A Clockwork Orange (1971)

One of the most stylized depictions of violence & teenage spirit ever filmed with a cleverly-meta juxtaposition of insouciant classical waltzes & sadistic thrills by its psychologically-twisted protagonist, A.C.O.’s striking dystopian mastercraft. 9.4/10.

Plot Synopsis: In an England of the future, Alex (Malcolm McDowell) and his “Droogs” spend their nights getting high at the Korova Milkbar before embarking on “a little of the old ultraviolence,” while jauntily warbling “Singin’ in the Rain.” After he’s jailed for bludgeoning the Cat Lady to death, Alex submits to behavior modification technique to earn his freedom; he’s conditioned to abhor violence. Returned to the world defenseless, Alex becomes the victim of his prior victims.

*Possible spoilers ahead*


The Most Stylized Depiction Of Violence & Teenage Spirit Ever Filmed

Photo Courtesy Of: Warner Bros.

“What gets into you all? […] You’ve got a good home, loving parents, not too bad a brain.. so [why]?” Kubrick’s foray into the psychology of violence, degeneracy, and teen rebellion of Sex Pistols-proportions packs a punch as striking as getting thwapped by one of its Droogs’ canes. One of the most complex & analytic films of his already-Mt. Rushmore filmography coming off the lifetime achievement 2001: A Space Odyssey – arguably the greatest film & portfolio in the history of directorial arts cementing him as one of, if not THE greatest filmmaker of All-Time – the NY-auteur delivered a controversial, X-Rated, erotica-riddled masterpiece that took audiences decades to fully grasp & understand. One of the most stylized depictions of violence & teenage spirit/cult mentality ever filmed with a cleverly-meta juxtaposition of insouciant classical waltzes & sadistic violence by its screen-stealing mascaraed-star, ACO is striking dystopian mastercraft.

The Avant-Garde Set & Costume Design w/ Wild Idiosyncrasy Of A Classical-Waltz Score

Photo Courtesy Of: Warner Bros.

A Clockwork Orange earns its status of one of the most famed depictions of the dark side of humanity through unforgettable embarks on the ‘ultra-violence’ highlighted by some of the most visually-arresting stylism ever achieved in filmmaking. Every frame of the film – set in a dystopian future vision of England untethered by morality – is so wildly-idiosyncratic, indie-bleeding, and auterist in Bohemian style, it stands alone as a film feeling entirely in its own genre uncategorizable by classical technique and textbook classification. Eye-poppingly bright color palettes in genitalia-art galore (perhaps commenting on humans’ penchant for sexualization, even if not readily-recognized or admitted so being subtextually present in in nearly-everything we do in life and society from our monuments to gender roles/identity) rooms populated by mascara-laden, matching-costume thugs dipping into devilish thrills simply to pass the nights away dot the filmscape of one of the most bombastic, inimitable, fashionistic ocular backdrops of moviemaking.

Malcolm McDowell’s Screen-Stealing, Insolent, Evil-Driven Punk Alex: A Villain For The Ages

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These thugs irreverently sing showtunes or serenade with sharply-juxtaposed insouciant classical waltzes by a reservoir of everyone from Ludwig van Beethoven to Gioachini Rossini to to Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov to Edward Elgers (played on both orchestral and synthesizer versions by ACO composer Wendy Carlos for peak eccentric-ism) while carrying out these most depraved, unspeakable acts – like their cruel, bestial barbarism is of no consequence to them or perhaps even enjoyment: a drug-tripped high better than the barbituate-laced milk served at Korova. It’s of little surprise that the film shocked, controversied, and beguiled audiences as one of the most fascinating and brutal depictions of violence to ever rock theaters – eventually securing an X-rating to avoid offending those with light sensibilities but still (purposely) uncomfortable as a vital piece of crime cinema whose actions are for a larger intellectual point and who revolutionized the genre and became core inspiration for many iconic movie villains who studied and learned from it later on like math homework. The style bleeds through to ACO’s characterization – especially in its leader Alex’s inimitable, fantastically-peculiar talking/narration style full of cascading turns of phrase and bizarre slang for one of the quirkiest masterpiece performances ever put to screen.

The Droogs

Photo Courtesy Of: Warner Bros.

Alex and his Droogs. Malcolm McDowell’s now-legendary Alex steals the show as one of the All-Time greatest movie villains simply for how little he cares about anything but watching the world burn & leaving chaos in his wake. He lacks any semblance of morality, being set off by the lightest of triggers and almost bent on carrying out a dark marching order for violence and barbarity. This indescribable dread of what goes on in the criminal mind is perhaps best exemplified by his sudden interest in the Bible and church services when he’s carted off to prison for murder in the first degree later on in the film. We’re led to believe he’s doing so out of spiritual repentance and the urge to do good and turn his life around, but it’s revealed that he only reads and gets into the Bible to daydream/fantasize about being the Roman to whip Jesus and lead him up to the cross for crucifixion, enjoying the lusciously-sinful revelry of the time afterwards without the slightest remorse of killing the Son of God – that is how messed-up this reprehensible teen is in psyche. He also lies about fatal accidents of friends to con people’s emotions into letting him into their homes to carry out his evil agendas like a proto-serial killer (ten years before the term was even coined in the field of criminal psychology), beats homeless men to bloody pulps with canes, and kills a woman simply for defending herself and slightly vexing him for rightfully getting upset he broke into her home after she saw through his ruses to get past the front door. Following lead from their irreplaceable cult frontman are the rest of the Droogs – well-cast and characterized, full of quirky performances like Warren Clarke’s dunce-ish, aptly-named Dim, and a fascinating boys’ club of power dynamic-volatile teen hooligans getting into all sorts of trouble after ritualistic trips to the barbituate-laced Korova Milk Bar serving as a sort of passing-off point into depravity symbolically in this bizarre dystopian future vision of England.

