Criterion Prediction #2: O Lucky Man!, by Alexander Miller
Title: O’ LUCKY MAN!
Director: Lindsay Anderson
Cast: Malcolm McDowell, Ralph Richardson, Helen Mirren, Arthur Lowe
Synopsis: Malcolm McDowell and director Anderson’s follow-up to their anti-establishment classic If… with an even grander, more ambitious epic scaled coming of age/capitalist allegory that dwarfs anything in Anderson’s filmography, or film as a whole for that matter. McDowell revisits the Travis character from their previous If… Travis is now making his way in the world, which in Anderson’s hands is a freewheeling narrative chronicling Travis’ rags to riches, riches, to rags, and everything in between. Embracing Marxist literature, classic philosophy and everything else under the sun Mcdowell’s wide-eyed Travis is the perfect catalyst for this multifaceted classist scrutiny. Actors revisit roles throughout, and the film is a spirited romp through all that is life, and what it means to be a…”Lucky Man”
Critique: One could say that Anderson’s counter-cultural roar of defiance that is If.. is in a category of its own, nearly impossible to analogize with another title, the same could be said for O’ Lucky Man!. Although both films are almost impossible to analogize, or tether to another title, one could say that aesthetically if If.. is Anderson’s Zero de Conduite (or maybe Heathers?) then his follow up O’ Lucky Man! could be something in the same vein as The Big Chill, even that would be a stretch…Regardless, Anderson’s film is equally adventurous and daring but it excels in scale with a running time veering on three hours. O’ Lucky Man! is, in the best sense of the word a collection of cinematic contradictions that play with each other wonderfully. With a three-hour running time and loaded script, this film flows with ease. The antiestablishment tone is ever present but doesn’t hit you over the head the way think it might. The absurd black humor will make you laugh out loud, but it veers from the expected Monty Python inspired lunacy people might expect from a British comedy. Instead of merely providing a score, Alan Price’s band appears in the film, their songs are featured in live performances throughout the movie, acting as a Greek chorus along the way. O’ Lucky Man! might sound like an anarchistic mish mash, and yet it’s helmed by a consummate pro, Lindsay Anderson steers this vessel with such leisure and confidence it all works.
Why it Belongs in the Collection: The Criterion Collection hosts two major Lindsay Anderson films; one which is frequently cited as “the best British Film of all time” This Sporting Life, and the iconic If…, and it only makes sense to host O’ Lucky Man! as well. Not only is it a companion to Anderson’s If.. O’ Lucky Man! it fits the bill of unique eclectic works, although it would be appropriate to compare it to other films in the collection it is just as hard to compare as it is to describe. Although O’ Lucky Man! has a relatively decent DVD release from Warner (with commentary track by McDowell, Price and scriptwriter David Sherwin, it’s not a film with enough profile to reach a wider audience, and with home video going from endangered to nearly extinct species next to streaming content I’m sure O’ Lucky Man! isn’t on Warner’s Blu-Ray update list. l Amazon, Netflix, or Hulu won’t recommend this, and it’s not on many, if any “best of” movie lists, however it’s a great film that is deserving of a spine number.