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If... (Criterion Collection)
Criterion Collection
Actors: Malcolm McDowell, David Wood, Richard Warwick, Christine Noonan, Rupert Webster
Director: Lindsay Anderson
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama
R     2007     1hr 52min

Lindsay Anderson?s If.? is a daringly anarchic 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 ...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Malcolm McDowell, David Wood, Richard Warwick, Christine Noonan, Rupert Webster
Director: Lindsay Anderson
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Classic Comedies, Classics
Studio: Criterion
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen
DVD Release Date: 06/19/2007
Original Release Date: 01/01/1968
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1968
Release Year: 2007
Run Time: 1hr 52min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 27
Edition: Criterion Collection
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English

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Member Movie Reviews

Reviewed on 11/21/2009...
This movie blew my mind. That doesn't happen a lot. Truly a ground-breaking piece of work, if you ask me. To say nothing of the plot, there are inexplicable surreal moments, and a bizarre mixture of black & white and colour photography.

A movie set in a boarding school in England in the late sixties might seem very closely specialised, but this film is completely accessible to anyone who's ever been to school, and especially to anyone who was an outsider.

The word 'outsider' tends to indicate an "underdog becoming the hero" by the end of the movie, so I guess that's sort of misleading. if.... is miles ahead of those sorts of black-and-white stories. It's honest, brutal, and all shades of grey when it comes to subject matter and characterisation.

The story follows the lives of a core group of five young people who don't see eye-to-eye with the rest of their society, for many reasons. Besides an open affirmation of homosexual love (one of the best romantic/erotic scenes I've ever watched, and very atypical - the part in the gymnasium), this film also has something I thought was even more unusual for a movie of the time: a confident and sexually aggressive female character (this part is one of my top three favourite sex scenes now). One still doesn't see very many such characters, actually.

The film alternates between describing fleeting moments of intense beauty, and the small yet terrible things that occur every day in a school or group of people, especially one as rigid as a boarding school. This builds to the climax of the movie, which is also the end of it. The lack of a resolution is critical to its success - it leaves the door wide open for the viewer. I refuse to give away the ending, but by the time the credits were rolling I was amazed at how completely relevant the story was to the world of today. It may, in fact, be even more relevant today than it was when it was made.

Truly a Great film.

Movie Reviews

McDowell and Anderson: An Unbeatable Team
oscar_freak | 05/22/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"When I was in high school, we had a tradition where we'd go out and rent bad movies. Gradually, this changed to renting weird movies and eventually segued into renting GREAT movies. One of our favorite actors was Malcolm McDowell, the smirking imp we'd seen in "A Clockwork Orange" and later in "O Lucky Man!", another collaboration with the great British director Lindsay Anderson ("This Sporting Life", "In Celebration", "Britannia Hospital", and, incredibly, "The Whales of August"!) I grew particularly fond of his blend of sarcasm and vulnerability (vainly believing I possessed same; I may have been right) and as a result became quite desperate to see this rare movie, which was actually supposed to be BETTER than "O Lucky Man!" I didn't get to do so until a few weeks ago, fully nine years since I graduated high school. I was not disappointed. As it stands, "If..." isn't only a great Malcolm McDowell film, it's also a great movie about the 60s in both Western society and more specifically Britain in its post-imperial hangover (one of the last British imperial dramas before the Falklands, the conflict in and evacuation of Aden--present-day Yemen--reached completion in 1967, probably while "If..." was filming). The title itself apparently comes from the famous Kipling poem which embodied the highest ideals of imperial Britain. College House, the school attended by Mick Travis--McDowell--and his two friends, is dominated by prefects, or "whips," seniors who control the student body in the name of the weak-willed headmasters and teachers, who represent the 60s radical view of liberal democracy. The coercive actions--cold showers, beatings--administered by the whips to Travis and his fellow rebels prefigure the punishment that would be delivered by the Chicago police, Parisian CRS, and Red Army to student demonstrators and the Czech people in May and August 1968 (in both capitalist and communist regimes the punishments are justified in the name of "society" or "the people"). Travis and his friends, the sarcastic Knightley (David Wood) and the pensive Wallace (Richard Warwick), negotiate their travails with wit and cunning and pick up allies along the way, a waitress from a local coffeeshop (Christine Noonan) and younger student Bobby Phillips (Rupert Webster). These two apparently become lovers of Travis and Wallace, respectively. Interestingly, while Anderson follows the pattern of other 60s "rebel" movies by marginalizing women, the relationship between Wallace and Phillips is sensitively and touchingly handled. This was a rare thing for the macho boys of the New Left, whose radicalism stopped at the closet door and who generally seemed to perceive homosexuality as an aberration of the ruling classes. The film eventually ends with a surreal, bloody battle on school grounds that, while it will probably make post-Columbine viewers understandably squirm, seems, in the movie's moral universe, the only possibly end to the institutionalized oppression Travis and his pals face. Just as in "O Lucky Man!" there are hilariously surreal touches to the movie, lessening the shock of its end and underscoring the absurdity of life at College House. Fans of Anderson and McDowell won't be disappointed, and any who are interested in the intersections between film and history are definitely recommended to rent or buy this bewitching movie."
Fighting a Mass State in miniature
Daniel J. Hamlow | Narita, Japan | 08/09/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

