Today on Blogcritics
Home » Anniversary of A Clockwork Orange

Anniversary of A Clockwork Orange

Please Share...Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Facebook0Share on Google+0Share on LinkedIn0Pin on Pinterest0Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

Thirty three years ago, December 19, 1971 marked the premiere of Stanley Kubrick’s classic film A Clockwork Orange. At one time an officially “X” rated movie, the movie nonetheless recieved Oscar nominations for best picture and best director.

Kubrick worked his adaptation of the Anthony Burgess novel like a very deliberate chess game. He pitted first government authority, then religion, and then psychology against the vagaries of free will. Cutting to the chase, free will wins.

Widely regarded as a classic, negative commentaries on this are especially interesting and rare. So I particularly recommend THIS CONTEMPORARY ROGER EBERT REVIEW of the movie.

Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” is an ideological mess, a paranoid right-wing fantasy masquerading As an Orwellian warning. It pretends to oppose the police state and forced mind control, but all it really does is celebrate the nastiness of its hero, Alex.

Ebert doesn’t just say this, but explains specifically and technically some of the techniques Kubrick used to set Alex up as somehow heroic, despite his utterly wicked behavior.

Really, you got to love Alex. He’s today’s Tom Sawyer.

Powered by

About Gadfly

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    I completely agree that “you’ve got to love Alex.” That in of itself is what makes A Clockwork Orange a masterpiece (much like the book, which soars on so many levels I won’t even begin to get into it here).

    That the film manipulates you into enjoying and even reveling in Alex’s nastiness is what makes it so subversive. You ask yourself, Would I act similarly if I were a 15-year-old raging-hormone low income family latchkey kid living in a police state?

    In the end, the message rings loud and clear: the more society clamps down on free will, the more Will will escape. Message: so don’t clamp so hard.

    And you get a bizarre and wonderful and psychedelic and chilling ride while you’re at it. Kubrick’s best work, and one of the best films of all time.

    Eric Berlin
    Dumpster Bust: Miracles from Mind Trash
    http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com

  • D.B. Cooper

    Well, A Clockwork Orange is certainly a stylish film and adapts Burgess’ novel at times almost word for word. However, not only is this film NOT one of the greatest films of all time, I wouldn’t even rank it as one of Kubrick’s five best.

    There’s a mean-spirited darkness that pervades the entire film, hateful, ugly and tasteless. What’s even more frightening is that the rape scene depicted in this film is something that actually happened to the novel’s author. By most reports, Burgess had to write the chapter in a drunken state because the memory so disturbed him.

    I don’t like the rape scene and consider it vile. I don’t like Alex either, though his attitude and attire certainly served as an inspiration for the eventual English punk movement. Perhaps the social unrest in England at the time this film was made further contributed to Kubrick’s dark, hateful, cynical vision. It’s stylish eye candy, but eventually one of the most overrated, superficial films ever made.

    I will say this. It’s better than Natural Born Killers.

  • http://slacxervision.blogspot.com/ Melisande

    Welly, welly, welly, Brother Barger, at last we meet. Doubleplusgood sans ultra violence and any lactose-intolerant chappies.

    Alex what flashed into my gulliver as a victim of the post-modern age, or, if thou prefer it thus, in not-so-newspeak, like, so totally yesterday’s Tom Sawyer.

    But, seriously (relatively speaking,) when I watched A Clockwork Orange a few months back, what surprised me the most was the increasingly rare showing of real boobies,lots of them, in different shapes and sizes!

    It was amazing!! I began thinking I was attractive and everything. But, then a Baywatch marathon came on, and those damn operant conditioners stuck my eyes open, until I relented what drop of esteem I niggled out of Orange reels and submitted to accepting surgeryless inferiority again.

    Hail, Kubrick, bless this wonderful blog and what I need now, to give it the perfect ending, is a little of the Ludwig Von. Or some Dead Kennedys.

    Uber Alles!

  • http://www.morethings.com/senate Al Barger

    DB- I can appreciate your dis-ease with the casual violence, and how we’re brought into sympathizing with the perpetrator.

