘s M.A.S.H. and looked hopelessly mannered in comparison.”
HE response: “Nichols admits during the Catch-22 DVD commentary with Soderbergh that the film suffers from a lack of undercurrent. It’s all upfront, all stated plainly and rather broadly. The things that always stick to your ribs in the matter of noteworthy films are the after-aromas, “the things that are not said” but are clearly there. One of the very few sections of the film that deliver this happens in the last 25% or 30%, during the heavily shadowed scenes in Rome.
Miesel: “I would agree. Far too much of Catch-22 relies on TELLING us how insane it all is as opposed to showing and intimating until, as you correctly point out, the sequence in Rome.