Tuesday, February 24, 2015

O Lucky Man! ***1/2 (1973)

O Lucky Man! follows the coffee salesman Michael Travis in his dreamlike odyssey through 1970s Great Britain.  

Malcolm McDowell wrote the story and played the lead role.  Told in the style of a picaresque tale, Travis interacts with all levels of English society- the business class, rock stars, the military, and the poor. Needless to say at every station of life he witnesses the cruelty and hypocrisy of humanity.  Actors appear in multiple roles in different points in the film, most notably a young Helen Mirren.

Directed with flare by Lindsay Anderson, who also directed Malcolm McDowell in If, a performance that got the attention of Stanley Kubrick who cast him as the Alex in A Clockwork Orange, a persona McDowell never escaped.  O Lucky Man! references Clockwork several times, and interestingly shares many of the same themes.  A box office flop in 1973, O Lucky Man! has since earned a cult following.

Throughout the film there are several musical interludes, a sort of Greek Chorus commenting on the action in the guise of a power pop band led by Alan Price.  The set looks like the one the Beatles used in Let it Be.  The music's really, really good.  Highlights include "Poor People" and "Sell Sell."

There's a spontaneity in O Lucky Man! one hardly finds these days.  On the commentary track, McDowell recalls writing the script in various pubs throughout England and how many of the scenes were improvised on the spot - an exemplar of 70s cinema.








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