A Clockwork Orange (1971) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Stanley Kubrick is considered by many who love film to be the greatest of all directors. A Clockwork Orange is arguably his best movie. The combination of visual poetry, classical music, and wild imagination would be impressive in itself, but the film also has intellect. On the serious side, it has a lot to say about the worship of violence, its causes, and its treatment. On the satirical side, it takes a wicked jab at those in government who profess to control violence as well as those in the sciences who profess to understand it.

When I first read the 1963 book by Anthony Burgess, I thought that nobody could bring it to life. The tone shifts come rapidly, and the entire book is written in a language that does not yet exist, as different from today's idiom as our language is from Chaucer's. The book actually comes with a mini-dictionary. After you have read a while, you won't need the dictionary, but the first few pages are difficult reading. Burgess, in addition to producing his own fine fiction, was also a Joyce scholar and has published literary analysis of that abstruse Irish genius. Joyce's linguistic influence is evident here. A Clockwork Orange is not as difficult and complex as Finnegan's Wake, but is probably more difficult to read than any of Joyce's other books. It's also worth the time you put into it. When I heard that this would become a movie, I thought it was impossible. I was wrong. The project belonged to the one man who could do it justice, Stanley Kubrick.

Some time in the future, Alex is a young man who is the leader of a gang. He and his "droogies" spend their evenings in pursuit of someone to beat up or rape. They wander around town, or steal a car and curry their way into homes in the suburbs. In a world where regular violence is boring, their "ultra-violence" is orchestrated and choreographed. In effect, Alex has made violence an art form. Perhaps the most famous scene in the movie is Alex in a rich suburban home, beating a writer and raping his wife while he sings and dances to "Singin' in the Rain".

When Alex is finally caught by the police, he volunteers himself for an experimental scientific program that treats violence by deprogramming it from the brain. While the treatment is successful and gets him back out on the streets, it leaves him defenseless against all the people he injured when he himself was violent. He is tortured in succession by some old beggars he had once molested, by his former gang members, and by the rich writer in the suburbs. His plight comes to the attention of those who oppose the government. They claim that Alex's treatment was inhumane and made him into something which appears organic, but is really nothing more than a programmed machine - a clockwork orange. The government must respond or lose the election, so they decide to strike a deal with Alex to restore him to his former violent self in return for his help with the media.

For more info, here is an extraordinarily detailed (and intelligent) review/synopsis.

There is nudity throughout the film, from many different women, including some full frontals. In fact, of all the great movies, this may have the most nudity.

General consensus: Four from Berardinelli, Apollo scored it 94/100. If any film critic fails to give it four stars, they should probably be in the fast food industry.

IMDB summary: 8.2 out of 10. Top 100 of all time. Arguably underrated. Apollo users scored it 74! 74? What's that all about?

DVD info from Amazon. They rushed all of Kubrick's films to DVD. I'm glad they did, but now they need to issue some more elaborate DVD's for the major works. This is an adequate transfer, but I suspect that 1.66:1 wasn't the theatrical aspect ratio, and there is absolutely nothing else of importance on the disc, which is a real shame for a film considered by some to be the high point of the filmmaking art.

Book info from Amazon. It's one of the greatest books I've ever read, but also one of the most difficult to understand, and one of the most violent.

Soundtrack info from Amazon. Features some of the greatest classical music ever composed, the centerpiece of which is Beethoven's Ninth.


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