Film Essays American Beauty - A Mans Perspective

"American Beauty" is not as dark or twisted as "," last year's attempt to shine a light under the rock of American society. It's more about sadness and loneliness than about cruelty or inhumanity. Nobody is really bad in this movie, just shaped by society in such a way they can't be themselves, or feel joy.

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The movie was the first of the many thousands of public education films about cancer produced since 1921. But until recently it was impossible to view. No copies seemed to have survived in any major film collection. Even the American Cancer Society — as the ASCC was renamed in 1944 — had not kept a copy. The movie was considered lost until 2006 when a print was discovered in a partially catalogued collection at the Library of Congress and preserved by the National Library of Medicine. A digitized copy of this print accompanies this essay. This article follows the life of the movie from its beginnings to its rediscovery. It explains why the film was made, how it sought to promote the ASCC’s educational message, how it was received and distributed, why it was lost, and how it was rediscovered and preserved.


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"American Beauty" is a comedy because we laugh at the absurdity of the hero's problems. And a tragedy because we can identify with his failure--not the specific details, but the general outline.