Saturday, February 19, 2011


(December 1971, U.S.)

It's taken a while, but we finally return to my favorite film director Stanley Kubrick, and what a return it is! If you've seen A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, you know damn well what I'm talking about! If you haven't, then crawl out from under the fucking rock you've been living under and rent this film right now!

This darkly satirical science fiction film adaptation of Anthony Burgess's 1962 novel of the same name concerns Alex (played by Malcolm McDowell), a charismatic delinquent whose pleasures are classical music (especially Ludwig Van Beethoven), rape, and so-called 'ultra-violence'. He leads a small gang of thugs (Pete, Georgie, and Dim), whom he calls his droogs. The film tells the horrific crime spree of his gang, his capture, and attempted rehabilitation via a controversial psychological conditioning technique. Alex narrates most of the film in a dialect called Nadsat, a fractured, contemporary adolescent slang comprising Slavic (especially Russian), English, and Cockney rhyming slang. It's not a language you can understand without reading the book or perhaps seeing the film multiple times. It also features disturbing, violent images, to facilitate social commentary about psychiatry, youth gangs, and other contemporary social, political, and economic subjects in a futuristic, dystopian Great Britain.

During this period of American motion pictures, films like BONNIE AND CLYDE (1967), THE WILD BUNCH (1969), DIRTY HARRY (1971), STRAW DOGS (1971) and A CLOCKWORK ORANGE were considered landmarks in the relaxation of control on violence in the cinema. In the United Kingdom, Kubrick's film was highly controversial. British authorities considered the sexual violence very extreme, furthermore, there occurred legal claims that the film had inspired true copycat behavior. The press also blamed the film for a rape in which Alex sings “Singin' in the Rain”. Subsequently, Stanley Kubrick himself asked the Warner Brothers studio to withdraw the film from British distribution.

For A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (like all of his films), Kubrick was a perfectionist of meticulous research. To technically achieve and convey the fantastic, dream-like quality of the story, he filmed with extreme wide-angle lenses and used fast and slow motion to convey the mechanical nature of the bedroom sex scene or to stylize the violence. In other words, only the great Stanley Kubrick could have made real art out of rape and violence.

Okay, story time. You know how sometimes when you see a film, you might start to think of someone specific to your own life in relation to that film? Well, in my junior year of college I had a roomate whom I shall call Scott (because that's really his name). Scot shall I put it...nothing short of a heavy metal lunatic, and I mean that completely as a compliment to his character! The guy also had a head of long, blond hair that was easily comparable to Peter Frampton on the "Frampton Comes Alive" album cover. As for me, back then I might have been considered a repressed introvert. Oh fuck it, I WAS a repressed introvert! However, it didn't take long sharing space with Scott before I slowly came out of my shell and expressed the lunacy hidden within myself. Anyway, while I can't claim with any absolute certainty of memory that A CLOCKWORK ORANGE was Scott's favorite film, I do know that he loved the film as much as I did. I remember that he had a large CLOCKWORK ORANGE sticker on his bass guitar, too. I also used to crack him up with my own Malcom McDowell impression from the film. So, it is to Scott that I dedicate this post. Thanks for a great year of absolute insanity! Keep on rockin' in the free world!

Favorite line or dialogue:

Alex: "There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar trying to make up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening. The Korova milkbar sold milk-plus, milk plus vellocet or synthemesc or drencrom, which is what we were drinking. This would sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of the old ultra-violence."

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