06 December, 2008

A long time ago at a racetrack far, far away...

It had been a throwaway comment of mine, some banter with a friend that you could plot a pretty much dismal trajectory of Quality over Time watching films that spanned the career of George Lucas.

I'm terribly fond of Star Wars (1977) I fit into that loose generation for whom it came at just the right time in their lives for maximum impact but even through my rose-tinted glasses I can see that there's plenty about it that's pure cheese - those transitions... a diagonal wipe George? Really? What is this a PowerPoint presentation?

But Star Wars was great back then - a fact that George seemed to drill home when he had the opportunity to go back and retrospectively add in the bits that would finally make it his vision. His vision it seems included extra bits of CGI slapstick added like a turd on a wedding cake - way to prove the theory correct George.

Then I got round to seeing American Graffiti (1973), Lucas' hymn to the hot-rod and it confirmed the theory as true - George was a petrolhead and the older the films the better they were.

I haven't actually seen THX 1138 (1971) yet, but on this reckoning it should be pretty promising.

I concluded my pet peeve with the friend by proposing that in theory George's final major project from Film School should be an absolute 100% belter - if we trace the Quality/Time graph backwards it suggests something pretty cool. But what the hey, this is idle banter and I forgot about it.

Out of the blue then imagine my surprise to hear that somebody has got hold of George Lucas’ 1966 senior thesis film from USC, a dialogue-free short called A Man and His Car or 1:42:08. It’s basically nicely edited footage of Australian racecar driver Peter Brock racing his Lotus 23 around Willow Springs Raceway.

It's very much a short. Sparse, atmospheric and beautiful - it's not for everybody, but if your favourite films include Le Mans and In Car 956 then I can guarantee you'll enjoy it. See it on YouTube here.

Some folk who managed to sustain their fandom through the 'new' Star Wars films seem to reckon that the livery of Anakin Skywalkers pod racer owes something to Brock's Lotus - I wouldn't know about that, I'm just hoping that ol' neck-bollock doesn't decide that what this short film really needs to add the final cherry on the top is a computer-generated japanese in the pits resplendent in wireframe glasses with goofy teeth and horrific dialogue.

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