Saturday, October 20, 2007

My Favorite Movies Nobody Has Seen, #1

Off and on, for no good reason, I'll be dropping notes on offbeat films that I love. These aren’t necessarily my favorite films of all time. These are my favorite relatively obscure films of all time. Almost all of them are by renowned directors, and almost all of them have fallen between the cracks.

O Lucky Man! 1973 (Warning: If you don’t like this film, you will probably loathe it.)

Lindsey Anderson (If…, This Sporting Life) directs Malcolm McDowell in a long, picaresque fable about finding purpose. The film is Candide updated to 1973 (and at far greater length than Voltaire would have had it—Candide is a model of economy). War in the third world, medical experiments on humans, nuclear secrets, the lifestyles of the upper classes, and the fine art of selling coffee beans--yep, it's all here.

The movie is relentlessly self-conscious and self-referential. Actors are poached from McDowell’s previous films (If… and A Clockwork Orange), and often play multiple roles. Alan Price’s songs provide the score, and Alan Price and his band are in the movie, playing, well, Alan Price and his band. Director Lindsay Anderson is in the movie as well, conferring with the band at odd moments, and apparently putting together the movie we are watching, right up until the Zen ending (which, like the movie itself, is loathed by some). On top of the idiosyncratic ensemble of actors and musicians are standout performances from Ralph Richardson and a young Helen Mirren.

No one seems to know why O Lucky Man! was released on VHS years ago back in the 1980s, while the DVD release was endlessly stalled. There were chatrooms full of snarling fans demanding to know what perfidious conspiracy resulted in the delay. But as of October 23, 2007—gosh, that’s next Tuesday—O Lucky Man! will be out on DVD.


Aliya Whiteley said...

Oh Goodie! I love film recommendations, particularly when I've never heard of them. This sounds fabulous.

I'm off to add it to my DVD list.

Sam Taylor said...

I believe I saw this movie in film class. Is this the british movie with different titled "episodes" throughout?

Sorry, this was about 12 years ago now. I have only vague memories.

David Isaak said...


Let me know what you think. Unless you hate it, in which case forget that I was the one who mentioned it.

David Isaak said...

Hey, Sam--

It is indeed British, and has a few episodes, titled things such as "Now", "North", and "South". Opens with a a fuzzy B&W "documentary" about how coffee is grown and harvested, and, umm, "managed" by the overseers...

Sound familiar?

Sam Taylor said...

Yeah, I think it was part of/immediately after we studied the Angry Young Men. Really really hazy memories. Something about a boarding school boy with an AK47 or a Submachinegun, I think -- or maybe taht was another movie with the same people.

Anyway, thanks for bringing this up. Haven't thought about those movies in a while.

David Isaak said...

The boarding school/AK47 is the movie "If..." which was directed by Lindsay Anderson and starred Malcolm McDowell, before "O Lucky Man!" (which was directed by Lindsay Anderson and starred Malcolm McDowell). Almost everyone in "If.." (and in "A Clockwork Orange") is also in "O Lucky Man!"

There's a fair chance you saw them both!

Sam Taylor said...

I probably did :) Thanks for walking me through the detective work :)