Richard’s Year of Movies — if….

Easily the best movie with an ellipsis in the title I’ve ever seen.  Then again, when your main competition is About Last Night…, it’s hardly a fair fight.  And hey, that rhymes.

if…. feels less cautionary than it must have felt back in 1968, with the counter-culture in full swing and the establishment seemingly doing everything in its power to swat it back into quiet conformity.  Now it seems almost prophetic:  you keep grinding someone down, and sooner or later, they might decide to grind back.  Or walk into a Colorado high school with a bunch of guns.

Which is why a film like if…. probably has no chance in hell of getting made today.  Or seeing any kind of wide release if by some miracle it did.  Concerned citizens would cry and point at how it would encourage such behavior, entirely missing the point that it’s a systemic system of oppression like the one shown in the film — bullying peers, unaware adults, adherence to stale tradition — that drive these kids to these acts, not a piece of celluloid.  But it’s far easier to blame something as ephemeral as a movie than to blame entrenched cultural norms.  Anything to avoid pointing that mirror at ourselves.

And of course, you can’t talk about this film without talking about Malcolm McDowell.  It’s his first film role, but he’s every bit as assured as he is in A Clockwork Orange.  In fact, there’s quite a bit of Alex in Michael Travis, the flouting of authority and the reckless hedonism especially, they just take opposite paths:  Michael goes from part of the system to destroying it, while Alex goes from dangerous outsider to establishment darling.  Alex does get cured, all right, while Michael’s fate is left unspoken, but in a sense, he’s cured too.

Or maybe that fate isn’t so up in the air, because next up in the Netflix queue is the “sequel” to if…., O Lucky Man!, with McDowell playing the same character.  I know it’s not a direct continuation, but it’ll be interesting to see if the events of if…. are mentioned at all.

I will miss that ellipsis though.

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