Actor Dustin Hoffman is 69 years old today. When the hell did that happen? How did that kid from The Graduate end up being old enough for Medicare? Sure, I've seen Hoffman in more recent films ... although a quick glimpse at his filmography made me realize that the most recent film I saw him in was in 1997, Wag the Dog. When I was in college, I went to London one summer and tried to get tickets to see Hoffman in a sold-out West End production of The Merchant of Venice; instead I ended up seeing Daniel Day-Lewis and Judi Dench in the RSC Hamlet. And then there was the time I took my now-husband on one of our first dates to see a truly uplifting double-feature of Midnight Cowboy and Taxi Driver.
The Graduate is not one of my favorite films or even my favorite film with Hoffman in it (I have a nostalgic fondness for Tootsie), but every so often I get the urge to watch it again. I don't like the 1967 film as a whole but I like many moments in it: the montage sequences during Benjamin's affair with Mrs. Robinson, Anne Bancroft in that leopard-skin coat, Hoffman in the scuba-diving suit, Buck Henry's cameo appearance, and the twisted humor in so much of the dialogue. What I remember most clearly about The Graduate is that it was one of the first letterboxed videotapes I ever watched, after seeing it several times in a cropped full-frame version. The difference between the full-frame and the widescreen versions was amazing. I had the same experience later with MASH -- every frame is crammed with visual goodies that are a treat to discover on a repeat viewing. Today's advice: don't ever watch a "full-frame" version of The Graduate if you can possibly help it ... missing the full impact of Mrs. Robinson putting on her stockings is only one drawback.