Originally Posted by Dr. Eugene Felikson
My first time seeing it in full. I'm intrigued by Lucas' non-Star Wars related efforts and I've gotta say - I like what I see very much so.
I was confused by the ending. Where a few main characters pictures showed up and there was a brief description of what happens to each after the events of the film. Is this based on Lucas' friends and him? I don't quite understand.
I don't think there's anything particularly personal behind the ending, besides Lucas likely having had schoolfriends who graduated and then went straight off to Vietnam. In that sense I took it as one of those 'end of innocence' stories, and was maybe the key film in ushering in a kind of teen nostalgia (people like Corman had always focused on contemporary youth cults). It seemed to solidify a kind of cult-of-innocence around that whole early RnR era, that obviously inspired later films like Grease, Peggy Sue Got Married, Porky's and the first Back to the Future or TV shows like Happy Days and The Wonder Years.
It also gets a lot of credit for its innovative approach to soundtracks, using nothing but pre-recorded pop music. That was apparently a big influence on Scorsese (although Scorsese argues it was Kenneth Anger's Scorpio Rising), as well as the way scenes were kind of synchronised to the music, without the film being a bona fide musical. (Again, Scorpio Rising did it first but more people obviously saw American Graffiti.)
I think AG is a massive film on so many levels: ushering in an entire 50s nostalgia industry that still remains; translating previously 'underground' ideas into viable mainstream ones; etc.