Directed by Mike Nichols

Starring Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft & Katherine Ross.

Cameos: Buck Henry, Richard Dreyfuss (in his one-line screen debut).

"The Graduate"

Playing in 50 cities, February 1997 Rated: PG

It used to be film revivals were common. In the 1940s and '50s, "Gone With the Wind" would be re-released every 6 to 8 years. In the 1970s, "Fantasia" made its rounds now and again.

There were gorgeous restorations of "Lawrence of Arabia" in the late '80s and a "Wind" again in 1990, but for the last 20 years there hasn't been many of these grand returns.

In the last year however, the tradition itself has been revived. The enormous success of the restored "Vertigo" and revamped "Star Wars" most likely assures this welcome trend will not die soon, and it is films like "The Graduate" that make it all worth while.

Not to take away from any of the aforementioned masterpieces, but Mike Nichols' ground-breaking 1967 tour of post-adolescent self-discovery, confusion and angst is the most enjoyable re-issue of this new trend.

Through Nichols' imaginative direction he captured completely the sardonic aimlessness of being 20 years old, while poking hilarious fun at the accompanying self-pity. He created a film an entire generation could point to as part of the tapestry of their lives.

Although Dustin Hoffman never looked 20 even when he was 20, his star-making performance as Benjamin, the rudderless and tittering grad looking for a purpose in life is even more pithy with 30 years of retrospect.

He spends his time contemplating his future but finds his purpose elusive until he's distracted by an affair with a neighbor's wife, then by love for the neighbor's daughter.

Buck Henry's ironic script is at once biting and thoughtful. The affair with Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) is something that distracts Ben from his problems, until he meets Mrs. Robinson's daughter Elaine (Katherine Ross). Then the affair becomes his only problem.

It is only after he confesses to Katherine, in the hopes of salvaging their relationship before her mother can destroy it, that he realizes he's is irreversibly in love.

The best comedies are the ones that make you laugh and feel and think. "The Graduate" is a yard stick by which these comedies can be judged.

With Simon and Garfunkel songs accompanying half the picture, "The Graduate" was also the first non-musical driven partially by its hit soundtrack. While this has become a technique gone awry, here it really sets a mood for the film, anchoring it in thoughtful lyrics, even if those lyrics have very little to do with what's on the screen. (Have you ever really listened to "Mrs. Robinson?" It makes very little sense in context.)

Anne Bancroft's performance as the brusque, manipulative Mrs. Robinson is the linchpin that brings Henry's insightful script to life. The famous scene in which she seduces Benjamin is one of the most venerable and funny moments in American cinema -- one of many funny moments that make this film a cinematic gem.

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