Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange: A FeastFam Retrospective Part 2

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As part of July’s KubrickFeast, we asked the FeastFam team of writers to have a long, hard think about Stanley Kubrick and then wax lyrical accordingly. The results were…interesting! Today, I take a second look at A Clockwork Orange.

Anthony Burgess’ novel, A Clockwork Orange, belonged to a list of essential reading for any Sixth Former whose literary choices were firmed up in the aisles of HMV. Alongside JD Salinger’s A Catcher in the Rye and Bret Easton Ellis’ Less Than Zero, A Clockwork Orange’s depiction of a rebellious and reckless youth both disgusted and drew in readers in equal measure.

So when Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange film was finally released in the year 2000 after close to thirty years of being shelved, the anticipation was similar of the effects of having a heavy night on the old Moloko Plus. By this point, A Clockwork Orange had grown in infamy with it’s reputation already having permeated popular culture in the form of Blur’s video for The Universal and The Simpsons amongst plenty of others.

Familiar touchstones aside, seeing A Clockwork Orange after such a long time reminds you just how mesmeric Malcolm McDowell is as Alex DeLarge. The film rests firmly on his shoulders as he kicks against the system, dances whilst dishing out beatings and verbally jousts long before Jack Nicholson’s Joker, Brad Pitt’s Tyler Durden or any other anti-hero ever did. That McDowell manages to spin this around to sympathy in the third act is nothing short of a masterclass in audience manipulation.

The typical Kubrickisms also felt familiar and welcoming by now, whilst at the same time as jarring as ever: the underneath perspective of Patrick Magee’s Frank mirroring that of Jack Torrance in The Shining; the classical score harking back to 2001: A Space Odyssey and the unnerving appearance of Phillip Stone (The Shining‘s Delbert Grady) as Alex’s dear old Daddio.

Thirty years hadn’t softened the violence any either. The first brawl between Alex’s Droogs and the gang-rape gang is nothing short of Extreme Championship Wrestling at its most grim and the scene where Alex has his eyes prised open is enough to make you never fear applying Optrex ever again.

A Clockwork Orange still manages to tread that fine line: it points towards a dystopian future whilst also seeming timelessly classic and a product of its own era; it still shocks without coming across as self-righteous and is typically Kubrickian in its design and style that is somehow forward fashion whilst at the same time nostalgic.

What are your memories of A Clockwork Orange? Either from the first time around or the re-release. Let us know in the comments below.

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