What can one say about Mike Nichols The Graduate? Its a seminal work and was one of the central and best films of the short-lived American New Wave, along with the likes of Bonnie and Clyde and Easy Rider. The influential film also made a star of a young Dustin Hoffman and catapulted the music of Simon & Garfunkel to greater international fame. Quite a legacy for the film, which now comes to Blu-ray for the first time, as part of an impressive new Studio Canal collection. If you havent seen it (and shame on you) The Graduate, based on a novel by Charles Webb, is the story of Benjamin Braddock (Hoffman), a twenty-one year old, who upon returning from University discovers that he doesnt want the same life of middle-class conformity so prized by people of his parents generation. Soon after returning home he becomes the subject of the sexual advances of an older woman, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft). What follows is a socially satirical sex comedy, which unusually for a Hollywood film owed much to the French New Wave in terms of form, whilst also pushing the boundaries in terms of content with its racy depiction of sex not to mention its non-conformist morality. It is perhaps the definitive depiction of youth in the sixties, as Benjamins disillusionment at the possibilities of a suburban life, at potentially going into a career in plastics (as one family friend enthusiastically encourages) is reflective of a wider social concern. A concern that the disaffected young people of the era would have identified with, associating conformity with (among other things) the Vietnam War and social conservatism. The Graduate is ludicrously entertaining. Very funny and quite subtle at times. But the reason for its success is chiefly Hoffman. The role was originally to be played by a blue-eyed, blonde haired Adonis-figure in keeping with the WASP setting and aspirations of his parents. But the short and unconventional looking Hoffman compounds the characters inadequacy and his nervousness in a brilliant central performance. The late Anne Bancroft, who was in reality only six years Hoffmans senior, is almost equally impressive as the seductive older woman, convincing completely. Beneath a manipulative and cold exterior, Bancroft also suggests vulnerability, which deepens the role considerably enriching the film. The presence of these two method actors give the light and comic film a solid foundation around which everything else can be built. Their characters (and the film itself) could have lapsed into caricature without them. The Graduate is one of those movies it is impossible to imagine with different actors, with the possible exception of Benjamins eventual love interest (and Mrs. Robinsons daughter), played by Katharine Ross. Ross lacks the gravitas and depth of her co-stars no great shame considering their calibre, but she is at best ordinary. And Nichols deserves a lot of credit too, with some mesmerising sequences which are still referenced today: most recently Casey Affleck paid direct homage with one shot (of a sports car leaving a tunnel on a bridge) in Im Still Here. The film-making here is one the whole inspired and dynamic. What happened to Nichols? From his 1970 follow-up feature, an appalling adaptation of Joseph Hellers Catch-22, to 2007s offensively bad Charlie Wilsons War (and that comes from an Aaron Sorkin fan), Nichols has never re-captured this early magic. But The Graduate is an unqualified classic.