    There’s a mean-spirited darkness that pervades the entire film, hateful, ugly and tasteless.

    But does that make it a less good film? Natural Born Killers is also a great movie. They’ll be studying that one in film schools fifty years from now.

    I say that as one with no particular taste for the old ultra-violence. I certainly have no taste for splatter movies.

    Still, the plots and characters and the social issues involved are handled brilliantly in both of these films, even if the depictions of violence do not in themselves give you visceral enjoyment.

    Indeed, A Clockwork Orange definitely was NOT intended to get viewers any cheap jollies. Kubrick purposely handled the violence very clinically, much in the same way as it seems unlikely that anyone would become sexually aroused watching the orgy scene from Eyes Wide Shut.

  • D.B. Cooper

    Indeed, A Clockwork Orange definitely was NOT intended to get viewers any cheap jollies.

    Al,

    I entirely disagree with that statement. The film is so stylish, complete with costumes and sets and giant dildoes (sp?….lol) and Gene Kelly’s “Singin’ in the Rain,” it makes horrible scenes of violence more accesible than ever before. The majority of people whom view A Clockwork Orange today are indeed people in search of cheap jollies…..

    I consider Natural Born Killers to be an extremely heavy handed, at times almost unwatchable, film that needed far more restraint. I can say with mucho confidence that of the Stone films, his works dealing with Vietnam will be all that is remembered 50-100 years from now. NBK was a furiously misguded film, and most people whom watch it repeatedly are watching it for the same reason they watch A Clockwork Orange, to get their jollies from watching extremely accessible violence in entertainment.

    Kubrick’s greatest films in order:

    1. 2001: A Space Odyssey
    2. Dr. Strangelove
    3. Paths of Glory
    4. Lolita
    5. Eyes Wide Shut
    6. The Shining
    7. A Clockwork Orange

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    I maintain that A Clockwork Orange, in keeping with the tone and voice of the novel, expertly subverts the surface message that it sends. People looking for jollies from depictions of sex and violence can find them plenty of other places nowadays (see: TV), and like Eyes Wide Shut, which Mr. Barger perfectly invokes, ACO leaves the vast majority of viewers not titillated but cold. Unlike EYS, however, ACO is vastly entertaining and thought-provoking.

    I must disagree with both of you in placing Natural Born Killers in the same category as ACO. In fact, I agree with D.B. Cooper: it’s mostly exploitive for exploitation’s sake, a menagerie of senseless violence. I actually like that film’s satirizing of the media as bloodsucker and exploiter, but overall I find it vaguely distasteful.

    To divert off the topic for a moment, it’s interesting to see what material can become in different directors’ hands. Quentin Tarantino wrote NBK, and I noted what Oliver Stone did with it. But when we see films written and directed by Tarantino, like Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, we see highly stylized films where the violence is heightened (as are many other film elements) into kind of a comic book fun ride.

    Martin Scorsese is another example of a director who effectively uses violence to serve story, but that’s a whole other discussion.

    Eric Berlin
    Dumpster Bust: Miracles from Mind Trash
    http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com

  • http://www.rodneywelch.blogspot.com/ Rodney Welch

    Eric Berlin writes: “In the end, the message rings loud and clear: the more society clamps down on free will, the more Will will escape. Message: so don’t clamp so hard.”

    Nonsense.

    First of all, I’m all for the government clamping down on people exercising their so-called “free will” to rape and murder their fellow citizens — aren’t you?

    Second of all, where in the film do you get such a message? Alex’s “free will” NEVER escapes; it’s first repressed and THEN it’s coaxed back to life by the re-reconditioning process at the end. Alex is NOT an example of someone who turns into a monster because he’s repressed; he’s a monster BEFORE he’s systematically repressed.

    This is why the film’s “message” — as you suggest it — is kind of muddled. It seems, in effect, to say that because the punishment is as dehumanizing as the crime, the authorities should have just left well enough alone, and allowed Alex to continue beating up old men and raping defenseless women. Is Alex now going to turn out “worse” than he was? How could he be any worse than he was?

