A Clockwork Orange (1971), or Senseless And Sensablility

16 02 2009
The not-too distant future really sucks. Im not looking forward to getting beat up by roving gangs of costumed punks!

The not-too distant future really sucks. I'm not looking forward to getting beat up by roving gangs of costumed punks!

Good day to you, sirs and madams. Another day, another review. Thanks to Stephen again for recommending this one to me. What a guy! Give him a round of applause, everyone!

*loud clapping and whooping from audience*

Today we haveĀ  a Stanley Kubrick movie, the infamous A Clockwork Orange, that has been embraced by the popular culture in a big way. One of his later works (out of his only 13 films), it has grown to become a cult classic that people embrace worldwide. But how meritorious is this movie in reality? Is this a movie that truly deserves the accolades, or is this a case of a cult movie achieving acceptance outside of itself and its audience? Well, the answer is complex.

The plot begins with Alex, the leader of a teenage British gang in the not-too-distant future. He is a rogue, a brat, and a brute. He and his gang rove around the town at night, looking to cause mischief and misery. One night in particular, after drinking some milk laced with drugs (?) and beating up an old fellow (??), they find themselves at a country home inhabited by a writer and his wife. Lying his way through the door, he and his fellow gang members promptly accost the writer and rape his wife in front of him. After that bit of hilarious fun, they all go back home and go to bed with clean consciences. The next night, they go to a woman’s house and attempt to rob it. Unfortunately, she is still in the house and they go too far with roughing her up (with a giant phallic statue, I might add. Seriously.) and kill her. Hearing the sirens they attempt to escape, but Alex’s gang betrays him, citing their need for new leadership. He is beaten and left for the police to contend with. They take him away to jail, and presumably he would be on the inside for a long time as murder in the first degree is frowned upon in some countries. But instead of rotting in jail, he is chosen to be a test candidate for a new procedure to cure young men of their evil, murderous tendencies. He leaps at the chance to escape his life in the penitentiary, not knowing what exactly he has signed up for. Because this process, named the Ludovico Technique, is much more insidious and painful than he could have imagined. What is this mysterious technique? Will it truly curb Alex’s desire to be a horrible person? Can he even survive it?

Stanley Kubrick was a mad genius, there is no denying that. He painted a picture that was so clear and so unswerving that when we were confronted with any one of his characters, we sometimes could not look directly at their countenance. His vision was so stark that it was frightening, and in that starkness he found real, true art. Nobody will ever forget him, and he is a genius who is sorely missed in the pantheon of auteurs.

That being said, I do not think A Clockwork Orange was one of his best. Now, I have seen this movie from many angles and many ages, and the more movies I watch and the more I come to appreciate the art-form I realize that certain movies thrive off of their own legend. This is a very violent, very morally ambiguous film with suspect intentions, and over the years I feel as if this odd, genre-defying movie has grown through reputation instead of actual amazing content. Many cult films experience this acceptance into the popular culture (The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Donnie Darko, The Warriors), and often it leads the General Populace of Moviegoers (the dreaded GPM) to accommodate more style and substance into their usual film diet, which is a good thing. The bad thing is that sometimes a movie can become overblown and overpraised without many people even watching it or giving a critical eye to it. It’s “artsy” and “different”, that’s all people know, so people assume their is a plethora of artistic value attached to something. And with a film like this, it’s easy to put yourself into that position and understand why; not many cult films happen to be directed by THE auteur, Stanley Kubrick.

It wanders at times, and not in a pondering way but a confused way, as if to say, “I am trying to find a tone but I keep drawing blanks.” I feel the prison sequence is very guilty of this; I just wanted to get out of that place, maybe even more than Alex. The soundtrack, while an interesting contemplation on the transformation of a psyche, is obnoxious and filled with Moog synthesizers blaring their hate for real instruments across the soundscape. And I felt that the fish-eye lens was used to an obscene amount. I was not prepared for the amount to which it would be used, and it catches my eye in a bad way every time I watch it now. I’m getting googly-eyed just thinking about it.

But still, it must be said that this is a good movie for all my critiquing. Malcolm McDowell is perfect as Alex. I hate that bastard, and I cannot wait to see the scenes where he is in agony. It is a joy and a wonderful experience to see him get his comeuppance. And the direction is top-notch where it is not googly and fish-lensed. Kubrick truly had an eye, and he uses it copiously in this movie with some real breath-taking shots. And let’s not forget the pain-staking script also by Kubrick, adapted from Anthony Burgess’s novel of the same name. Alex and his goons uses a futuristic slang/babbling mix of Russian and Cockney (???) that has to be heard to be believed.

This is one that should not go without being watched. Form your own opinion on it. Go out tonight and rent it instead of assuming it is a classic. You might be vindicated or you might be disappointed. Either way, the movie is good, and worth watching if only to determine its greatness. I give A Clockwork Orange 7 1/2 giant phallic statues out of 10.

Tomorrow is yet another reader recommendation, The Day The Earth Stood Still! Until then!