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|Already A Lucky Man
dir Lindsay Anderson
|When i got out of the Navy and moved to Atlanta
in 1972, there was a great hole-in-the-wall cinema (174 seats, one broken)
called "The Film Forum". George and Mike Ellis served the best fresh popcorn
in town, and ran movies you just didn't see anywhere else in the early 70's
-- I first saw "The Boys in the Band", "The Ruling Class" and "Phantom of
the Paradise" at the Film Forum. I saw so many great films there that i can
forgive them for running "Harold & Maude" about every fifth week...
In addition to two shows a night of their regular feature for that week,
they also ran a special $1 midnight movie on Fridays and Saturdays. (In later
years, "Rocky Horror" became the midnight standard for a couple of years.)
And that is where i saw "...if..." for the first time.
I've been an anglophile most of my life (beginning at a rather tender age
with "Swallows & Amazons"), so i had some idea of what English Public
(private) School life was likely to be like, and may have understood what
was happening here more quickly than some of my friends who saw it with me.
In the context of what starts out as a pretty starightforward-appearing school
film, Anderson & MacDowell give us a rather Marxist allegory of modern
class struggle, steadily but almost imperceptibly moving from realism to
a surreal parable of revolution.
The final sequences, with the little old lady with the submachine gun blazing
away screaming "Bastards! Bastards!", the school prefects (seniors) organising
the "good" (loyalist) students to fight the Revolution and pitched battle
raging, have stayed with me ever since, even when i hadn't seen the film
for years at a time.
MacDowell (in his first real feature role) gives an incredible performance
that both foreshadows and (in my opinion) overshadows his next role,
as Alex in "A Clockwork Orange". "Clockwork" was hailed, pretty much rightly,
as a view of a disintegrating society tearing itself to pieces -- "..if.."
covers much the same ground, and does it better and more memorably in miniature
than Kubrick's huge canvas and broad brush strokes.
MacDowell's Mick Travis and his friends are pretty much decent if disaffected
characters; but the System, which cannot tolerate any variances, must either
grind them down or drive them to rebellion -- they choose the latter, and
you will never think of school in the same way again after you see their
gradual radicalisation and the result.
((Don't believe the stories about not having enough money to print the whole
film in colour being the reason for several black&white scenes in the
film -- the real reason is that for the scenes shot in chapel they were not
able to set up lights and had to shoot by natural light, which came in through
a big stain-glass window. They tried some test shots on high-speed colour
stock, but the results were hopelessly grainy and the colour values shifted
constantly as the angle of the sun changed. So they decided to just go ahead
and use B&W for those scenes, and, when Anderson saw how the B&W
footage contrasted with the colour, he decided to use B&W at other points
to keep the audience off-balance as the film slipped from realism to surrealism.
article about a recent re-release for confirmation
oh my brothers, droogs and Crusaders alike!
|Even as i
sat, formatting this review for posting, i was researching something about
The Film, and i encountered
this little piece, which tells me that
is having a fancy formal gala re-release, new
prints and all!
I am typing this on 22 February, 2002; yesterday, 21 February, the new print
had its official debut in London, and next week begins a run in theatre(s).
With luck, this may portend a new video/DVD release, possibly with Goodies
So, much as i could use the money if you ordered a copy through this site
Right Now, my advice is to wait a couple months. then come back here
to buy it, because i promise i'll keep my links on this up-to-date and
you can survive the experience -- close to five hours total, it would be
-- seeing this film on a double feature with its sequel/prequel/whatever,
"O Lucky Man!" is a truly surreal and wondrous experience.