Saturday, 7 January 2017

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

"You are now a murderer, little Alex."

Anthony Burgess may not be a fashionable author but I'm a huge fan of his. I've read a large amount of his work, from A Dead Man in Deptford to Earthly Powers and while, yes, there's certainly a fair amount of Catholic guilt in there as subtext, you can't reduce him to that as a writer; he has such fun playing with ideas in gloriously erudite prose. A Clockwork Orange is no exception- a treatise not only on sin but also on civil liberties vs. law and order, on free will, on the awkward fact that one can appreciate high culture and still be evil, whatever F.R. Leavis may think.

So how does Stanley Kubrick handle it? Well, with great aplomb. The entire film takes place amongst the brutalist architecture of the third quarter of the twentieth century, even the scenes set outside, with rose horrible associations not yet of decay (as I'm sure the same locations would have evoked a few years later) but of a brutal, soulless totalitarianism of the mind, which fits the totalitarianism of what happens to Alex. Yet law and order truly has broken down and totalitarian mind control is proposed as a solution; there is no role for decent liberals here, whom the script even seems to mock as elitists. It's a chilling echo of modern times. The fashions- while boiler suits, bowler hats, fake eyelashes- are striking and succeed in giving the film a sense of timeless in spite of the inevitable 1971-ness of various things, not least the police brutality.

The film would not be the triumph it is without a stellar central performance by a young Malcolm McDowell, who is not only convincing but successfully manages to imbue the psychopath Alex with sufficient charm to leaven the darkness of the film. McDowell is ably assisted by a strong cast including a startlingly young Warren Clarke. The directorial style is just as awesome as we might expect.

After a couple of crappy films it's such a relief to be blogging a true masterpiece like this. A truly seminal film.


  1. One of my favorite movies for 21 years since junior high when i rented it and one of my fave sci-fi films

    1. It's truly awesome and reminded me just how great Kubrick was. It's a similar amount of time since I saw it last!