Saturday, May 1, 2010


I haven't seen this British film since 1969 (the year it won the Grand Prix at Cannes). It would embarrass me to see it again now, I know. As an unhappy Midwestern high school student, however, these destructive British schoolboys were my heroes.

And Malcolm McDowell's elaborate narcissism throughout the film seemed perfectly to justify my own equally elaborate teenage narcissism.

In truth I had for the past thirty years completely and happily forgotten that this low-budget Lindsay Anderson film ever existed, until reminded recently by stumbling upon an internet image of the book cover above (a book by one of the screenwriters, David Sherwin, released shortly after the film to capitalize on its fame).

It is always natural for teenagers to love anarchy, I suppose. But in the 1960s we believed our generation to be peculiarly persecuted by authority. One of my best friends had just fled to Canada with her boyfriend who refused to be drafted into the U.S. army and sent to Vietnam. By the time I was eligible for the draft the next year in 1970, there was a lottery system in place. If I got a high lottery number, I intended to join my friends in Canada. But instead I got a low lottery number and could not be drafted, so I moved to California.