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  • If...: The Criterion Collection [Blu-ray]
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If...: The Criterion Collection [Blu-ray]

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If…., directed by Lindsay Anderson (This Sporting Life), is a daringly chaotic vision of British society, set in a boarding school in late-sixties England. Before Kubrick made his mischief iconic in A Clockwork Orange, Malcolm McDowell made a hell of an impression as the insouciant Mick Travis, who, along with his school chums, trumps authority at every turn, finally emerging as a violent savior against the vicious games of one-upmanship played by both students and masters. Mixing color and black and white as audaciously as it mixes fantasy and reality, If…. remains one of cinema’s most unforgettable rebel yells.

• Restored high-definition digital transfer, approved by cinematographer Miroslav Ondříček and assistant editor Ian Rakoff, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
• Audio commentary featuring film critic and historian David Robinson and actor Malcolm McDowell
• Episode of the Scottish TV series Cast and Crew from 2003, featuring interviews with McDowell, Ondříček, Rakoff, director’s assistant Stephen Frears, producer Michael Medwin, and screenwriter David Sherwin
• Video interview with actor Graham Crowden
• Thursday’s Children (1954), an Academy Award–winning documentary about a school for deaf children, by director Lindsay Anderson and Guy Brenton and narrated by actor Richard Burton
• PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic David Ehrenstein as well as reprinted pieces by Sherwin and Anderson

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 12 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
By Robin Simmons - Published on
Divisive, entrenched, English class struggle is at the heart of Lindsay Anderson's much-lauded but controversial film about students at a private school who revolt against their repressive, bureaucratic environment. Malcolm McDowell is non-conformist Mick Travis who, with his like-minded friends, stages small acts of rebellion and defiance for which they are punished with severe beatings.

At the time of initial release, the movie was considered dangerous and a possible incitement to violence against the powers-that-be. And in many ways, it was (and still is)!

The film was editorialized as a dangerous, irresponsible film (not unlike A CLOCKWORK ORANGE or Z). Edited with jolting but effective use of color and black and white footage, the most famous scene is the surrealistic and bloody student uprising against the reserved, humorless, restrictive adult world. Daring and unpredictable, the film was a great success among the youth of the time and further empowered the counter-culture that included that other English import, the Beatles. The new Blu-ray edition is one for the library.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Review of Blu Ray Disc only Oct. 2 2011
By Gadget Freak - Published on
Verified Purchase
I will confine myself to a review of this Criterion Blu Ray Edition.

The transfer is every bit as good as you would expect from Criterion and even if you have the Criterion DVD, its worth the upgrade. The extras are excellent, not least the commentary tracks and booklet. My only hope is that before too much longer Criterion do justice to Oh Lucky Man!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Mick Travis: "One man can change the world with a bullet in the right place." March 6 2014
By Annie Van Auken - Published on
The original script of IF.... (1968) was entitled "Crusaders," which is also the name of the eighth and last chapter of this movie.

It's an arty film done in both Eastmancolor and b&w that's probably considered very un-PC in these post-Columbine (and other school tragedy) days.

The boys' college depicted, with its corporal punishment, poor food, multiple strict rules and sharply defined hierarchy, seems more suited to 1868 than a century later. The character played by Malcolm McDowell, who came to prominence with his maverick role here, is labeled "Guy Fawkes" by a classmate; a peg that fits the boy well, for anarchy is what Mick Travis "majors" in.

It all seems so wrong. The parents of these children of wealth pay £623 per annum to have their sons harrassed, cold-showered, humiliated, whipped and browbeat into the sort of men who will one day send their own progeny to such a backward thinking institution.

Traditions are set in stone. It's a miserable life for otherwise privileged kids, but rebellious Mick has his own agenda, a way to fight back that's ironically foretold in a Bible passage heard during a Sunday sermon. He and three other "Crusaders" set off a smoke bomb under the floorboards of their venerable school chapel, and await from rooftop perches a panicked exiting crowd of mostly elders....if....
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Brave film-making that captured a moment April 30 2015
By K. Gordon - Published on
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A mix of naturalism, surrealism, pitch-dark humor and social commentary in an examination of life in an upper class U.K. boarding school in the late 1960s. Terrific acting, and some unforgettable moments and visuals.

Although I will admit, as much as I admire it, I'm even more enamored of Anderson and McDowell's follow up, the less known 'O Lucky Man!' - which is actually a kind of sequel. Whereas 'If...' keeps you (intentionally) at a bit of an arm's length, 'O Lucky Man!' brings you inside the madness.

However, I've enjoyed 'If...' ever more with each viewing, it's flaws bothering me less, it's strengths seeming more special, it's mysteries and secrets seeming to open up. I think part of the trick is realizing and accepting that Lindsay Anderson was as much an anarchist as his main character, and some choices don't have a deep meaning other than to shake the audience out of their complacency - which is a kind of meaning in itself.

A very good, historically important and influential film. If you like the challenging, unorthodox, complex movies that were a staple of the late 1960s and the 1970s then by all means you should see this.

To echo what many others have said, the Criterion blu-ray is an exemplary transfer, heightening the immediacy and power of the visuals when compared to the DVD.
This Sixties depiction of youth insurrection shocks today as it must have shocked audiences then Sept. 9 2014
By Christopher Culver - Published on
Released in 1968, directed by Lindsay Anderson with a screenplay by David Sherwin, IF... is a story of three non-conformist schoolboys played by Malcolm McDowell, Richard Warwick and David Wood, who plot revenge. Organized as a series of tableaux separated by title cards, IF... spends its first half depicting the harsh rules that these boys live under at their elite public school, and the arbitrary punishments given out by senior boys, headed by the sinister Rowntree (Robert Swann) and the distant school officials. This is all in an environment of bizarre old rituals, Latin refrains, and hardly more intelligible English public school slang (and of course, it wouldn't be a classic story of British public school life without some innuendo about buggery.) In the second half of IF..., as the storytelling takes on an increasingly surreal tone where we question what is real and what is fantasy, the boys and a girl from town get their hands on weapons and ultimately commit a massacre.

The 1960s was a time of war in Vietnam (and other violent conflicts brought to viewers globally by the media) and youth uprisings in the United States and France. Plus, these elite British school also featured compulsory military drill. In IF..., the walls of these boys' dormitory is covered with magazine cutouts of war photographs, as if to say that in a violent world, it is no surprise if the young too made recourse to violence. In this respect it feels very much like a precursor to Aki Kaurismäki's THE MATCH FACTORY GIRL. IF... also reflects the new sexual freedom of 1960s Britain, and the frustration kindled in these young men who see such open sexual expression in magazines and town streets but cannot have any of it. There are a number of films from this era that document the rise of a counterculture and more open attitudes, but few are as sympathetic to these young people as this film of Anderson and Sherwin.

The only serious flaw of IF... is that the main actors are too old to convincingly play teenagers, being in their mid 20s at the time of shooting. Imagine how much more shocking the film would be if it were real sixth-formers acting, though I suppose the (few) sex scenes made this impossible. Also, I must express my discontent with the quality of the audio on Criterion's Bluray, which is very muddy. Still, IF... is deservedly a classic, and Criterion's edition is packed with enjoyable and informative extras, so I can give this a very strong recommendation.

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