    A Clockwork Orange is a fascinating film, but it has the kind of problems a lot of Kubrick films have; it’s technically brilliant and morally stupid. It appeals to a shallow cynicism and, as Anthony Burgess himself later said, Kubrick’s film — as opposed to Burgess’s novel — seems to suggest that people can’t change, and as such doesn’t really give a true picture of life.

    Another thing: it’s a porn film, really. Al Barger upthread says Kubrick “definitely was NOT intended to get viewers any cheap jollies.” If that’s the case, Kubrick clearly didn’t know how to read audiences. The first time I saw it was in 1975, at a kind of open college symposium with a mixed crowd of students and others. The audience HOWLED at the rape scene; they loved it. They thought it was HILARIOUS. The same thing happened several years later, at another viewing. Kubrick clearly DID NOT “[handle] the violence very clinically” — he did the opposite. He wanted, rather, to put you in Alex’s shoes; he wants the audience to see things through Alex’s point of view, and have as good a time as he is.

    Or, you might say, as Kubrick is. As Pauline Kael noted early on — and I have noticed since — Kubrick plays the first rape scene (the one with Billy Boy) like a porn director. He doesn’t want you to feel disgust over the rape; he wants you to check out the struggling girl’s enormous rack. Clinical, hell — he seems to have directed the movie with a full-tilt hard-on.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    Rodney – I agree with much of what you stated, but I think you misinterpreted what I wrote a bit.

    I said:

    “In the end, the message rings loud and clear: the more society clamps down on free will, the more Will will escape. Message: so don’t clamp so hard.”

    I’m talking about the overarching society, the setting or environment within which the film operates. The people in this society live under a repressive regime where the police can beat you senseless just as easily as a pack of droogies. It’s the worst of fascism and anarchy thrown together.

    In such a society, we see through the eyes of a young, callous man that it’s okay, even good to get your kicks before, as Jim Morrison once put it, “the whole shithouse goes up in flames.”

    It is this sensibility, this voyeuristic entrance into the most hideous acts of rape, pillage, and murder that later makes you feel so sullied. Because Alex is a charming and winning personality, because you hear “Singing in the Rain,” because of the surreal colors and images, because Alex uses an enormous sculpture of a penis as a weapon, it all feels a bit unreal, like maybe it’s okay to enjoy the ride just a little bit. After all, it’s only a movie, right?

    Later on, as we live with Alex through jail and his re-conditioning, see him get his comeuppance (the worst of which when he gets beat up by the pack of old people outside the library) we actually feel sorry for this likeable rapist and murderer.

    That is when, for me at least, I’m forced to re-examine my surroundings, my viewpoints, my beliefs.

    So the film works at duel levels, for me at least.

  • http://www.cdbaby.com/X-15 Douglas Mays

    “I’m ssiiiiinnngin’ in the rain…” (kick, kick)….

  • D.B. Cooper

    After all, it’s only a movie, right?

    Just because it is a movie or book or play is not an excuse for a thematic and moral laziness which can easily be misinterpreted by the psychologically weak. Film is one of the most powerful entertainment mediums in mankind’s history (just ask Riefenstahl). I mean, when Alex is forced to watch the re-conditioning film, his eyeslids fiendishly propped open, is he supposed to tell himself over and over again – “It’s only a movie, it’s only a movie….” Kubrick snickers in A Clockwork Orange when he should have been outraged. The film is cool, hip and retro, but it rings hollow.

  • Shark

    First, the script is probably the most accurate adaptation of a novel in the history of film.

    Second, it appears that some of you just don’t get it. Especially DB Cooper; “you have the right to an informed opinion.”

    –which rules you out, droogie.

    Quickly:

    Both sides of the culture are corrupt. It’s the modern world. Might makes right. The end justifies the means. The stylization is meant to reflect the marketing of violence, the amoral, stylized packaging of trends, ideas, etc.

