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A Clockwork Orange

Introduction By Ernesto Acevedo-Muñoz • Muenzinger Auditorium

A Clockwork Orange

There's Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange," and then there's everything else. Kubrick's 1971 adaptation of Anthony Burgess's complex literary satire of crime and punishment is an earth-shattering cinematic experience that elicits an unprecedented visceral response from its audience. Malcolm McDowell plays British thug and sociopath Alex De Large, who wanders around a futuristic, economically ravished Britain where trash fills the streets. It’s a spitting image of the bleak socio-political landscape that gave rise to the British punk rock movement of the late ‘70s.

Alex lends friendly narration to the audience that he calls "brothers" as he incites violence with a band of delinquent misfits (called "droogs") at his command. Alex gets imprisoned after viciously raping and murdering an upper-class woman in her home with a large plastic phallus intended as an ironic piece of modern art.

Kubrick’s sense of visual irony is spectacular. Rather than go to prison Alex opts to undergo a torturous rehabilitation therapy (the "Ludovico technique"), involving forced viewings of Nazi war films accompanied by Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. A scene involving Alex being "cured" with clamps holding his eyelids open, presents a fierce artistically infused portrait of torture. The proven effects of the treatment lead to Alex's release into a society where he is repeatedly punished for his past transgressions until he isn't. 

"A Clockwork Orange" proved a crucial touchstone for significant cultural shifts in music and film. '70s era filmmakers like Francis Coppola and Martin Scorsese were liberated by Kubrick's visionary approach to style, form, and subject matter. As well, many aspects of the punk rock movement are directly attributable to it. The film is intoxicating in its use of atmosphere, music, and paradox to excite and inform the viewer's imagination at a palpitating tempo. Everything comes as a surprise for the voyeuristic spectator who is implicated in every criminal act of citizen and state. We are all victim, killer, police, and legislator. Sleep on that.

— Cole Smithey, ColeSmithey.com

A Clockwork Orange

Wed April 5, 7:30 PM, Muenzinger Auditorium

UK, 1971, in English, Color, 136 min, 1.66 : 1, 35mm • official site

Director: Stanley Kubrick, Screenplay: Stanley Kubrick, Novel: Anthony Burgess, Cast: Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Adrienne Corri, Michael Bates, Warren Clarke

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