An American classic, The Graduate is restored in glorious 4k resolution thanks to the folks at Criterion. Chronicling the purgatorial existence of post-graduate Benjamin Braddock(Dustin Hoffman), The Graduate dives into the heady waters of adulthood, sexuality, love, and maturity with unrestrained breadth. Timeless in its’ portrayal of early adulthood and the minefield of social interactions, The Graduate strikes a chord that has resonated for nearly 50 years. Criterion proudly brings Mike Nichols‘ masterpiece to the digital world of high definition, and bolsters the presentation with a wonderful assortment of extras. Criterion, you’re trying to seduce me. Aren’t you?
Opening with Benjamin Braddock’s return home to Pasadena California the opening scene sets the tone for Benjamin’s existential crisis. He stares with empty eyes into space, as if contemplating the futility of his own existence. The viewer is completely locked into Ben’s world from the point forward. The audience watches as he is paraded around his own graduation party like a ribbon winning piece of livestock. Ben stays the focus of the party and only a truly astute viewer will notice the subtle foreshadowing here(it is worth seeing the film twice for all the cinematographic nuances) as other aspects of the plot bleed into the background. Even with all the ceremony and praise Ben can’t shake is unwavering disillusionment and chooses to suffer silently in his room. Ever so slyly, Mrs. Robinson(Anne Bancroft) enters the room under the pretense that it was the bathroom. Taking the allegedly intoxicated Mrs. Robinson home, Ben finds himself entangled in a bizarre situation he has trouble even fathoming. It is truly a delight to see the bewilderment, confusion, and anxiety built up in Dustin Hoffman’s performance here. The scene pays off with comedic absurdity when Mrs. Robinson presents herself, completely naked, to a scared and nervous Ben Braddock. Narrowly escaping with his morality intact, Ben is so flustered by the situation he can only utter a single nervous syllable.
To go any further into detail would ruin all the surprises the movie has to offer, suffice to say it includes perhaps the strangest love triangle of all time mixed with post-graduate anxiety and a leering sense of alienation. The Graduate is a masterpiece that works on so many levels. Mike Nichols does a wonderful job of making such a complex cocktail of themes coherent and accessible. It elicits so much, so well, that every viewer experiences it slightly differently. Dust Hoffman becomes such a critical part of the character that allows the viewer access into this socially complex and morally bankrupt world of WASP society.
Anne Bancroft works incredibly well as the indomitable Mrs. Robinson. At first, she seems invulnerable and fully steeled against the frailties of the world, but ever so slowly you begin to see her cracks begin to show. The subtlety of her performance is astounding and completely entraps the viewer. This intense emotional instability ultimately comes to a crescendo, and immediately crashes to a bottomless low thereafter. The truly mimetic nature of Mrs. Robinson is that, despite all of this, she is able to rebuild her cold, heartless facade. Retreating once again into her void of alcoholism and upper class snobbery.
Katherine Ross as Elaine Robinson is entrancing to watch, like a wounded deer surrounded by wolves. She is the true victim of all the politics surrounding her, and pays dearly for her naivety. Perhaps the sick humour of the entire film is Elaine is actually fairly intelligent, working out most of Ben’s sins before he’s able to confess fully. The irony is that she trusts those around her far to much and ends up being spoon fed lies so that the family can save face. So absurd is the lie that it is a wonder anyone can believe it, including Mr. Robinson. But isn’t that what Mr. McGuire was trying to tell the audience adult society was all about from the very beginning. “Plastics!… There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it.”
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Clarity/Detail: All the detail is as striking and rich as ever.
Depth: This is perhaps one of the earliest and best examples of effective use of depth in a film. So much of the framing of scenes are meant to make certain characters appear large and domineering while belittling others. One scene in particular brings an intense emotion edge to the use of foreground, mid-ground, and background. Seriously, on cinematic principal alone this is a movie everyone should see at least once in their lifetime. There truly is nothing like it.
Black Levels: Moments of heavy contrast and beautifully composed lighting only strengthen the cinematography. Great use of light and shadow that play such an important role in telling the story and driving the emotional narrative of the scenes.
