It's all stylised: from Burgess' invented pidgin Russian (snarled unforgettably by McDowell) to 2001-style slow tracks through sculpturally perfect sets (as with many Kubrick movies, the story could be told through decor alone) and exaggerated, grotesque performances on a par with those of Dr Strangelove (especially from Patrick Magee and Aubrey Morris). Made in 1971, based on a novel from 1962, A Clockwork Orange resonates across the years. Its future is now quaint, with Magee pecking out "subversive literature" on a giant IBM typewriter and "lovely, lovely Ludwig Van" on mini-cassette tapes. However, the world of "Municipal Flat Block 18A, Linear North" is very much with us: a housing estate where classical murals are obscenely vandalised, passers-by are rare and yobs loll about with nothing better to do than hurt people.
On the DVD: The extras are skimpy, with just an impressionist trailer in the style of the film used to brainwash Alex and a list of awards for which Clockwork Orange was nominated and awarded. The box promises soundtracks in English, French and Italian and subtitles in ten languages, but the disc just has two English soundtracks (mono and Dolby Surround 5.1) and two sets of English subtitles. The terrific-looking "digitally restored and remastered" print is letterboxed at 1.66:1 and on a widescreen TV plays best at 14:9. The film looks as good as it ever has, with rich stable colours (especially and appropriately the orangey-red of the credits and the blood) and a clarity that highlights previously unnoticed details such as Alex's gouged eyeball cufflinks and enables you to read the newspaper articles which flash by. The 5.1 soundtrack option is amazingly rich, benefiting the nuances of performance as much as the classical/electronic music score and the subtly unsettling sound effects. --Kim Newman
This film tells the story of Alex (played by Malcolm McDowell), a teenager that has his own gang, and that does all kind of despicable things, from robbery and battery to rape, all without remorse of any kind. This band of outlaws has its own slang ("nadsat", a mixture of English and Russian) and dress code, and only one law: violence. Due to a fall out with the rest of the gang, Alex is caught by the police after commiting murder, and condemned to spend 14 years in jail.
Looking for a way to get out of jail early, Alex volunteers for a ground-breaking experiment, that supposedly transforms criminals into law-abiding citizens. He is chosen, and "conditioned" against violence, the end result being that he feels nauseous merely by the idea of committing a violent or sexual act. A secondary effect is that he now hates the music he had always loved, Beethoven's 9th symphony.
As a consequence of all this, Alex gets an early release from jail, and is thrown into the world without any kind of defense mechanism. The truth is, he has to be a model citizen because he doesn't have any other option. In a way, Alex is like a machine (a "clockwork orange"), because his actions are preordained. But how will the world treat this new Alex?. And do his actions have any kind of merit, if they aren't inspired on free will?. You can answer one of those two questions quite easily if you watch "A Clockwork Orange". The other involves a conclusion you will have to reach for yourself after watching the movie and reflecting on it for a while.
A word of caution is in order, though. "A Clockwork Orange" includes many explicit sex scenes, lots of violence, and parts that will make you recoil in disgust. If you think I'm exaggerating, take into account that even nowadays this movie is not for sale to persons under age 18, and that when it was first released in 1971 it received an "X" rating.
Finally, I want to point out that this movie is based on a book of the same name written by Anthony Burgess, that significantly differs from the film, especially in what regards to the ending. Furthermore, I think it is worthwhile to highlight the fact that Burgess didn't like his own book too much, and absolutely hated Stanley Kubrick's filmic version of it. Unfortunately for him, the movie helped to promote the book, and "A Clockwork Orange" has becomed Burgess' most well-known work.
All in all, and as a conclusion, I think this film is worth watching, and I recommend you to do so if you believe you can stomach the violent parts in order to eventually understand the message beneath them. I prefer to watch other kind of films, but I understand that this is a classic, and that as such it should be watched at least once.
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