"He had white horses, and ladies by the score, all dressed in satin and waiting by the door, oh, what a lucky man he was!" Man, this film is so experimental that it should have a progressive rock theme song, though if it's going to be my Emerson, Lake & Palmer, then it shouldn't be "Lucky Man", it should be "Tarkus", as it follows this film's theme of being way too blasted long. Actually, even though this film came out a couple of months before the album "Brain Salad Surgery", maybe its theme song should have been "Karn Evil 9", as that song is even longer, and plus, to make it even more fitting for this film, it's crazy enough to fit the weirdness of this "little" opus, and if you find that debatable, I wouldn't so much consider the concept to "Tarkus" about a half-armadillo-half-tank riding through a desert of rainbows so much weird as much as I would considering it [b][u]"awesome"[/u][/b] (Try and run over that, Texan)! Shoot, this film is so long as it is that maybe I shouldn't even be joking about a twenty-minute-long or thirty-minute-long credits sequence, because as much as Lindsay Anderson is into blowing this film out of proportions, such a version probably exists somewhere out there. I'm sure Alan Price, the maker of this film's original soundtrack, would also like for me to shut up about ELP, as no rock keyboardist is a fan of having Keith Emerson evoked in his or her presence... except maybe Jordan Rudess and Rick Wakeman (No, fans of theatrical showmanship, Emerson is just "one of" the greatest keyboardists ever), and I'm sure you readers would also care for me to get back to actually talking about this film, because I'm dragging about as much as this film. Seriously though, good ol' Mick Travis is back, only this time, he's been changed for the sake of another allegory that Lindsay Anderson felt like bringing up, and you can expect to see him next as a corrupt Roman Caesar in "Caligula". Forget "Britannia Hospital", because that film also features Helen Mirren alongside Malcolm McDowell and has even more edited versions and controversy than this film, only it's, from what I understand, not nearly as good, which isn't to say that this film is especially special, as it, like its length, gets dragged down by more than a few factors.
The film is a bloated study on some charismatic everyman facing a number of colorful shenanigans, yet as overlong as this film is because of filler, director Lindsay Anderson and screenwriter David Sherwin, interestingly enough, pays little attention to actually fleshing out the characters, or at least our lead Michael Arnold "Mick" Travis character, who is given no real background development, as well as sparse gradual development, thus leaving you to distance yourself a bit from this story and its lead, who is supposed to be an avatar for the viewer, but at least needs to be distinguished a little bit in order to compel for three whole hours. The limitations in expository depth try your patience a bit, though decidedly not as considerably as the limitations in atmospheric kick, because as entertaining as this film is on the whole, much of its liveliness runs on dry flavor, which is rich enough to work more often than not, but often gets to a bit too dry, quieting things down to a bland, perhaps even dull state that challenge engagement value. Pacing is hardly glacial, but the lack of momentum to Anderson's storytelling really thins out pacing to the point of making the length palpable, and let me tell you once again, this film's length probably shouldn't be felt as much as it is. At just about three hours in length, this fluffy comedy that follows nothing but extraordinary misadventures in the life of an ordinary Joe is way too blasted long, and sure, the final product proves to be engaging enough to make the three hours not too much of a pressing challenge, yet there's no getting around the fact that this film well outstays its welcome, and does so partially with repetitious material, but mostly with sheer filler, which ends up driving the narrative of the film. Needless to say, with filler being in charge of bonding the layers rather than focused and coherent substance, you end up with a collection of subplots that are intentionally jarring in their incorporation, but are still no less offputting in their plaguing focus with inconsistency that, before too long, devolved into aimlessness. The film is intentionally messy, and even if it wasn't, this type of subject matter didn't stand too great of a chance of being made into a relatively outstanding film, but you grow more and more aware of just how inconsequential things are the longer you stick with this overblown and overambitious opus, until you end up being not quite as rewarded as you might hope to be. That being said, if you're willing to go with this lengthy and incoherent ride, there will at least be one consistent aspect: enjoyment, as this film still has a lot to it to entertain just fine, particularly when musical aspects come into play.
Alan Price's score is mighty underused, and as for his relatively more recurring original songs, when they show up, they exacerbate the film's unevenness by being almost always presented through random footage of Price himself and his backing band syncing to the song in the studio in the place of actual footage of the film, so to my fellow Animal fans, I can't say that you'll be fully satisfied with this film's plays with its musical aspects, but I sure can assure you that, by their own right, the tunes in this song are thoroughly entertaining, and their incorporation colors up the film's entertainment value more than it proves to the detrimental to the film's already pretty tainted coherency. Sure, Price's score is unevenly used, and outside of decent moments in Miroslav Ondříček's cinematography, there's nothing else artistically sharp to hold you over until the soundtrack kicks back in the break up the relative quietness that backs this dry fluff piece about as much as anything, but musical aspects are ultimately worth the wait, breathing some life into entertainment value that this film is going to desperately need in order to keep you going, and delivers on adequately on paper, alone. There's little in the way of focus to this narrative that goes incoherently driven by a series of shenanigans which bond through convenience much more than consistent themes, and with such questionable areas within this story concept going emphasized by an ultimately overblown runtime to the final product, you end up with a "plot" whose engagement value is limited, but not so thin that there's not some potential for a fair bit of fun, done a fair bit of justice by highlights within David Sherwin's script, whose wit gets to be a bit too dry to consistently deliver on effective jokes, yet is generally sharply colorful, both with its humor and drawing of memorable, if a bit undercooked and over-the-top characters. Characterization is kind of sloppy in this film, but it ultimately puts together colorful components to this fluff piece that wouldn't be as enjoyable as they ultimately are without being portrayed with charisma that can be found across the board in this cast, particularly within Malcolm McDowell, whose down-to-earth charm makes him engaging as both a likable character and effective audience avatar. The performances prove to be colorful compliments to Sherwin's colorful compliments to storytelling, and as for the thematic depth of Sherwin's script, it's sometimes either too unsubtle or too subtle in the midst of over-the-top set pieces which get to lose focus after a while, but on the whole, it's about as colorfully clever as the script's humor and characterization, presenting allegories for analyses on a richly diverse, yet somewhat flawed capitalist society that not only get you thinking a bit, but add to the intrigue and entertainment value of this film. There's an inspiration to Sherwin's efforts, there's no denying that, and while it's just as difficult to deny the shortcomings in Sherwin's script, the writing for this film is fairly engaging, especially when brought to life by a certain heart to director Lindsay Anderson's efforts, which keep the dull spells from drying up too much, and makes the relatively lively spells very entertaining. If nothing else can be complimented about this film, it's a certain charm to the ambition which may be betrayed in plenty of places by questionable actions in storytelling, but ultimately proves to be endearing enough for you to kind of want to stick with this film, which makes that your investment is not totally squandered through an adequate, if still pretty disengagingly limited degree of entertainment value.
When the adventures are finally through, the final product sputters out to an underwhelming state, thanks to a lack of development, as well as an immense quantity of filler-driven dragging that carries incoherency and repetitious aimlessness, made all the more glaring by atmospheric dry spells which keep the film from picking up enough momentum to fully secure your investment throughout a three-hour runtime, which isn't to say that there's not enough lively, if unevenly used tunes, - courtesy of Alan Price - cleverness to a script by David Sherwin that delivers on witty humor, intriguing thematic depth, and colorful characterization, - done justice by many a charismatic performance - and flavor to Lindsay Anderson's direction to make "O Lucky Man!" a charming and often fairly entertaining, if exhaustingly overblown opus.
2.5/5 - Fair