Tonight we watched Lindsay Anderson’s 1973 allegory on the UK’s capitalistic decline, O Lucky Man. I saw it when it first came out. Several aspects of the film made a deep impression upon me. A first was the way Malcolm McDowell‘s everyman, Mick Travis (aka Candide), keeps bobbing back up to the surface, no matter what awful things life throws at him (and it throws plenty). This, I thought, was a message of hope of some sort. But then, right at the end, McDowell is portrayed in a casting call for the same film (it’s all very self- and other-referential, as seventies films tended to be). The director, played by Lindsay Anderson himself, asks McDowell/Travis to smile, but he can’t. The director hits him across the face with his script and a forced grimace crosses Travis’s face, thus summing up what a critic has described as being ‘a hopeless sort of optimism’. A second aspect was the way Alan price’s songs are interspliced in the film like a sort of Greek chorus. And a third was the way every cast member plays at least two and mostly three roles. The film is maybe over-long (three hours) but Anderson covers a huge canvas, taking a pop at imperialism and capitalism (and the linkage between the two, of course) and provides a sardonic portrait of British industrial, commercial and scientific decline. Travis bobs through the canvas, urged by the chorus to abandon his principles in order to succeed but also to keep his idealism high and dry and away from the evils he keeps witnessing (torture, medical experiments, napalm exports, etc). ‘If you’ve found a reason to live on and not to die, you are a lucky man,’ Alan Price sings in the title song. But does Travis find such a reason? Does the world of film provide him with such a prospect, or is the viewer just at the start of the same eternal loop? The film ends with the cast partying happily but I think Anderson knows that we know that he knows that we don’t believe this!