If...

A furious, exhilarating assault on the mores of contemporary Britain, sited in a microcosmic boarding school. IF... became one of the key texts of 1960s revolutionary sentiment; decades later, it retains most of its considerable impact. Having spent the summer absorbing London's burgeoning counterculture, a quietly simmering Mick Travis (Malcolm McDowell)...read more

Rating:

A furious, exhilarating assault on the mores of contemporary Britain, sited in a microcosmic boarding school. IF... became one of the key texts of 1960s revolutionary sentiment; decades later, it retains most of its considerable impact.

Having spent the summer absorbing London's burgeoning counterculture, a quietly simmering Mick Travis (Malcolm McDowell) returns to his public school--a nightmarishly oppressive institution in which privilege is based on rank, intellectual achievement is despised, and cynical upper classmen

routinely extort sexual favors from younger boys. The school's systematic brutality is condoned by an ineffectual headmaster whose "modern" views clash ludicrously with the medieval environment. With three close friends, Mick indulges in petty rebellions until he runs afoul of the sadistic head of

house (Robert Swann), who administers a vicious ritual beating in the name of school spirit. Thereafter, Mick and his comrades declare war, and an increasingly surreal chain of events leads to a violent finale in which a guerrilla band disrupts Founder's Day ceremonies with automatic weapons and

grenade launchers.

Strikingly orginal and breathlessly entertaining, IF ... (the title refers ironically to Kipling's jingoistic poem) can profitably be read on several levels simultaneously. On one hand, it's a critique of schoolboys' adventure stories; on another--particularly in its palpable atmosphere of sexual

repression and sublimation--it bears a striking resemblance to Jean Vigo's innovative ZERO DE CONDUITE. (The film is also unmistakably concerned with the Vietnam War and its ideological underpinnings.) Throughout, director Lindsay Anderson (THIS SPORTING LIFE) aims to keep the viewer off-balance,

switching deftly from the formal conventions of British realism to dreamily erotic flights of fancy.

{