Long before Star Wars, George Lucas was an everyday film student at the University of Southern California, toiling away on graphics and animation courses and completing his first student film, titled Look at Life. The short once was showcased on the documentary Empire of Dreams. Part of it is shown in the Vimeo clip above, shared via CinephileArchive.

Life is an abstract montage of black-and-white images that reflect some of the political tensions of the time. (Lucas enrolled in film school in the mid-1960s, a politically charged era that no doubt would have colored his storytelling methods.)

But the site has an additional find, one that might interest Lucas aficionados. Apparently the writer-director worked on 1:42.08, a short film with race car driver Peter Brock that has multiple visual cues to Lucas’ later films. Lucas shot the short at the Willow Spring Raceway in California, and it’s drenched with the automobile admiration that drove American Graffiti, as well as the staging of the Death Star attack at the end of Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope. Take a look for yourself. More important, take a listen, as Lucas does a better-than-average job at capturing the guttural sounds of a race car … something that would be a distinction by the time he started shooting Star Wars in the deepest reaches of outer space. You can almost hear the pod racers from Phantom Menace in the sounds he captures in this short film.

As with any filmmaker, I’m sure Lucas would be horrified at the thought of these movies making the rounds today. They are experiments, ways for a budding filmmaker to learn his craft. And in time, he parlayed his talents into the Star Wars universe – turning himself into a multi-billionaire. But sometimes it can be interesting to see where a director starts, especially when we already know where he’s going, in time.

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