To roughly summarize, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE will eff your ess up. Though recent movies like A SERBIAN FILM might make it seem more tame compared to its release four decades ago, the film is still incredibly controversial and effective. From the opening tracking shot of the Korova milkbar, with its naked female furniture and menacing milk-drinking droogs, you know you’re in for a crazy two hours. Kubrick’s sensibilities are a perfect match for Anthony Burgess’s controversial novel, and to me this movie shows the director at the top of his game. Everything just comes together perfectly in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, making it a unique and memorable story of disaffected youth, sex and violence. Kubrick creates a bizarre society that’s oddly futuristic and socially exaggerated, but somehow still connectable to our present (i.e. disaffected youth, sex and violence). And while Kubrick may be the brains behind the operation, Malcolm McDowell really gives himself fully to the performance and the director. (For proof, just watch the terrifyingly realistic head dunking scene, which was shot an unbelievable 27 times.)
It’s seriously tough to describe without telling you to just watch the damn thing. The production design and visual schemata (the colors alone are enough to make your stomach turn); the use of music, from Ludwig Van to Alex’s absolutely inappropriate use of “Singing In The Rain;” and traces of dark humor that’s as brutal as the film’s “ultra” violence all make for a very unsettling but subversively entertaining experience. And as a fascinating cultural and political satire, it’s brilliant but definitely not for the easily disturbed.
Commentary by Malcom McDowell and film historian Nick Redman: McDowell is very humble but frank about his experience on the film and reveals a lot of interesting stuff about Kubrick’s mannerisms and work ethic, not to mention a few funny stories. Definitely recommended.
*Malcom McDowell Looks Back (10:30): The actor reminisces about the film while looking at photos, props, letters, reviews and other memorabilia. A little awkward in its setup and sadly short, but it’s a great avenue to tell stories and share memories, from filming the eye-opening Ludivico Treatment scene to what the title means.
*Turning Like Clockwork (26:19): Malcom McDowell hosts this featurette about the controversial nature of the film from its release in 1971 to its legacy today compared to the other violent films. Filmmakers including James Mangold, Paul Greengrass and Oliver Stone (who discusses his similarly regarded NATURALLY BORN KILLERS), as well as Christiane Kubrick, discuss what the movie says about violence and the relationship of violence and media throughout the years.
Still Tickin’: The Return of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (43:35): A slew of filmmakers and experts go through the film with a fine toothed comb, especially the controversy surrounding its release. And Sam Mendes makes a great RESERVOIR DOGS visual connection that I never put together before. Good stuff.
Great Bolshy Yarblockos: The Making of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (28:14): An extended behind the scenes documentary reveals some interesting tidbits (like how Malcom McDowell endured constant torture). Cast, crew, and other filmmakers turn up with their thoughts. And can I just say, thank God we have the director of BULLETPROOF’s opinion on this film.
O Lucky Malcom! (1:26:03): A very in depth career profile of Malcom McDowell, with lots of interviews and a little “In The Actor’s Studio”-style Q&A.
Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures (1:22:00): If you’re a fan of Stanley Kubrick or his films, no matter how casual or diehard, this two and a half hour documentary is a must see. Directed by his longtime executive producer Jan Harlan, A LIFE IN PICTURES gives viewers a glimpse in to the introverted director’s very private life and mindset thanks to interviews with friends and family, as well as some never before seen home movies and pictures. (I never thought I would see a young Stanley Kubrick dancing crunk style.) The film also goes in depth with the origins and making of each movie in his filmography, including early ones like DAY OF THE FIGHT and FEAR AND DESIRE and even a few passion projects that never made it to the screen (NAPOLEON, ARYAN PAPERS). Pretty much everybody who ever knew or worked with Kubrick turns up for some revealing interviews. And they don’t shy away from some of the more honest yet harsh details, such as the director berating poor Shelley Duvall on the set of THE SHINING to elicit a more terrified and stressed out performance from her.
Extra Tidbit: Mick Jagger originally owned the rights to A CLOCKWORK ORANGE and intended to make it with the Rolling Stones starring as the Droogs. Instead we got FREEJACK.