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 19: "What you see first, after the starting gun's crack, is a column of bobbing runners, thousands of them, surging downhill..."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

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The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.