A Clockwork Orange (1971)

A Clockwork Orange (1971) movie poster

director Stanley Kubrick
viewed: 05/24/2015 at the Castro Theatre, SF, CA

My parenting could certainly be called into question.  Whose couldn’t?  But taking my 13 year old son to a science fictiony double feature of our own making, beginning with the slick and contemporary Ex Machina (2015) and following it up with a little of “the old ultra-violence” in Stanley Kubrick’s landmark A Clockwork Orange, is probably not exactly what the average parenting guide recommends for young teens.

But it was about the age of 13 or 14 that I myself first encountered Malcolm McDowell’s evil Alex and the stark visions of near-future dystopias in Kubrick’s visionary interpretation of Anthony Burgess’s novel.  I was reading the book by the age of 15.  And between the film and the book and the cult iconography of the material, I had fallen upon a touchstone, not just for myself, but for underground culture everywhere.

All that said, it had probably been 30 years since I’d seen the film, those heady teenage years of cable television and lots of downtime.  But I’ve been eager to see it again and the opportunity to see it on the big screen is just the scenario in which to see it.

The movie is nearly as old as I am, pushing 45 years.  While it’s not science fiction, as in no scientific points of significant development appear in the film, it is a form of speculative fiction about the then near future, a world in which thugs and gangs of depraved youth torment a society of isolated individuals in extraordinarily modernistic houses, apartments, and cafe/bars.  The vision is so stylized that it almost transcends its time of production, neither outwardly dated nor anywhere predictive, rather a vision of something that has come to signify itself.

I’ve always personally abhorred rape and its depiction in films has always bothered me.  Perhaps A Clockwork Orange was the first film in which rape is explicitly depicted that I recall having encountered.  Of course, it’s critical to the material, and is both decadent and shocking as well as impactful and core to the ideas of the film.  By contrast, it’s almost chaste compared to things that have come since it came out.  But it still has power.  I’d say the film stands out as visionary as it was in its day.  Which is saying something.

I’m not entirely sure what Felix thought of it.  It’s probably one of those things that he’ll process over time.  It’s not a film for immediate reactions but for sustained impressions.  That said, it’s iconic qualities stand out in images completely emblazoned upon one’s cultural psyche.

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