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If...
BLU-RAY disk
09.01.2011 By: Mathew Plale
If... order
Director:
Lindsay Anderson

Actors:
Malcolm McDowell
Richard Warwick
Christine Noonan

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Pupils at a strict English boarding school plot violent revenge against the oppressing seniors and faculty.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Strict rules and a schedule are followed. Hair must be short, mustaches never grown. A bell tells the students where to go and when. The youngest must study and memorize the names of all of the boarding school’s faculty and seniors. And Gold help you if you “um” or “er” while reciting.

“When do we live? That’s what I want to know.”

The question, every syllable reasonable, comes from Mick Travis (Malcolm McDowell, who can’t not look mischievous, as Stanley Kubrick no doubt took note of), the sort of student who decorates his dorm room wall with photographs of Vietnam War soldiers clutching their automatics. These adornments also play well into the over handed foreshadowing found in the film, which also includes classmates calling Mick “Guy Fawkes,” a moment focused on Munch’s The Scream and his horoscope urging immediate battle.

(There is no symbolism, however, to be found in filming some sequences in black and white, which even McDowell found arbitrary. And they are, serving no function except for director Lindsay Anderson to stand out and rebel like his young lads.)

Anderson’s If…, unlike its Us vs. Them predecessors like Zero for Conduct and The 400 Blows, lacks humor and/or commentary. Maybe that worked in 1969, when just about everybody outside of a suit had had enough. Maybe 40+ years ago, If… was a perfect representation of “out with the old, in with the new” and only hostile takeover, where its noble hero and his crusaders open fire on their oppressors from a rooftop, could get their attention.

But today, in a post-Columbine/Virginia Tech world, If… just seems wrong; it’s a demented fantasy with no other clear thought but violence.
THE EXTRAS
Audio commentary featuring film critic and historian David Robinson and Malcolm McDowell: This track covers all of the necessary bases, with the contributors discussing the cast, the film’s production, Lindsay Anderson’s career, and much more. McDowell’s comments, welcome yet less frequent, are excerpted from a 2002 interview.

Cast and Crew (42:07): This 2003 episode of the BBC Scotland-produced television series details the production, release and legacy of If… McDowell, director’s assistant Stephen Frears (whose The Hit was released by Criterion in 2009), producer Michael Medwin, cinematographer Miroslav Ondrícek, assistant editor Ian Rakoff, and screenwriter David Sherwin are all interviewed.

Graham Crowden (14:37): This interview, recorded in 2007 for Criterion’s DVD release, has actor Crowden discussing the film, his character of History Master and working with director Lindsay Anderson.

Thursday’s Children (22:09): Anderson’s 1955 documentary, which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary, Short Subjects and is narrated by Richard Burton, takes a look at The Royal School for Deaf Children Margate.

Also included with this Criterion Collection Blu-ray is a 32-page booklet featuring an essay titled “School Days” by critic David Ehrenstein and reprinted pieces by screenwriter David Sherwin and director Lindsay Anderson.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
The clearest idea in Lindsay Anderson's If... is that violence is the way for us to defeat them. That disturbing thought taints the film, but fans are apparently loyal enough to warrant a Blu-ray release. The Criterion Collection's 2007 DVD contained all of the special features found on this disc, but there's no denying that the video and audio are an improvement.
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11:20AM on 09/01/2011
I thought this movie was stunning on first viewing some time ago, didn't like it as much on a 2nd viewing for reasons the reviewer goes into. Still, it's an interesting relic of its time, and is a sort of time capsule for a pre-Clockwork McDowell.
I thought this movie was stunning on first viewing some time ago, didn't like it as much on a 2nd viewing for reasons the reviewer goes into. Still, it's an interesting relic of its time, and is a sort of time capsule for a pre-Clockwork McDowell.
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