Smile while you're makin' it. Laugh while you're takin' it. Even though you're fakin' it. Nobody's gonna know
The film that has made the biggest impression on me lately is Lindsay's Anderson's O Lucky Man! (1973). At over 3 hours it's quite a commitment but it's the most fantastic, entertaining, inventive 3 hours I've seen in a long time. Summarising the plot doesn't really do it justice: Malcolm McDowell reprising the Mick Travis character from If... is an aspirational travelling coffee salesman trying to get up the greasy pole but more often sliding in the other direction. I took it as a swipe at ambition (others say it's about the justice system or capitalism while If... is about education and Britannia Hospital is about health care). Alan Price pops up throughout with some wonderful songs, like a sort of earthier Ray Davis. There is a superb cast of classic British actors - not exactly megastars but familiar faces on the small screen. Arthur Lowe plays multiple parts including an African general. It's surreal and black but also coherent and funny in a way that leaves a slow-burning smile long afterwards. It's hard to imagine a film like that being made now. I loved it and have been trying to learn more about Lindsay Anderson ever since. Findings so far:
- Britannia Hospital (1982) completes the Mick Travis trilogy. This has another fantastic cast including the divine Leonard Rossiter. I haven't seen it yet but will rent the DVD.
- The Free Cinema movement was founded by Lindsay Anderson, Karel Reisz, Tony Richardson and Lorenza Mazzetti. The short sweet manifesto stated: "Implicit in our attitude is a belief in freedom, in the importance of people and the significance of the everyday". The introduction to O Dreamland rails against traditional British documentary film-making for being impersonal and lacking any kind of viewpoint. Social documentary should "dot its own i's". More info in Lindsay Anderson's 1977 notes on the Free Cinema movement.
- O Dreamland and other Free Cinema films are available on Four Docs.
- His 1966 film The White Bus is showing at the GFT as part of the Glasgow Film Festival on Friday along with a 1969 documentary on the making of it. The films will be introduced by Karl Magee archivist at the The Lindsay Anderson Archive at Stirling University.
I'm still learning about all this so any other pointers welcome.