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Directed by
Lindsay Anderson
111 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars


Appearing at the height of 1960s youth revolt, Lindsay Anderson’s film is an iconic anti-Establishmentarian fantasy of the period, recalling the classic homage to traditional values of the English public school system, Goodbye Mr Chips (1939), but turning them upside down and being for British youth what Easy Rider (1968) was for their American counterparts.

The film opens at the end of the summer break as students return to their ivy-clad elite public school but it is far less dewy-eyed than that cosy Robert Donat film (or its 1969 Peter O’Toole musical incarnation), depicting instead an institution which is steeped in class prejudice and homo-erotic bastardy and ending with a massacre extrapolated from Jean Vigo's seminal Zero de Conduit (1933).

Former film critic Lindsay Anderson spoke to the mood of the times although audiences today are more likely to be reminded of the gun-happy American school system rather than that of Britain. The film made a star of Malcolm McDowell who appears in his first screen role as Mick Travers (perhaps a play on Mick Jagger?) but who, although he managed to attain film immortality three years later in A Clockwork Orange (1971), would never fly so high again.

Perhaps because Anderson counters conventional film naturalism by switching between colour and black and white and interpellates a sexualized fantasy element thus throwing into question the reality value of what we are seeing and perhaps because with Mick's musings on revolution and especially with the film's staged violent ending the film could be given a Godardian spin (compare for instance Godard's One Plus One, 1969). Seeming to confirm that interpreation,  if.... won the Palme d'Or at the 1969 Cannes Film Festival.




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