""Wisdom is the principal thing. Therefore get wisdom and with all thy getting, get understanding." --Proverbs IV:2The opening quote from Lindsay Anderson's if... is what three sixth formers (one year away from being seniors) named Travis, Knightley, and Wallace strive for, in a revolutionary way. (Note: there are seven forms {grades to us Yanks} in a British school below university level).This is also the story of Jute, the first former who's nervous in his debut at College House. It's a strange new world, but it's stifling, rigid, full of discipline, conformity, obedience, and an adherence to religion and national pride. Figures--since they lost an empire, now they turn on their own people for their mass state. Mr. Kemp, a professor, tells the first formers: "We are your new family and you must expect the rough and tumble that goes with any family life. We're all here to help each other. Help the House and you'll be helped by the House." Professors, the student whips, and the bishop are the authority figures to be reckoned with. Jute is pressured into learning the names of the seniors and pronouncing school terminology correctly--e.g. local girls are called local tarts. But this is a well-known slice of British culture, the British boarding school. The communal study areas, dining halls, rugby matches, mandatory church attendance, war games,... it's all there. Scenes in b&w at times underline the lifelessness and austerity of the school, but also serve as a moving photograph that mirrors that photos Travis collects in his dorm room.Speaking of which, the ongoing turmoil is a backdrop in the form of LIFE magazine-style photos of Vietnam, civil strife in African countries, soldiers, predatory animals, portraits of Che Guevara and Mao Tse-tung strewn in Travis and co.'s room. Travis utters his revolutionary credo while reading from a book: "The whole world will end soon--black brittle bodies peeling to ash." "There's no such thing as a wrong war." "Violence and revolution are the purest acts." "War is the last possible creative act."There are hazings, instructors who are bored, instructors who fondle students, but there's also a headmaster who tries to be understanding, as he does to Travis and company. He tells them that to proclaim individuality is sense of existentialism and that it's the hair rebels that step in the breach. But do society and the establishment really value the rebel, without whom there is no progress? Various scenes spell out the positive and more refreshing emotions. Release is found in the fencing between the three rebels. The sight of blood is reality. Also, the smell of freedom is expressed when the girl whom Travis and Knightley meet at the coffee shop stands atop their stolen motorcycle, arms outstretched as if in flight, a smile of ecstasy on her face, with choir song "Sanctus" from the Missa Luba playing.One b&w scene that made an anti-war statement was that of the nude Matron alone in the school while the boys and instructors are out on war games. She walks inside the dorm rooms, handling one of the boys' clothes. It's that maternal instinct of longing for children as well as the simplicity and beauty of her nudity in contrast to the ugliness of war. But it also denotes the contrast of the peaceful interior to the violence going on outside.Malcolm McDowell (Travis) is wonderful in his starring debut as the leader of the "crusaders." A host of well-known British actors include Graham Crowden as the history professor, (Waiting For God series), Arthur Lowe as Mr. Kemp (Bless Me Father series), and Peter Jeffrey as the headmaster who tries to understand the three rebels.The final scene generates a lot of debate and controversy but it's an apt denouement of what has been portrayed up to that point. An artfully executed film not to be missed."
Already a Lucky Man
Michael Weber | Atlanta | 02/22/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)

"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 every evening 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 firends 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 organising the "good" (loyalist) students to fight the Revolution and pitched battle raging, have stayed with me ever since, even when i wouldn't see 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) *over*shadows 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 cntrasted 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.))"