    The book AND film are incredibly prophetic — and these days — seem pretty friggin’ tame compared to your average night on FOX et al.

    It’s a world gone mad. *Violence ‘cured’ by violence.

    *see activities on Planet Earth for more.

    ======

    PS: Al, I was in college studying film in 71. I remember driving 40 miles by myself (from Denton to Dallas) to see the X-rated opening of Clockwork.

    I’ll never forget that night; one of those moments that remains branded on the brain.

  • Shark

    ‘Dim’ Cooper: “Just because it is a movie or book or play is not an excuse for a thematic and moral laziness which can easily be misinterpreted by the psychologically weak.”

    Oh…and did I mention that you’re so full of shit, yer eyes are brown?

    NO ONE in this film is supposed to be admirable.

  • Shark

    Welch: “Kubrick plays the first rape scene (the one with Billy Boy) like a porn director.”

    Welll….

    It’s a rape in a movie theater.

    Think about it, look up ‘symbolism’ in the dictionary, and get back to me.

    Jeezus.

  • D.B. Cooper

    lol….I’m glad to see Shark still has some energy left in that old hacking body of his…..;)

    Keep up the good fight my friend….

  • Shark

    re: old hacking body…

    What the fuck is up with that? Be more specific, Coop, or come take one in the yarballs!

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    Shark:

    You said, “The stylization is meant to reflect the marketing of violence, the amoral, stylized packaging of trends, ideas.”

    You said it. That’s it. Thanks.

  • D.B. Cooper

    As I’ve already mentioned, the film follows the book almost word for word, but Kubrick has still gone to great lengths to make the violence and sex attractive and accessible, and most people who trumpet this film as being the greatest of all time (Eric Berlin) have evidently not seen too many films or just enjoy directors playing cruel games on an off day.

    This is not Kubrick’s best work. It is muddled, hateful and vile, whether intentional or not. There are about 100 different ways Burgess’ fine novel (I believe he hated Kubrick’s film) could have been brought to the screen. This is the kind of film people embrace for a few of reasons:

    1. It reminds me of my 30s (Shark)
    2. It offends everyone and therefore I love it (Al and Eric)
    3. It has a great rape scene, snicker, snicker, that sings in the rain! (Douglas)

    The stylization is meant to reflect the marketing of violence, the amoral, stylized packaging of trends, ideas.

    Such a load of crap. There are multiple reasons why the violence is so stylized and appealing and, of course, loved by you folks. One, Kubrick got a perverted kick out of being stylized with such hateful material, and enjoyed giving us a scene of unthinkable brutality, candy coating it for the mass comsumption of you boneheads. It’s shocking, but it’s definitely not Allin taking a shit on stage……Two, he didn’t have the guts to show a truthful rape scene and the horror of such a brutal and hateful moment. Thus, it is cowardly, all the more so because this scene actually happened. Had it been even remotely realistic, you chaps would not be championing it today.

    The final shootout in Taxi Driver is excessively horrifying, but at least it is real, and thus rings true. I can accept its horror and everything that came before it. There is nothing responsible or respectable about the horror of A Clockwork Orange. It is an incredibly flawed and overrated work. Trumpet this film, and expose the very mentality Kubrick himself so unsuccessfully attempted to preach against.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    D.B. – You strike me as the sort of intellectual who has a very hard time at appreciating anyone else’s point of view.

    Let me ask you a question: can you accept the fact that anyone on the planet enjoyed A Clockwork Orange for non-base reasons? Is it possible that any of these people are not moronic and lead largely healthy and productive lives?

    I won’t go into why I enjoyed the film or found it intellectually stimulating because I’ve done that already.

    I would like to clear up a few small points:

    #1 – I didn’t state that it was the greatest movie of all time
    #2 – I never said that it “offends everyone and therefore I love it”

    I can accept that you don’t like this film for the reasons you’ve stated, D.B. It’s not your bag — I get it. It’s too bad that you can’t do the same in return.

    Looking down your nose at anyone who disagrees with you adds little to the conversation.

