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Life at a British boarding school is turned upside down when a small group of students stage a violent revolt.
For more about If.... and the If.... Blu-ray release, see If.... Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on August 20, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Malcolm McDowell, David Wood, Richard Warwick, Christine Noonan, Robert Swann, Peter Jeffrey
Director: Lindsay Anderson
» See full cast & crew
If.... Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, August 20, 2011
Winner of the prestigious Palme d'Or Award at the Cannes Film Festival, Lindsay Anderson's "If...." (1968) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include an episode of Cast and Crew, a television series produced by BBC Scotland; video interview with actor Graham Crowden; "Thursday's Children", a documentary film narrated by Richard Burton and directed by Lindsay Anderson and Guy Brenton; and audio commentary featurring film critic and historian David Robinson and actor Malcolm McDowell. The disc also arrives with an illustrated booklet featuring an essay by critic David Ehrenstein as well as reprinted pieces by David Sherwin and Lindsay Anderson. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
The early scenes are misleading because they suggest that If…. could be a film about a group of schoolboys who have grown up and are remembering what might have been the best days of their lives. In these scenes they are constantly lectured by pretentious teachers and four sixth-formers who often go the extra mile to prove that their words should be taken seriously, but it feels like everyone is getting along just fine.
However, as the plot begins to unravel it becomes increasingly clear that If.... will not be a charming nostalgic film. The more time we spend in the boarding school with Mick Travis (Malcolm McDowell, A Clockwork Orange, Caligula) and his two best friends, the more we begin to realize that they are deeply disillusioned and angry individuals. There are also signs that trouble might be on the horizon -- when the boys occasionally get drunk, they talk about being rebels and making a statement.
The most passionate amongst the boys is Mick. He is bright and intelligent, never afraid to speak up his mind, which is why he is routinely punished for his problematic 'attitude'. The other boys are always supportive of him, but they typically remain silent when he challenges the sixth-formers and the teachers.
Rowntree (Robert Swann, TV's The Professionals: MkI), the leader of the sixth-formers, hates Mick because he has realized that he can't dominate him. He can punish and humiliate him, but he can't break him. Nevertheless, when an opportunity arises he decides to teach Mick an important lesson, which will always remind him that he and his kind are destined to be exploited, oppressed and defeated.
Fantasy and reality are very closely intertwined in the film, with Miroslav Ondrícek (Loves of a Blonde, Amadeus) randomly switching from black and white to color cinematography, and it is next to impossible to tell when Mick and his friends are imagining things and when they are not. For example, there is a fascinating sequence in which they leave the boarding school and end up in a cafe where a beautiful girl (Christine Noonan, Backwoods) seduces Mick, but then she suddenly disappears -- only to join the boys again at the end of the film when they become possessed by anger.
The sense of chaos, however, has a lot to do with the film's insistence that anarchy and violence might be the only appropriate cure for the sick system the Crusaders, as Mick and his friends call themselves, set out to confront.
Director Lindsay Anderson, who was a great admirer of French anarchist filmmaker Claude Faraldo, clearly has a favorite side in the conflict If…. chronicles. In fact, he condemns not only the boarding school system but the entire English system with its double standards, tolerance for abuse, and unwillingness to reform.
The film is loaded with provocative one-liners -- "One man can change the world with a bullet in the right place" and "War is the last possible creative act" -- that make one wonder exactly what type of reaction director Anderson expected and hoped If…. would produce. In 1968, the year If…. was released, Paris was burning from student unrest, but London was quiet.
Note: In 1969, If…. won the prestigious Palme d'Or Award at the Cannes Film Festival.
If.... Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in aspect ratio of 1.67:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a1080p transfer, Lindsay Anderson's If.... arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray release:
"Approved by cinematographer Miroslav Ondricek and assistant editor Ian Rakoff, this high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from an original 35mm interpositive. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS system and Pixel Farm's PFClean system, while Digital Vision's DVNR system was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction.
The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the magnetic tracks. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube's integrated workstation.
Telecine supervisor: Lee Kline.
Telecine colorist: Gregg Garvin/Modern Videofilm, Los Angeles."
Approved by cinematographer Miroslav Ondricek and assistant editor Ian Rakoff, this new restored high-definition digital transfer is a thing of beauty. Not only are detail and clarity dramatically improved, but for the first time now the film's color-scheme is well balanced and free of bleeding patterns and shimmer. The light macroblocking from Criterion's DVD release of If.... is also eliminated. As result, the footage from the storage room now looks substantially better. Some careful degraining corrections have been applied, but a healthy layer of light grain is still easy to see during the entire film. Large debris, scratches, cuts, and stains have been carefully removed. Finally, there are no serious stability issues to report in this review. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
If.... Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English LPCM 1.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
There are no serious technical issues to report. The English LPCM 1.0 track has a rather limited dynamic amplitude, but the dialog is exceptionally clean, stable, and easy to follow. Marc Wilkinson 's music score also benefits from the loseless treatment, but its role remains complimentary. Hiss, pops, and crackle have been eliminated. There are no audio distortions either.
If.... Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
If.... Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Forty three years later, Lindsay Anderson's If.... remains one of the most powerful and controversial British films ever made. Unfortunately and sadly, it is clear now that it was also a prophetic film. Criterion's presentation of If.... is very convincing, clearly a substantial upgrade in terms of video and audio quality. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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