March 26, 2013


Feature films set in English public schools are strangely timeless: their look, their feel, their atmosphere (and if they were in Odo-rama, their smell) are all very similar and, of course not forgetting the hazing, caning, abuse, humiliation, hierarchy, class structure and repression of all sexual orientations - all aimed at transmitting social strictures and structures to the next generation.
Lindsay Anderson's "If... " doesn't depart from that template but the difference is that all those strictures are the film's main subject rather than its background to another story (as in, for instance "Another Country"). Malcolm McDowell's character resistance is existential rather than political and there was something marvellously 1960s about the movie, with its trippy escape into town ("out of bounds!"), street theatre and a joyride on a stolen motorbike, the hook up with the cafeteria girl and the dreams of free love.
The ending is a little disappointing due to the cop-out into violence - the Sixties' hedonist culture did at the time reverberate through even the stodgiest of social institutions, for a while at least.
The film switches back and forth between colour and black & white film stock, which gives it an alienating and interesting feel. (Prosaically, this was due to budget restrictions forcing some scenes to be filmed in black and white for technical reasons).
Marvellous sound track with Sanctus from Missa Luba:

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