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A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Director: Stanley Kubrick
Cast overview: Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee
Running time: 136 minutes

Well, this is an unorthodox watch, to say the least. Kubrick is something of an enigma for me, in that he can produce very good films such as The Shining, and turn in overrated pretentiousness such as this. I appreciate it's a very highly regarded piece of cinema, but I'm struggling to see why. It's not the bizarre qualities of the film that turn me off, as a rule - The Shining itself is bizarre and off-the-wall at times, but it still has a decent enough plot and enough conventional elements to make it worth watching. This tests cinema to its very limits, but not in a way that works, in my opinion.

There are some good elements, such as the intense and appropriate soundtrack that appears to have partly been recycled in The Shining. It fits very well with the theme, as does the liberal use of Beethoven's music. The use of colour - vivid and vibrant in virtually every scene - was an interesting addition. The acting was also OK, particularly from McDowell, but as a whole this just seems wanting on several levels. Maybe Kubrick set out to create something completely crazy and fantastical, and if so he succeeded. The premise is decent, and this could have worked, but for me it falls completely flat. Still, many people like it - I don't much understand their love for it myself.

The language used in the script is incomprehensible at times in terms of its complexity, but perhaps Anthony Burgess' novel of the same name that this was adapted from did the same and Kubrick was simply taking inspiration from that. It doesn't make for a particularly engrossing or interesting film, though, and it's hard to follow at times. Again, this could have been a deliberate move from the director.

Overall, this is the worst Kubrick picture I've seen thus far, and it's hard to follow, incomprehensible and dull at its worst, although it does have some redeeming features in the excellent soundtrack and Malcolm McDowell as an interesting protagonist. Still, I certainly don't rate it highly among the films I've watched recently.

Alex: It's funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you viddy them on the screen.

Alex: Ho, ho, ho! Well, if it isn't fat stinking billy goat Billy Boy in poison! How art thou, thou globby bottle of cheap, stinking chip oil? Come and get one in the yarbles, if ya have any yarbles, you eunuch jelly thou!

Alex: Viddy well, little brother. Viddy well.

Alex performing "Singing in the Rain" as he attacks the writer and his wife was not scripted. Stanley Kubrick spent four days experimenting with this scene, finding it too conventional. Eventually he approached Malcolm McDowell and asked him if he could dance. They tried the scene again, this time with McDowell dancing and singing the only song he could remember. Kubrick was so amused that he swiftly bought the rights to "Singing in the Rain" for $10,000.

When Malcolm McDowell met Gene Kelly at a party several years later, the older star turned and walked away in disgust. Kelly was deeply upset about the way his signature from Singin' in the Rain (1952) had been portrayed in A Clockwork Orange (1971).

The doctor standing over Alex as he is being forced to watch violent films was a real doctor, ensuring that Malcolm McDowell's eyes didn't dry up.