The Sunday Cult Film Corner; “O Lucky Man! (1973)”

14 Apr


Ahh – the day of rest and instead I’m writing a whole load of stuff to satisfy the whims and urges of the expectant readership of the local paper, as well as trying to sort out all sorts of wheeling and dealings. PLus – Babies! Yup I spent today also at the latest addition to the AMFJ cult, little Esja Mae Fulton Aðalsteinnsdóttir. She looks cute, but also pink and wrinkly, like all lovely newborns. I expect her be a full on black metal Valkyrie by the time she’s 8 years old.

So now that I have finally found some time to rest and eat burgers, it’s time to reminisce of the event of the week, namely that the Ice Queen of the free market Margaret Thatcher has popped her clogs. Good riddance I say. And the event since her passing has only helped to reinforce the notion that while there may be a lot of thins that are fucked up in Iceland, my homeland seems to be slowly slipping into an ugly mire of greed and nastiness.

I was hoping to find a couple of films with regard to the impacts of Thatcherism, such as “How To Get Ahead In Advertising,” or Ken Loach’s “Riff Raff.” But instead I’M going towards a film made in the 1970s and charts the state of a man journey through a corrupt and Byzantine UK society. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you O LUCKY MAN!

Directed in 1973 by Lindsey Anderson, it star Malcolm McDowell as Michael, a young sale trainee for a coffee company. Ambitious and with a grasping desire to get to the top of the career ladder, he accepts the chance to sell coffee in the North East. While on his travels, the film unravels into a sprawling odyssey of the varied strata of the British political class system and the inherent corruption within. On his way he encounters a gentlemen’s sex club, is a victim of torture by British military intelligence, submits to bizarre medical tests at a private clinic, encounters a travelling rock band and their alluring groupie (played by Helen Mirren), works for her corrupt industrialist father, and ends up in jail after being framed for selling weapons to African dictators. All the while the films shift to the film’s “House Band,” (Led by the Animals, Alan Price) who, acting almost like a Greek chorus, play songs warning Michael that he must abandon his idealism if he is to succeed in this world.

O LUCKY MAN! is not your conventional satire. Inspired by Voltarie’s novel “Candide,” the erratic plot is far from linear and will often take left turns or move into dead ends before a new twist arrives to keep you on your toes. Many of the scenes have a slightly episodic nature that are often separated by fade to blacks, or musical interludes from the house band. Such a narrative gives the film a decidedly surreal air to the proceedings and often invites multiple viewing which reveals different aspects of the film. While watching this film, it actually struck me that in any ways it’s actually a Grant Morrison comic transferred to film. The idea of exposing the brutality and violence imposed by the state on the people is often explored by Morrison. Meanwhile scenes such as the torture session interrupted by the tea lady can be seen in THE INVISIBLES, and the very meta ending of the film and the breaking of the fourth wall of storytelling has been explored in Morrison run of ANIMAL MAN.

Despite the bawdy nature of the film, the comedy and the messages contained in the film are very black and biting, showing through allegory the rather ugly face of life in Britain and the corrupting nature of capitalism. Many of the characters in the film act out of their own selfish self interest, from police officers threatening to frame people for crimes they knew the didn’t commit, to governments keeping its interest abroad by dealing with 3rd world dictators.

At the heart of the film is the attack on the idealism of the main character Michael. It´s best to see O LUCKY MAN! as the middle section of a trilogy of films from Anderson that started with “If….,” and ending with “Britannia Hospital.” While “If…” showed the McDowell character as full of carefree abandon and idealism that was apparent in the ’60, O LUCKY MAN see the same person now a bit older, still clinging to the ideals, but thinking more and smiling less. His innocence is gradually eroded as the film progresses as he realises that he may not actually be in control of his own destiny. By the time you reach “Britannia Hospital,” the idealism has been replaced by a toxic cynicism which was all to prevalent in the ’80s.

O LUCKY MAN! is the type of intriguing, inventive film that doesn’t really get made these days. It’s messages and ideas are densely layered and interconnected and requires you to think, it´s cult appeal apparent form the fact that you get something new out of it every time you watch it. So get your coffee on the go and watch this viciously surreal flight of fancy. (The entire playlist is HERE)

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Posted by on April 14, 2013 in Film


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