Color Reproduction: Criterion is incredibly discerning when it comes to accurately restoring their source material. The Graduate retains it’s beautiful colors in wonderful fidelity.
Flesh Tones: Flesh looks good.
Noise/Artifacts: Criterion does superb work when it comes to digital restoration and thankfully this is no exception. The film looks immaculate.
Audio Formats: Monoaural, Optional 5.1 Surround Remix
Subtitles: English SDH
Dynamics: Original track was mono, which makes everything sound as if it’s coming from the center of the frame. Criterion did some heavy lifting and included an optional surround sound presentation, but honestly it seems unnecessary. The original film was shot with mono in mind and it works.
Low Frequency Extension: Don’t expect too much here. Probably the most bass you’ll ever hear during the entire film is from Simon and Garfunkel.
Surround Sound Presentation: Criterion did a masterful job considering the source material was originally a monoaural track. That being said, don’t expect it to be on par with modern films which are filmed using multiple tracks and more advanced audio techniques and equipment.
Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is crisp and clean.
- Buck Henry and Lawrence Turmen – Interview done specifically for Criterion between screenwriter Buck Henry and producer Lawrence Turmen. Both share their experience on the film and working with director Mike Nichols. Very entertaining to watch these two veterans of film share stories about the production and work involved with The Graduate.
- Dustin Hoffman – 2015 interview for Criterion featuring none other than the ever eloquent and articulate Dustin Hoffman himself. Hoffman discusses his own anxieties with the production and feeling incredibly out of place, particularly under Nichols discerning eye. Also discusses the more organic scenes of the film and how receptive Nichols was to some of the more improvisational and accidental moments. Also discusses life before LA, working with the likes of Gene Hackman and Robert Duvall in New York.
- Sam and Mike – Interview with writer, editor, historian, and widow of the late Sam O’Steen, Bobbie O’Steen. Bobbie offers insight into the working relationship of director Mike Nichols and editor Sam O’Steen and the process of making the final cut of The Graduate. Very interesting and offers a lot of potent wisdom on the craft of film editing and intense directing.
- Students of “The Graduate” – 2007 Documentary featuring commentary from a variety of directors including Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris, David O’Russel, Harold Ramis, Bobbie O’Steen, and others. Discusses the film in a more analytical light and with great compassion and sincerity.
- “The Graduate” At 25 – 1992 documentary produced for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the film. Perhaps the most compelling reason to watch is for Katherine Ross and Dustin Hoffman’s interviews as both Buck Henry and Lawrence Turman don’t really add anything that hadn’t been discussed already in the “Buck Henry and Lawrence Turmen” interview. Overall, still a nice featurette that has some hidden gems here and there about the production and how the project evolved.
- Mike Nichols and Barbara Walters – Pre-The Graduate interview between Mike Nichols and Barbara Walters from July 29, 1966. Mike discusses his career in the entertainment industry.
- Paul Simon and Dick Cavett – Excerpt from the April 9th, 1970 episode of The Dick Cavett show. Paul Simon discusses the music of Simon and Garfunkel and its’ use in The Graduate.
- Intimations of a Revolution – essay by Frank Rich detailing the cultural significance of The Graduate and elaborating on some of its’ subtler stylistic choices. Also shines a light on the environment of film critics at the time.
- Screen Tests
The Graduate is truly a mastercraft of American cinema and rightfully deserves its’ place amongst the amazing list of films already in The Criterion Collection. Any film viewer who hasn’t seen this film yet is only disenfranchising themselves from a wonderfully comedic, surreal, and visceral story of adulthood and all the anxiety that follows. Criterion did an excellent job of harolding this masterpiece into the 21st century by rendering it in magnificent 4k ultra HD. Along with a laundry list of extra features, commentary from Mike Nichols and Steven Soderbergh, and a masterful restoration, The Graduate from the Criterion Collection is a work of art that deserves a cherished space on every film lover’s shelf’. Find it here.