If… (1968)
★★★★ / ★★★★

This is one of those films that I will never forget because of how daring it was (still is) especially back at the time of its release. Lindsay Anderson was able to helm a counterculture film that fuses reality with surrealism and dark fantasy, all the while embracing its satirical nature. This was Malcolm McDowell’s first feature film and it was easy to tell that he was a star. He played his character with such domineering sneer and swagger, it was almost as if he was preparing to star in “A Clockwork Orange” directed by the great Stanley Kubrick. The way McDowell’s character and his friends (David Wood and Richard Warwick) were constantly pushed toward the edge by the faculty was fascinating to watch. Each scene has an implication and a certain bite to the point where I found myself referring back to the earlier scenes and realized that foreshadowing is one of its strongest elements. The final scene involving a bloody student uprising against the school system was done in such a provocative way; I didn’t know whether to laugh or take it seriously. Another element that I found to be interesting was the romance between McDowell and a waitress (Christine Noonan). That one “animalistic” scene was so out of the blue but it was exemplary because it’s as if it symbolizes every student’s frustration in that public school. Lastly, the romance between Warwick and one of the younger boys (Rupert Webster) provided a much-needed sensitivity to the picture. Even though they may not have many scenes where they conversed, when they finally did, I couldn’t help but have a smile on my face. This may have been really controversial back in the late 1960s but I think it’s more relevant today. School shootings have now become far too common because of the way students feel about their teachers, peers and the school’s atmosphere. (On the other hand, one can argue that school shootings happen for no reason at all rather than to inflict pain and violence.) This film does a tremendous job avoiding expected rationalizations for the students’ future actions whenever it could. If one is craving for something different in style and perspective, this is the one to see.

5 replies »

  1. I’d heard about this film for ages, so I finally saw it. Not quite what I expected, not as good as I’d hoped, but worth seeing, yes. Although I did use the Fast-Forward control. Seems like a bit of a period piece, and very idiosyncratic. Not sure if Anderson thought he was saying anything BIG, but he wasn’t.

    Without MacDowell, this would have been a disaster. He makes the film.

  2. What specific things about the film did you not like? The subject matter? The way it unfolded? Its murky use of metaphors and symbolisms?

    Personally, I never use the fast-forward button no matter how bad the movie is. In some instances, there’s a scene or two that define the film which can, for example, turn a two-star movie to a three-star film. You never really know what you’re missing. To me, if I don’t see the product as a whole, my criticism is null.

    But at least we can agree on one thing: McDowell is a great job as Mike Travis.

  3. I agree with you about the FF button. I almost never use it. I guess I was just feeling pressed for time.

    I can’t say that there are specific things I disliked. I just felt it was paced wrong – too slow. Rather repetitive. Yeah, I guess the subject matter was too limited while at the same time hinting at something more that it failed to deliver.

    Check out my post if you want:

  4. great movie. it’s actually the first film i remember watching in my life. i was probably 3 years old and woke up late one night. i walked out of my bedroom and found my mom watching a late night movie on TV. this was the movie.

  5. She let you watch it?? lol, 3 years old is a little young to watch this movie. But I’m glad you enjoyed it and stuck with you. For me, the 1st movie I remember watching was “Child’s Play.” I still dream of Chucky sometimes…

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