Lindsay Anderson Stanley Kauffmann - Essay

Stanley Kauffmann

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

O Lucky Man! is so much the worst of [Anderson's three features] that it seems twisted by rancor—pickled in Anderson's bile because he wasn't called a genius for the first two. The film exudes conceit and pigheadedness, and is steeped in self-display and self-reference, a three-hour effort at self-canonization….

There is no single moment that is not well directed, some moments much better than that. But what is supposed to be a work of radical daring, in method and matter, is only a laborious sophomoric dud. (p. 204)

When the film isn't being excruciatingly banal in its "exposure" of the ills of our time, it's being equally painful in its opposing glimpses of purity and the lost Eden. (p. 205)

The picture is apparently intended as a picaresque account of a hero protected by innocence, whose goodheartedness sees him through. (I would have thought it was his good looks that made the happy ending, but no matter.) This is all shattered by the blow that Anderson smites. (pp. 205-06)

The film could have ended an hour sooner or gone on three hours more: the plain truth is that Anderson [has] absolutely nothing to say—and I use the word "say" in its widest possible sense….

Out of this mess of pretentiousness and egotism and aimless skill, what emerges finally? A great zero for this film and a hovering zero for Anderson's film future. (p. 206)

Stanley Kauffmann, "'O Lucky Man!'" (originally published in The New Republic, Vol. 168, No. 24, June 16, 1973), in his Living Images: Film Comment and Criticism (reprinted by permission of Brandt & Brandt Literary Agents, Inc.; copyright © 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975 by Stanley Kauffmann), Harper & Row, Publishers, 1975, pp. 204-07.