Reversion Therapy


A Clockwork Orange
Written and directed by Stanley Kubrick, from the novel by Anthony Burgess
Cinema Village
June 30 through July 10
The revival of Stanley Kubrick's scant oeuvre—only 13 films, and only the last seven commonly evoked as "Kubrickian"—continues at Cinema Village with a new print of A Clockwork Orange (1971), at once his most thematically problematic film and his most unforgettably sensational. Taking Anthony Burgess's scalding, first-person future-youth satire and soaking it in the brine of mod styles and flatly shot ultraviolence, Kubrick made the first punk tragicomedy, a chain-whipped cartoon meditation on Good, Evil, and Free Will that is as seductive as it is tasteless. That Kubrick misjudged the distance between comedy and cruelty seems to be unarguable; what's not so easy to suss out today is why the film burns so in the memory. Like all of Kubrick's films, it's a captivating mutant, chockablock with studied compositions, anti-Christian buffoonery, roadshow-Oliver!-on-Percodans performances, Moog-y musical interludes, and "artful" penis objects. At the heart of it is Malcolm McDowell's ebullient shake-and-bake as Alex the protopunk; reportedly, McDowell fought Kubrick tooth and nail for his character's energy. A Clockwork Orange is framed as a satire, but what Kubrick was mocking isn't clear—teenagers, rapists, criminal treatment, liberal bureaucracy, middle-class British twits, it's your call. Too sui generis to be authentically satiric, Kubrick's movie, like most of his others, stands alone, a self-encapsulating, freaky spectacle that, because it's one of a kind, must be gazed upon.

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