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A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, 1971
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A CLOCKWORK ORANGE MOVIE POSTER
A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, 1971
Movie Reviews

Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Starring: Malcolm McDowell, Warren Clarke, and Anthony Sharp
Review by Jeremy Richards



SYNOPSIS:

In the crumbling bureaucracy of future Britain, Alex Delarge and his droogs take to the streets in a drugged frenzy of violence and sex. Living with no restrictions or morals the gang does as they please with no consequences until one night Alex is not so lucky and is sent to prison. Waiting out the years he learns of a treatment whereby he will be “cured” of his violent ways and be set free in a fortnight. Alex’s treatment turns out to be no more than the torture he use to set upon his victims, but he is successfully brainwashed of his criminality. Released into the cruel world he is no longer able to deal with the violent reality he once thrived in. The question being, is it better to have freewill or simply conform to the clockwork of society.

Review

A writer and his wife lead a leisured life in Malaysia enjoying the day until they are brutally attacked by several soldiers and their cozy little existence is flip on its head. This one true incident led author Anthony Burgess to sit down and write A Clockwork Orange. Stanley Kubrick was trying to finalize his dream project Waterloo, a film about the life of Napoleon when this film was cancelled due to the sheer scale of such an ambitious project. Forced to abandon his Waterloo, Kubrick optioned the rights for A Clockwork Orange and started work on what would be his latest film.

It would not be an easy subject to film, and there were doubts and questions from the beginning. Coming off of a failed film, the studios would only allow Kubrick to film A Clockwork Orange on a smaller budget than he was use to. Then there were the questions of how to make the script flow, in the novel Burgess had invented his own language Nadsat which was a cross between British slang and Russian. Kubrick wasn’t sure how much the audience would understand this new language, but in the end decided to use it anyway. The film has since become a classic, but Kubrick was taking a massive risk in filming such an esoteric script.

Very subtly Stanley Kubrick was able to create a bleak futuristic Britain with simple oddities. The use of slang brings the audience into an unfamiliar world of roaming street gangs. Most parents probably feel little different today when they listen to their teenage children. As well the use of costume is subtle but extreme with the gangs wearing unique custom made clothing. With such rich character it was then easy to place these boys in London’s crumbling tenement buildings and industrial architecture to make London of the 70’s timeless. One other trick was the use of classical music. Beethoven allows the film to still resonate and not fall by the wayside like a cheap star-trek knock off. This was part of Kubrick’s genius, that he was able to guide his audience through his made up worlds. His best film to make this point is “Full Metal Jacket” the classic Vietnam movie filmed entirely in England.

A Clockwork Orange could also be considered the granddad of super-stylized films and the father of punk. Michael Bay, Tony Scott, Quentin Tarantino, and countless other directors owe this film a little credit. If not for being a direct influence then for stretching the boundaries of what can be done in a film. X-rated violent beatings in slow-motion, a rape scene set to “Singing in the Rain,” and a 28 minute long sex scene played at high speed. No one would dare to make a film like A Clockwork Orange today. In any case only Stanley Kubrick could make statues of Jesus dance with such passion.

To most critics Stanley Kubrick is dull and tedious, with wooden and monotonous acting. And to be sure Kubrick does have a very identifiable method for shooting his films. Long panning shots, extreme close-ups, and slow and deliberate dialogue. However, each film takes on its own personality through its atmosphere. A Clockwork Orange inhabits a certain universe with its own laws and rules, but Kubrick’s The Shining is a ghostly horror story in a completely separate realm of reality.

Naturally A Clockwork Orange was met with lots of criticism and outrage. Audiences found it difficult to sit through such a gritty film, but it is important to understand the film is satirical and author Anthony Burgess wrote is as an allegory for the violent times we live in. Interestingly enough Burgess didn’t like the film version and was upset that the film made this his most recognizable work. Before Stanley Kubrick one of the original owners of the script was Mick Jagger and he had planned to make the movie with him in the lead and the other Rolling Stones as his vicious droogs. It would have been interesting to see Burgess’s reaction to this film.


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