The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week: NYC Repertory Cinema Picks, April 5-11

Malcolm MacDowell in Lindsay Anderson’s IF… (1968). Courtesy Film Forum. Playing Thursday, April 6.If… (1968)
Directed by Lindsay Anderson
“Non-realism in style is not—must not be—synonymous with unreality. These worlds are unreal.” Anderson wrote those words about a trio of John Ford films he felt went in for too-easy symbolism, too deliberate a break from the emotional truth Ford was capable of. Anderson, whom Stanley Kauffmann called the “best directing talent” England ever produced, found the perfect medium for the real and the unreal in his sophomore feature. If… is as close to Citizen Kane as anything in the British cinematic canon, a piece of borderline surreal modernism, a dream that flits between color and black and white because Anderson listened fully to his whims and his past, his longings. A generation of English schoolboys watch their wants and hopes break free from their minds and manifesting into physical forms: weapons, perfect bodies, hungry-eyed faces. Lust, feral and feline, rescues sardonic schoolboys from conformity in the drab halls of a boarding school and leads them to violent revolution, an easier solution than working in the system. All other movies about the schooling experience have to answer to If… because it got the particularly furious response kids have to its brand of institutional purgatory so perfectly. Graduation is rendered as an extremist attack, an implosion of all the practiced niceties, the hidden urges. The only reason all Anderson’s anarchy works so well is because he got the details right. The world is real. It also happens to be a nightmare, a pipe bomb of pent-up sensuality and half-formed political posturing. The scars will last a lifetime if you’re lucky. Scout Tafoya (April 6, 12:30pm, 4:50pm, 9:20pm at Film Forum’s “Brit New Wave”)

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