Reversion Therapy


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.