Multi-Interpretive Symbolism, Complex Kubrick Imagism, & Teenage-Analytical Flair

Photo Courtesy Of: Warner Bros.

The multi-interpretive symbolism and teenage-analyticism of A Clockwork Orange elevates it into the stratosphere of its millennium. The film is chock-full of complex symbolic shots that can be interpreted a myriad of ways – a hallmark of Kubrick’s signature auterist style that alone cements him as one of the greatest filmmakers of All-Time being perhaps the most puzzle-filled, layered, esoteric, and difficult to understand one to ever touch the medium. Entire dissertational courses could be taught analyzing what he was trying to say with, for example, the snake masturbation shot, four Jesuses side-by-side rapidly shot-cycled between, a vampire-into-atom bomb-into-sex sex sex jump cut, etc. – one of the biggest feasts of intellectual cinema in the entire 1900’s and one that scholars are still (and will still be centuries from now) trying to decipher and postulate a definitive version. Also front and center in ACO’s lifetime adapted screenplay is a brilliant reflection on the rebellious punk nature of teen spirit taken to the extremes here, as well as the endless ways society & youth are de-sensitively devolving to find increasingly-edgy and dark thrills with each passing decade. Also put under the surgeon’s knife is a foray into the sin/animalistic nature of humans with its display of criminal actions, diving into rarely-visited corners of the human psyche as uncomfortable to visit/watch as Alex’s ‘scientific correction’.

Psychology, Sociology, Philosophy, & Religion

Where Do Criminality & Misbehavior Originate; Even If We Could ‘Fix’ Scientifically, Should We?

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This level of sadistic mind is the perfect specimen to be analyzed by the film’s B-plot: a criminal-correction/mad-science arc that is existentially-complex beyond comparison and doubles as one ofthe most striking adventures of character development in 20th-century cinema. When Alex is taken to prison for his grisly, murderous spree and subjected to (torturous) reformation at the hands of mad scientists that make Dr. Frankenstein look sane, the film melds sci-fi & unspeakable horror loaded with white-knuckled examination of the current crime landscape. The use of POV shots and perspective in parts when the harshest blows like sentencing and revelation Alex is to spend the rest of his life locked behind bars makes for an even harder-hitting shock value that perhaps implies light criminality in all of mankind/society as a reason for why Kubrick might’ve chosen to do this – or mere transportation into the perspective of being dealt justice for criminal acts as a deterrent from ever getting in that sentencing position yourself. Whatever the case of intended usage in classically-esoteric/maze-like Kubrickian fashion, the film has big psychological, sociological, and philosophical questions on its mind about the origins and nature of criminality: What causes people to do horrible things? Is it some primal urge, feeling from the stomach that rises up and takes us over, or something psychological – an offset pleasure-receptor in the brain, a broken hippocampus wherein fear hormones are diluted and anger ones over-plenished, etc.? Is it externally or internally-triggered: panopticon or panopticism? Even if there was a scientific cure for crime, is it ethical or religiously-acceptable? Who has the right to take away choice or morality of decision-making from someone, taking away their very freedom like slaves of yesteryears (even if it is to benefit society and the safety of the many) – is that a religiously-passable way to deal with the problem or more ghastly misuse of science than anything out of 1800’s archaic experimentalistic novels before ethical boards and regulations were put in place? A Clockwork Orange is one of the most philosophically-heavy films of All-Time in this regard, a glorious time at the ‘cine’ and one of the best of his entire career.


Photo Courtesy Of: Warner Bros.

Flaws in ACO include its wildly-brutal violence motif – and the Droogs’ costumes. It can be objectively difficult to watch the stylized violence that assaults our senses here, no matter who you are – even if it’s meant to be satirical as hinted to make a larger psychological point and existential debate. Its over-the-top chaos/cacophony mirroring all the senseless ‘ultra-violence’ does takes a tolerance to stomach and is certainly not for the feint of heart or unconditioned to crime cinema. The flaw that bothers me most though is the sash-and-codpiece inclusion on the Droogs’ costume design – looks ridiculous from the waist down. Perhaps purposely designed that way to comment on its males’ overcompensating in aggressive/savage actions for small.. you know what, it’s still difficult to take seriously when given a full view of the attackers that stifles a bit of their vicious villainy in visuals. These are, of course, needle-in-a-haystack gripes in an otherwise magnificent canvs of psychologically, sociologically, and philosophically-masterstroke cinema.


A Kubrick In Full Control Of His Craft With A Striking Display Of Dystopian Masterclass

One Of The Greatest Films Of The 20th Century

Photo Courtesy Of: Warner Bros.

Overall, A Clockwork Orange is a Kubrick in full control of his craft – a tour-de-force showcase of why he’s one of (only rivaled by Hitchcock in a league of their own) the greatest filmmakers of All-Time. It poses strikingly big existential questions core to the philosophical, psychological, and sociological drive of criminality and violence, ones that have beguiled and mystified mankind since prehistory given a prismatic portrait in a bizarre future dystopian vision of England and X-rated masterpiece entire dissertational courses could be taught trying to fully analyze its subtextual complexity. One of the most stylized depictions of violence & teenage spirit/cult mentality ever filmed with a cleverly-meta juxtaposition of insouciant classical waltzes & sadistic thrills by its screen-stealing mascaraed-star, ACO is striking dystopian mastercraft.

Official CLC Score: 9.4/10