Oct 15, 2009

The best of Mike Nichols: The Graduate

1. The Graduate
2. Working Girl
3. Carnal Knowledge
4. Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolf
5. Silkwood
6. Wolf
I haven't seen The Graduate for some time but in my memory it's one of those pictures where everything works — the performances, the script, the direction, all locking together in that way that the best films do to achieve perfect take-off velocity, both weighty and light at the same time. It's the tone I remember best of all — sexy, mordant, intimate, cruel, as pungent as any encounter with actual, living, breathing human beings. That's Nichols' great gift, I think: his understanding of his fellow humans. A lot of directors think they have it, but Nichols really does. He's one of the director I'd like to take personal advice from. Working Girl is the only other film of his where everything comes into such perfect alignment, although Carnal Knowledge is a kick in the teeth and the first half of Wolf is as good as anything he's done. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf is probably too stagey for me these days but I remember being terrorised by it as a kid. It had a permanent impact on my idea of what sort of thing awaited me in adulthood: getting drunk and throwing plates and screaming unretractable insults. That's what you did when you grew up, I thought. Throw plates and scream unretractable insults at one another. Thank God he was a little off on that one.

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