short film reviews, criticism, and occasional musing.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

If.... (1968, UK)

This isn't entirely fair, but I'm going to write about If.... even though I still don't quite know what to think about it. I've been waiting to see If.... for at least 10 years now, maybe longer. It started with my teenage love of Malcolm McDowell, incepted with A Clockwork Orange, and then when I was about . . . fifteen? I caught a section of O Lucky Man! on cable. I didn't know what the fuck I was seeing, and it was basically impossible for me to find Man again, or to find If.... at all. Damn small-town video stores and the nascent interwebs.

Okay already - Criterion has finally issued a version of If...., and I have finally seen it. And now I'm even more irritated about the difficulty of finding Lindsay Anderson's other movies on DVD. If.... stars McDowell in his first film role, playing schoolboy anarchist Mick Travis, who leads his compatriots through a series of (mis)adventures, some of which are certainly less real than others. It's a horrifying look at English public school traditions, while simultaneously tapping right in to the revolutionary spirit of the late 1960's. It's a very interesting comparison with Zabriskie Point, which was filmed just a few years later. I don't want to describe If.... too much, as I just left a message board where people were pissed that they thought a reviewer had spoiled them. However, I will say that, again like Zabriskie, the final sequence is pretty shocking.

I've been reading a lot about how critically praised If.... has been, how it won the Grand Prix at Cannes and has landed near the top of a lot of U.K. film lists. Frankly, I'm going to need to see it again to really decide what I think about all of this. It's an incredibly dense film, especially considering Anderson's disrupted narrative style. But it certainly made me anxious to find more of his work.


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