This Tuesday (August 2), as part of the Vancity Theatre’s Cinema Salon series, curated by Melanie Friesen, Videomatica cofounder and cinephile-about-town Graham Peat was tapped to select a film. He chose Lindsay Anderson’s subversive 1968 dark comedy If”¦, set at a highly hierarchical British boy's school, and starring a still-young, still-cool Malcolm McDowell, in his first film role.
“It’s about entrenched oppression in the school system that creates rebellion,” Peat tells the Straight. “McDowell and his band of crusaders band together to throw off the shackles of the old guard, and we can’t help but get caught up in their righteous cause.” Peat agrees that it’s a perfect cinematic expression of the spirit of 1968. “It’s a remarkable document of its time, but I don’t think I have to worry at all that it’s not going to be relevant today.”
McDowell - whose star has fallen considerably since the day - plays Mick Travis, a role he would reprise in Anderson’s equally sardonic 1973 film O Lucky Man! “I think Lindsay Anderson took a big chance choosing McDowell for his first screen part,” Peat continues, “but he made the perfect choice. His ferocity leaves you in awe. I also like the film because of its groundbreaking-ness at the time. It was the first film to show both male and female nudity, as well as matter-of-fact homosexuality, all without judgment or exploitation. They just did everything matter-of-factly, and I thought that was incredibly refreshing and daring.”
Peat first saw If”¦ at the impressionable age of 17. “It’s funny, because I’ve talked to several people who were slightly older or younger than me, male and female, and every one of them said that it made this huge impact on them. I used to think I was the only one! I’m hoping more people will discover now what a remarkable film it is.”
Peat would also remind readers that Videomatica, which announced its impending closure in the spring, is still open for business, so if for some reason you can't make it to the theatre on Tuesday, you can still rent the DVD from them. “Things are going well enough that we’re going to be there for at least a couple of more months. We plan to be around until we can wrap things up really nicely, like we wanted to do, and hopefully make a nice announcement about our collection.” Peat hopes it will remain publicly accessible. “It’s not a done deal yet!”