(Directed by Lindsay Anderson) (1973)
(Seen at the Britsh Film Festival, Palace Nova Cinema, North Adelaide, November 2019)
We still can’t believe we saw this freak-show, so overlong that afterwards you need immediately to check-in to an oxygen tent. Whilst we rather liked Lindsay Anderson’s If..., the first ‘instalment’ of the Michael Travis ‘Trilogy’ (if that doesn’t sound too grand), as to this sorry excuse for a film, one can do little more than plunder from a review of the generic Anderson approach, written by Clive James*:
“If Anderson had brought nothing but his talent to the job, the show would have been all over in five minutes. Luckily he had something more formidable to contribute – the power of his intellect. Anderson is certain that Bourgeois Society is crumbling. His way of conveying this is to give you a close-up of a ceiling cracking. It would be a trite image if it were merely casual, but supported by the focused energy of the director’s mind it attains a pinnacle of banality that can only be called heroic. Actors love Anderson. They give him everything. Such force of personality is not to be despised. But actors are not necessarily the best judges of a director’s quality…[or of a script, eh, Mr MacDowell? – Ed.]…People like Lindsay Anderson can never learn what people…should know in their bones: that common sense and a sense of humour are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humour is just common sense, dancing. Those who lack humour are without judgment and should be trusted with nothing.” [Take note, Warner Brothers – Ed.]
Well, there you have it. O Lucky Man! is so humourless, so trite and incongruous in every department (including musically – Try “Poor people are poor people – They don’t understand” or “There’s a lot of poor people who are walking the streets of my town Too blind to see that justice is used to do them right down” – haunting), such a chaotic mish-mash of straw targets (Imperialism, Racism, Capitalism, but not Sexism, certainly not an attack on Sexism) for the Director to puncture, such a waste of actors like Malcolm MacDowell, Ralph Richardson, Arthur Lowe, Rachel Roberts, Helen Mirren, Graham Crowden et al, that we’ve virtually nothing to add. So as to justify our own review, here’s some lyrics you can hum along to**:
If you’ve not spent 3 hours, watching this hodgepodge –
You are a lucky man!
And if you managed its high idiocy to dislodge –
You are a lucky man!
Actors and viewers and Warners might bleed,
They’re much better off simply reading Candide,
If you’ve got the option, go instead for a feed –
Stay a lucky man![* Review in “The Observer” of The Old Crowd, 4 February 1979.] [** To be sung to O Lucky Man! by Alan Price, 1973.]