While Blow-Up provided a glimpse of a lifestyle that many of us who were around in the mid- to late-sixties aspired to, Lindsay Anderson's If.... delivered pretty strong reminders of what we hoped to escape from. It's a bit more than that, of course, but as the DVD reached the point where the smoke starts coming up through the floorboards the memories came flooding back.
Word of mouth and references in print had raised If.... to must watch status before the film began a short run in Townsville in 1969, and it should hardly come as a surprise to learn that Hughesy saw it fairly early in that run.
Having seen it once I was back every day, eagerly awaiting the aforementioned moment that signalled the approach of impending apocalypse. That escapist enjoyment of the armed insurrection at the film's climax probably seems over the top to anyone who didn't live through those times, but in the various authority figures and their attitudes you can see a clear depiction of what the sixties rebels were looking to escape from.
We didn't all go to English public schools, of course, though most of us were familiar with such institutions through reading, whether it was Tom Brown's School Days, the various adventures of Jennings and Darbyshire or the Willans and Searle series that included Down With Skool and How To Be Topp.
In many ways If.... is a clear reflection of the times in which it was made. While the circumstances that almost resulted in the overthrow of the French government in 1968 mightn't have applied in Britain there was a mood for change, best summed up in the Rolling Stones Street Fighting Man. Faced with the fact that in sleepy London town there was no place for a street fighting man what else could a 'poor boy do but sing in a rock 'n' roll band'?
Additional factors kicked in elsewhere. In the U.S.A. and to a slightly lesser extent in Australia there was the issue of the Vietnam War and the lengths that governments were willing to go to in order to deliver the number of troops they needed on the ground in the combat zone.
They were, to put it mildly, interesting times, and you can see some of the steps that governments put in place in the authority figures that loom large in If....