If ….

Three years before he starred in A Clockwork Orange, Malcolm McDowell made his name in Lindsay Anderson’s If …. , a bit of junior ultra-violence pitting a gang of troublemakers against the petty tyrants who rule their boarding school. McDowell plays Mick Travis, a fledgling sociopath with an immature fetish for violent, Guy Fawkes-ian resistance. As a study of the fascist power structure of institutions for young men, If …. owes more to the fantastical tone of Jean Vigo’s 1933 Zero de Conduite than to the kitchen-sink “realism” of Tony Richardson’s The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, made just a few years earlier. Anderson’s film is often maddeningly odd, yet always lively and compelling, and just as mercurial as its dangling, one-word title.