O Lucky Man!

Malcolm MacDowell first appeared on screen as Mick Travis in If?, Lindsay Anderson's 1968 film about rebellion in an English private school. Five years later, Anderson and MacDowell brought Travis back in O Lucky Man!, a film exhilarating contradictions: intricately structured yet with a improvisatory feel, it tells an allegorical tale of the evils of capitalism with a sardonic mind and a light heart. Imagine Voltaire's Candide restaged by Bertolt Brecht, then redeemed by performers (Rachel Roberts, Ralph Richardson, a very young Helen Mirren) who seem to be having the time of their lives. As the fable unfolds, the ambitious Travis embarks on a career as a coffee salesman only to find himself falling into a bottomless pot of hot water, scalded by seduction, duplicity, greed, betrayal, and corruption. Throughout, the musician Alan Price (a founding member of The Animals) comments on the action in on-screen renditions of the superb suite of songs he composed for the film. For all its black humor, watching the film is a joyful experience, in no small part because of Price's presence. -

April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysely Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.

The Promise of Hope

Killed last year in the infamous terror attack at Nairobi's Westgate mall, Kofi Awoonor was a national treasure in his native Ghana.  His career began in 1964 with Rediscovery, and this magnum opus serves as a tribute to his entire long journey charting his beloved nation's course through his accomplished poetry.

Winter Mythologies and Abbots

A pair of linked stories finds that, as translator Ann Jefferson relates, "[Pierre] Michon's great theme is the precarious balance between belief and imposture, and the way the greatest aspirations can be complicated by physical desire or the equally urgent desire for what he calls glory."