Saturday, May 21, 2011
Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange" Still Great 40 Years Later
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: UK
Running time: 136 minutes (2 hours, 16 minutes)
MPAA – R (original rating – X)
PRODUCER/DIRECTOR: Stanley Kubrick
WRITER: Stanley Kubrick (based upon the novel by Anthony Burgess)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Alcott
EDITOR: Bill Butler
Academy Award nominee
Starring: Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Sheila Raynor, Philip Stone, Adrienne Corri, Mariam Karlin, Michael Bates, Warren Clarke, James Marcus, Anthony Sharp, and Godfrey Quigley
The occasion upon which a film surpasses its source material both in terms of quality but in its points, ideas, and implications is indeed rare. That the late Stanley Kubrick’s (1928-1999) A Clockwork Orange is one of those occasions is so astounding because its source material, the novel by the late British novelist and critics, Anthony Burgess (1917-1993), A Clockwork Orange (1962), is itself an important work of fiction.
In a near future, gangs of amoral young boys roam the streets of England beating each other and searching out victims for robbery and rape. Alex de Large (Malcolm McDowell), a teddy-boy hooligan who wears a derby as part of his gang costume, stomps, whomps, steals, sings, and tap-dances while he violates others. A leader of a gang of droogs (his mates), Alex accidentally kills a woman at the beginning of a planned night of violent debauchery, and his droogs turn on him leaving him wounded for the police. While in prison, Alex volunteers for an experimental program that, through drugs and video shock therapy, brainwashes him to feel intense nausea and an urgent need to die, whenever he has ideas about sex and violence – an experiment which raises hard questions in a society rife with criminal violence and political corruption.
In A Clockwork Orange, Kubrick used vivid sets, music, words, and feelings to create a tour de force of pointed social satire. The innovative way of using light and flamboyant color cinematography to heighten the intensity of the violent scenes made A Clock Orange highly controversial when it was first released in 1971. Although the film is marked by good performances, one of them being particularly good, that of Malcolm McDowell as Alex, A Clockwork Orange is completely and totally Stanley Kubrick’s film. His presence, his touch, his demands, his direction, and his will bleed from the pores of every frame.
Kubrick also wrote a great script. Not only are particular words important, but also their placement and context within a given line of speech, how the actor delivers them and when determines the character, setting, and plot down to the smallest details. Words are as brilliantly, visually descriptive as the sets, lighting, and photography. What we hear in the words and how we hear and perceive them are as important as what we see.
The film may be the best English language satirical film ever made. A Clockwork Orange examines the family unit, crime and punishment, how governments often shape law enforcement so that it serves their interests rather than that of the public good, and examines free will among others things. Perhaps, the film saves its most pointed commentary for the struggle between the selfish individual unit and group unit that demands conformity. It’s a war of clumsy skirmishes and bloody battles, but there is no end to this conflict. There aren’t any answers, easy or otherwise. Because Kubrick tackled such ideas about society and individual freedom with such visual originality, A Clockwork Orange remains one of the great works in cinematic history.
10 of 10
1972 Academy Awards: 4 nominations: “Best Picture” (Stanley Kubrick), “Best Director” (Stanley Kubrick), “Best Film Editing” (Bill Butler), and “Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium” (Stanley Kubrick)
1973 BAFTA Awards: 7 nominations: “Best Art Direction” (John Barry), “Best Cinematography” (John Alcott), “Best Direction” (Stanley Kubrick), “Best Film,” “Best Film Editing” (Bill Butler), “Best Screenplay” (Stanley Kubrick), and “Best Sound Track” (Brian Blamey, John Jordan, and Bill Rowe)
1972 Golden Globes: 3 nominations: “Best Director - Motion Picture” (Stanley Kubrick), “Best Motion Picture – Drama,” and “Best Motion Picture Actor – Drama” (Malcolm McDowell)
A Clockwork Orange (Anniversary Edition) [Blu-ray]