Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
United Kingdom/USA, 1973. Memorial Enterprises, Sam. Screenplay by David Sherwin, based on an idea by Malcolm McDowell. Cinematography by Miroslav Ondricek. Produced by Lindsay Anderson, Michael Medwin. Music by Alan Price. Production Design by Jocelyn Herbert. Costume Design by Elsa Fennell. Film Editing by David Gladwell.
Following the smash hit success of If…., which included winning the Palme D’Or at Cannes, Lindsay Anderson takes the character of Mick Travis, played once again by the irascible Malcolm McDowell, out of school and into the British workforce. The lengthy (three hours) epic musical begins with Mick as a sales representative for a coffee company, traveling the country building up business relationships with various clients and meeting some interesting characters along the way. After an affair with a hotel landlady and a trip to a backroom orgy at a fancy pub, Mick goes for a meeting in Scotland and ends up at a secret government compound where he is arrested as a spy, then sent back to London with a group of musicians (actually played by Alan Price and his band, who play a number of songs throughout the film). There he ends up the assistant to a wealthy industrialist and falls in love with his beautiful daughter (Helen Mirren) before being used as a fall guy for the company’s white-collar crimes and sent to prison, where he learns to embrace humanism. Meant to cover all the ins and outs of British Society Today, dealing with economics, class and cultural revolution, the film is far too well directed and performed to feel like a mess, but it certainly gives you the experience of falling down a rabbit hole. Many of the cast members repeat roles throughout, the best of them Ralph Richardson as both Mick’s neighbour at his first hotel and later as Mirren’s father, but it’s McDowell’s show all the way. Whether or not you can stand the strangeness of this movie, particularly how little it apologizes for its bizarre twists and very calm pacing, there’s no denying that the actor’s charisma and unpredictability keep it from ever being boring even in the moments when it gets a bit too socially philosophical (and therefore dated) for its own good. It helps that the musical aspect of it works well, as Price’s songs are all wonderful.
Cannes Film Festival: In Competition
Golden Globe Award Nomination: Best Original Score