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If.... (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
Special Edition, Criterion Collection
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If…., directed by Lindsay Anderson (This Sporting Life), is a daringly chaotic vision of British society, set in a boarding school in late-sixties England. Before Kubrick made his mischief iconic in A Clockwork Orange, Malcolm McDowell made a hell of an impression as the insouciant Mick Travis, who, along with his school chums, trumps authority at every turn, finally emerging as a violent savior against the vicious games of one-upmanship played by both students and masters. Mixing color and black and white as audaciously as it mixes fantasy and reality, If…. remains one of cinema’s most unforgettable rebel yells.
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Top customer reviews
Although I will admit, as much as I admire it, I'm even more enamored of Anderson and McDowell's follow up, the less known 'O Lucky Man!' - which is actually a kind of sequel. Whereas 'If...' keeps you (intentionally) at a bit of an arm's length, 'O Lucky Man!' brings you inside the madness.
However, I've enjoyed 'If...' ever more with each viewing, it's flaws bothering me less, it's strengths seeming more special, it's mysteries and secrets seeming to open up. I think part of the trick is realizing and accepting that Lindsay Anderson was as much an anarchist as his main character, and some choices don't have a deep meaning other than to shake the audience out of their complacency - which is a kind of meaning in itself.
A very good, historically important and influential film. If you like the challenging, unorthodox, complex movies that were a staple of the late 1960s and the 1970s then by all means you should see this.
To echo what many others have said, the Criterion blu-ray is an exemplary transfer, heightening the immediacy and power of the visuals when compared to the DVD.
The original script was entitled "Crusaders," which is also the name of the eighth and last chapter of this movie.
It's an arty film done in both Eastmancolor and b&w that's probably considered very un-PC in these post-Columbine (and other school tragedy) days.
The boys' college depicted, with its corporal punishment, poor food, multiple strict rules and sharply defined hierarchy, seems more suited to 1868 than a century later. The character played by Malcolm McDowell, who came to prominence with his maverick role here, is labeled "Guy Fawkes" by a classmate; a peg that fits the boy well, for anarchy is what Mick Travis "majors" in.
It all seems so barbarically wrong. The parents of these children of wealth pay £643 per annum to have their sons harrassed, cold-showered, humiliated, whipped and browbeat into the sort of men who will one day send their own progeny to such a backward thinking institution.
Traditions set in stone are justified by the headmaster: "Those who are given most also have most to give." It's a miserable life for otherwise privileged kids, but rebellious Mick has his own agenda, a way to fight back that's ironically foretold in a Bible passage heard during a Sunday sermon. He and three other "Crusaders" set off a smoke bomb under the floorboards of their venerable school chapel, and await from rooftop perches a panicked exiting crowd of mostly elders....if....
This movie is also available on a Criterion Collection DVD.