William S. Pechter

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Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 233

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[If] O Lucky Man! is a celebration of success, it is of success in a bad world, a world in which, as the sophomoric cynicism of the song lyrics has it, "only wealth will buy you justice" and "Someone's got to win the human race/If it isn't you, then it has to be me." And, in being a kind of apologia provita sua for the director, it seems to me very much a work of bad faith and guilty conscience. To be sure, Anderson doesn't exempt himself from the film's indictment of the world's corruption: he in fact portrays himself much less indulgently than he does his hero, and without the defense of the hero's innocence…. And yet for all the self-criticism that the film implies, for all its bitter knowledge about the character of that establishment to which star and director have gained entry and the certainty that Anderson regards O Lucky Man! as a subversive work, it seems to me decidedly half-hearted and weighed down by a terrible complacency of spirit; for all the willfulness involved, there was something really more likable about the desire of If … to join the revolution than there is in this film's cynical seeing through the "opium" of such commitments. (p. 76)

William S. Pechter, "Politics on Film" (copyright © 1973 by William S. Pechter; reprinted by permission of the author), in Commentary, Vol. 56, No. 3, September, 1973, pp. 74-7.∗

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