AFI #70: A Clockwork Orange

I think A Clockwork Orange is a film for young people. I remember really liking this film when I first saw it, which was probably when I was in high school. What could be more interesting to a high school student than a film about a bunch of young thugs getting high and performing a little ultra-violence? The thing is though, watching it now as a 45-year-old man it simply doesn’t hold up. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s so camp that it ‘s just not very good at all.

Stanley Kubrick directed some winners, including The Shining, Dr. Strangelove and Full Metal Jacket, but he also directed some duds (2001 A Space Odyssey is totally overrated). I won’t say A Clockwork Orange is a dud, but it’s not as good as I remember thinking it was. There are some highlights: certainly Malcolm McDowell’s performance is tremendous and the juxtaposition of violence with classical music is thought-provoking. Kubrick’s direction is unique — there are some very strangely shot scenes including a fast-motion menage a trois and that eery scene of Alex with his eyes propped open being forced to watch violent scenes in an effort to desensitize him to it. It definitely has a late 60s style that is common to the period (feels like Barbarella a bit). I don’t know…it sort of left me feeling…in the words of my 14-year-old…meh!

If you saw it when you were younger and haven’t seen it since you’re probably thinking I’m nuts and that it’s a classic. But I promise if you see it again you won’t think so…

Next Up: Tootsie

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3 thoughts on “AFI #70: A Clockwork Orange

  1. This is one of my favorite films of all time, so I feel a need to defend it to some extent. Certainly the first time I saw it, when I was about 13 or so, I liked it for the reasons that you site a teenager might like it for. But I’ve seen it about half a dozen times since (several times as an adult) and I don’t like it any less. (Although it has probably been close to ten years since the last time I saw it. I’m overdue to watch it again.)

    As a sci-fi fan I think that the film has one of the most unique visions of a dystopian future ever portrayed on screen. I think the futuristic slang created for the movie was genius and helped to paint a very effective portrait of a society mutated from the then (1971) present day.

    Sure, it’s probably a bit dated because of when it was shot, but the acting, music, and visuals are all top notch. And as disturbing as it was in some spots, it was offset by a few very funny scenes. (In particular when Alex comes home from prison to find that his parents rented out a room to a guy they clearly like better than him.)

    Anyway, I could certainly write a lot more on this topic, but I just thought I’d throw in my two cents.

    And on a related note, a good friend of mine who writes film commentary on a few film sites happens to have an article coming out in a few weeks on this movie to coincide with its 40th anniversary. I’ll be sure to send you the link when it comes out!

  2. I watched A Clockwork Orange in high school and it made me squirm in my seat. It haunted me then and it still does. “Meh” sums it up well. Tootsie seems like a complete 180 to this flick. It’s one of several movies I watched many times in the 80s.

  3. Pingback: AFI # 43: Midnight Cowboy | Days of Speed & Slow Time Mondays

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