    Eric Berlin
    Dumpster Bust: Miracles from Mind Trash
    http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com

  • D.B. Cooper

    My Apologies Eric. I really was not trying to offend, was just having a bit of a scrap and some fun. Everyone has made some fantastic points, most of them better than mine.

    All of Kubrick’s films could be argued for a very, very long time – most certainly this one, his most controversial film.

    Al said something earlier which got me to thinking. 100 years from now, who knows what films of certain great directors will still be watched? I get the feeling A Clockwork Orange will be his most watched, and perhaps even his least dated.

    I do know I have not watched this in several years (midnight showing on college campus), and plan to watch it again very soon. I thought you made some great points and will keep those in mind.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    D.B. – Thanks for your thoughts as well — this thread has made me think much harder about my views on this film than I ever have before. Likewise, I did not intend any offense with my last statement and I hope it wasn’t taken as such.

    I’m actually iffy on Kubrick as a director (Full Metal Jacket and 2001 are the only other films of his that I have enjoyed) but I respect his passion and vision as a director. He takes chances and goes for the gusto, and there’s not much more you can ask of anyone than that.

  • Shark

    Cooper, yer still a brown-eyed bonehead — and you still don’t get it.

    I’ve explained it once, but here goes once more for our resident, easily offended, moralizing, thick skulled parachutin’ bank robber:

    COOPER: “…There are multiple reasons why the violence is so stylized and appealing and, of course, loved by you folks. One, Kubrick got a perverted kick out of being stylized with such hateful material, and enjoyed giving us a scene of unthinkable brutality, candy coating it for the mass comsumption of you boneheads.”

    Does “CANDY COATING FOR MASS CONSUMPTION…” ring a fucking bell, you maroon?

    Good gawd. You just described AMERICAN CULTURE in 2004. Turn on yer TV and tell me how many nanoseconds it takes for you to spit and hit some candy coated ultra-violence made for the mass consumption of boneheads.

    Godammit, boy, a mind is like a parachute: it don’t work unless it’s open!

    COOPER: “Two, he didn’t have the guts to show a truthful rape scene and the horror of such a brutal and hateful moment.”

    um, see my answer to yer #1.

    …Nevermind, doodles.

    You win. Stanley Kubrick and Anthony Burgess didn’t know what they were doing.

    ==============

    Cooper: “…A Clockwork Orange will be his most watched, and perhaps even his least dated.”

    Congrats, babe. It’s the first time you’ve been ‘right’ today. huzzah!

    Anyway, gotta run. COPs is on, and after that, I have to play Grand Theft Auto with my 4 year old grandson.

    Hugs!

  • http://www.rodneywelch.blogspot.com/ Rodney Welch

    Shark — Your comment makes no sense. You say that because the first rape is in a movie theater that justifies the fact that Kubrick films it pornographically. But he films every scene of violence pornographically, regardless of setting. Like the rape scene in the house, for example, where Alex is cutting pieces from the woman’s clothes — it’s like a rapist wet dream.

    Symbolism? Puh-leeeze. You’re killing me.

  • Bevillia

    Oh! And Kubrick wanted to make an ironic comment on the marketing of violence did he, and he was “prophetic” of our own times? Do you not mean influential, helped to create our times?

    ‘A Clockwork Orange’ is a seriously intellectually and morally flawed piece of trash. In fact, it is one of the greatest moral failures in film history(not least because of the murders it has spawned to this very day). That aside, it is an unforgivable defacement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (one of the world’s greatest works of art) and the human spirit it stands for. In this sense, it is metaphysical evil.

    I agree totally with David Cooper.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Woo doggies there, Bevillia. It sure feels GREAT being morally indignant, don’t it?

    It must be great to be able to watch a sophisticated and ambiguous movie film and know exactly what it really, really means – to wash out all those pesky artistic mixed messages that others of us meditate on.

    By the way, I’ve got a couple of groovy original Clockwork Orange pictures created by artist Gary Roberts.