If…(UK, 1968)

IDirected by: Lindsay Anderson. This is one of those movies whose importance is insisted at you in a way that sometimes seemed unearned. I’m not saying that this film’s reputation is unearned, but as a non-British person without firsthand experience of the English boarding school system, and completely outside of the cultural importance of the tumultuous and anarchic 60’s, this film didn’t pull at me in a particularly visceral way. Without a doubt, though, this is a pretty unique, shocking, and bold film, as direct as it is oblique, as immediate as it is whimsical. I like it when movies deal with dreams, and this film definitely owes its structure less to the standard conflict-resolution story arc than it does to the free floating of a dream. And, by the way, that’s “dream” with all of the Freudian connotations underpinning it, full of repressed desire, societal expectations, sexual frustration, the whole meal deal—and with a particularly eloquent and likable manifestation of the unruly violence of adolescence to fuel it. The groundbreaking success of A Clockwork Orange a few years later kind of thrust Malcolm McDowell into the spotlight above his two cohorts in the film, played by Richard Warwick and David Wood—not to mention the memorable performances by virtually the entire cast—but make no mistake: this is an ensemble movie. The ending sequence—not to be spoiled—is one of cinema’s great endings, I think. Which of course means, one of the great endings I’ve seen.


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