A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Clockwork Orange

  • Less a narrative film and more a visual essay on the psychology of violence, A Clockwork Orange is spectacularly well-made.
  • But not the least bit entertaining.
  • Each time the camera takes Alex’s (Malcolm McDowell) point of view, Director Stanley Kubrick uses a wide-lens to distort the sides and tops of images, a technique that helps us understand how Alex sees the world.
  • Ditto that for the way Alex is usually in the center of the screen. We feel the protagonist’s certainty that he is the world’s only important creature.
  • In fact, Kubrick displays such brilliance in almost every directorial choice, thereby ensuring we understand Alex’s psychosis, at least as much as such a man can be understood.
  • Which means A Clockwork Orange accomplishes its objectives.
  • But that doesn’t make it enjoyable. From overstated performances, to helter-skelter editing, to the depravity that dominates the plot, this is a difficult movie to watch.
  • All the more so because none of these characters are well developed.
  • And because the first and final thirds are slowly paced and dominated by lengthy speeches.
  • Plus, the narrative struggles after Alex’s release from prison, when he starts meeting people he’s previously victimized. There is too much happenstance and coincidence in these meetings.
  • In the end, A Clockwork Orange, like many other Kubrick pictures, is technically astonishing and intellectually challenging.
  • But it is not a great story, which makes it less impacting than it otherwise might have been.
  • Final Grade: B-

9 thoughts on “A Clockwork Orange (1971)

  1. didn’t read your review yet b/c I have yet to see this one. I planned on maybe seeing and reviewing it for Cara’s resolutions section of her blog. I hope to see it this week and then I’ll read this. Just didn’t want any spoilers. sorry JJ 😦

  2. We agree on many films, but not so much on this one. I would rate it higher. It’s far from flawless but think its pros are far stronger than its drawbacks. It’s not an easy film to watch, but it is so incredible. Raging Bull is one I find tougher. I’m pretty sure Steven Spielberg described it as like listening to hearing your parents in a serious argument.

    As always though, a pleasure to read your insight.

    • To be clear, I think technically this is an incredibly well made movie, so I actually agree with you. A B- still indicates a film that accomplishes its objectives.

      In this case, it just indicates that I don’t enjoy this flick and will never watch it again. Kubrick might be a genius who crafts stellar movies, but that doesn’t mean I have to like them. 🙂

  3. Finally – something else on your site that I’ve seen. I have to say that I don’t particularly like this movie. It’s dated and loud and noisy and not very meaty. I am sure it was much more significant back in the day but… I never need to see it again…

    • I agree with every one of those statements. I appreciate every one of Kubrick’s directorial choices as having been brilliant. But I do not enjoy the movie. Not one bit. I’ll give it due for accomplishing what it sets out to do. I will not, however, ever see it again.

      Oh. And you’ve seen Insidious 2 and You’re Next, too, right? Which means there’s at least two more you’ve seen. 🙂

    • 🙂

      To be clear: I don’t enjoy it one bit. Not at all. From a sheer enjoyment perspective – I hate this movie.

      But I also recognize Kubrick’s brilliance in making it, which is why I give it a B-. It is too well made, and accomplishes its objectives too well for me to justify giving it a grade lower than that.

      Though, trust me, I want to. I want to give it an F-minus, and pretend I never saw it.

      (Also, by the way, I just sent Cara my 2001: A Space Odyssey review for the same series. She’s getting inundated with Kubrick.) 🙂

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