Friday, September 2, 2011

Second Age Reviews: A Clockwork Orange

This is a rare opportunity for me. Not only is A Clockwork Orange a Stanley Kubrick film (and therefore the first film I've gotten to review by my idol) but it's probably the best film that I've ever reviewed here. Because while 2001: A Space Odyssey is still my favorite Kubrick, I'd rate A Clockwork Orange ahead of Full Metal Jacket, The Shining and even Dr. Strangelove. And given that Dr. Strangelove is my favorite comedy of all time, that's high praise indeed.

The story is concerned with Alex, a young hooligan (sorry droog) growing up in a dystopian London. He is, and this is key to understanding the story, a completely unrepentant sociopath. Throughout the film he commits assault, theft, rape, murder, all without provocation or justification or even hope of benefit. When a member of his gang suggests that they take more profitable ventures he attacks them, clearly telling us that he's committing these acts essentially for kicks. No surprise, eventually he is caught and thrown in jail, and while the results of him being in jail are near-legendary, I won't spoil them.

This is another thing that must be understood to 'get' this film: As brilliant as it is, I don't enjoy a minute of it. There are many films that are brilliant but physically painful to watch, from No Country For Old Men to Irreversible, but A Clockwork Orange is one of the first examples I ever watched. The sheer visceral horror I get from watching it easily confirms it as a brilliant work of art.

The character of Alex is one of the most interesting aspects of the film, an incredible mix of good screenplay and fantastic acting from Malcolm McDowell. The film presents itself entirely from his point of view, including voiceover, but never once lets us forget what a monstrous person he is. Indeed, one of the primary changes from the book seems to make every single thing Alex endures a karmic punishment for something he inflicts on someone else.

Of course the best known aspect of the incredible direction in this film is it's unique and distinctive use of classical music. Alex's only even borderline redeeming characteristic is his love of classical music, in particular Beethoven, and the soundtrack pushes Alex's love of classical music to it's theoretical limit, but it never feels shoehorned in or utilized anything other than perfectly.

That's always been the thing about Stanley Kubrick films: This level of directorial influence over the film would feel like over-direction for anyone else but he handles the films so perfectly and fearlessly that you can't even imagine them any other way. Imagine someone not quite as sure of himself or not quite as talented trying to do the intense direction and unique style of The Shining and you just cringe thinking about it. And in Clockwork he does not disappoint, employing rapid fire editing, tight camera shots, fast and intesne use of music and the strange effect of Alex's disconcertingly familiar narration (he repeatedly refers to the audience as his friends, even his only friends) to create the unique and vicious creature that this film is.

Of course, even with the amazing screenplay and the incredible direction, if the actors weren't up to snuff, it would still fall apart. But everyone, and I do mean everyone, puts in a great performance, from Malcolm McDowell in a chillingly toned down turn as Alex, to characters who barely get any lines. Of note is Patrick Magee in a small role that becomes vitally important towards the end.

Look, I might be a little biased in favor of this film, but since you come here for my opinion, in my humble opinion A Clockwork Orange is a full on masterpiece, and well worth your time and attention, if you can stomach the content.

Alas, this is the end of an era. What with my financial situation and my relocation to New York City for school, I will no longer be able to attend every movie at the Avon. I will still be attending the odd one, and reviewing them when I do, but due to me being unable to know when those are, there will no longer be a Next Time on Second Age Reviews. Yes I know it's not the most popular section on this blog, but still I thought my loyal reader(s) might want to know. So...yeah. Now you know.

Elessar is a 21 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he still can't listen to Singing in the Rain.


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