At Film Space on Saturdays at 7 pm
December is “The Month of Classics” at Film Space.
Film Space is to the right and in the back of the CMU Art Museum, in the Media Arts and Design building across from the ballet school. Showings are in a classroom on the second floor or on the roof, weather permitting. A contribution is requested in the donation box at the entrance – you should leave 20 baht. Well worth supporting.
At Film Space Saturday, December 12: A Clockwork Orange (1971) by Stanley Kubrick – 136 mins – UK/ US, Crime/ Drama/ Thriller. Originally rated X in the US, later (1973) the cut version was rated R. Banned in the UK, and then the film was withdrawn from distribution in the UK by the director. In most countries rated 18. Generally favorable reviews: 78/84 out of 100.
In future Britain, charismatic delinquent Alex DeLarge is jailed and later volunteers for an experimental aversion therapy developed by the government in an effort to solve society's crime problem... but not all goes to plan.
Rotten Tomatoes: Disturbing and thought-provoking, A Clockwork Orange is a cold, dystopian nightmare with a very dark sense of humor.
From its opening shot of Malcolm McDowell staring with evil intent directly into the camera (which pulls back to reveal him drinking a glass of milk), Stanley Kubrick's brilliant A Clockwork Orange announces itself as a completely new kind of viewing experience. The film, set in an unidentified future, overwhelms the senses with its almost comic depictions of rape and violence set to an upbeat classical and pop music score. Kubrick based his chilling masterpiece on Anthony Burgess's culture-shaking novel about a young man growing into adulthood, but unable to shake his huge problem with authority figures. The first part of the film shows Alex (a career-defining performance by McDowell) and his "droogs" (his cohorts) indulging in what they refer to as "a little bit of the old ultraviolence." After establishing Alex and co. as unremitting psychopaths, Kubrick's movie changes tact, and shows Alex getting caught and forced to undergo controversial treatment that will make it impossible for him to commit violent acts, leading to a fascinating ending to the film. A Clockwork Orange purposely confuses crime and punishment, cause and effect, hero and villain, irony and satire, and many other concepts, creating a truly unique work of art in the process. Its magnificent, colorful, futuristic set designs and utter determination to shock, frighten, and thoroughly entertain left audiences reeling in the '70s. Kubrick even withdrew the film from distribution in the UK, after reading newspaper reports of people dressing up as Alex and his Droogs and meting out their own brand of ultraviolence (it was subsequently re-released after his death). One thing is for sure: No one who has seen it has ever been able to hear "Singin' in the Rain" or Beethoven again in quite the same way.
Chicago Reader Dave Kehr: A very bad film--snide, barely competent, and overdrawn--that enjoys a perennial popularity, perhaps because its confused moral position appeals to the secret Nietzscheans within us.
Empire, KimNewman: A much-maligned and misunderstood classic, this is one of Kubrick's finest movies.
Variety, A.D. Murphy: A Clockwork Orange is a brilliant nightmare. Stanley Kubrick's latest film takes the heavy realities of the 'do-your-thing' and 'law-and-order' syndromes, runs them through a cinematic centrifuge, and spews forth the commingled comic horrors of a regulated society. Uncomfortably proximate, disturbingly plausible, and obliquely resolved, the film employs outrageous vulgarity, stark brutality, and some sophisticated comedy to make an opaque argument for the preservation of respect for man's free will - even to do wrong.
ReelViews, James Berardinelli: A Clockwork Orange is not an easy motion picture to absorb or digest. Oddly, the sex and violence are easier to take than the razor-sharp edge of Kubrick's satire and the corresponding awareness of its pinpoint accuracy when addressing the issue of the dehumanization of people. As I write this in 1999, the extremities of A Clockwork Orange have not come to pass, but society is slowly moving down the slippery slope that the movie cautions against. I have the disturbing feeling that if the solution to crime proposed by the film (brainwashing) was medically and economically feasible, the government would leap onto the bandwagon. When one character speaks of our willingness to "sell liberty for a quieter life," it strikes an ominously familiar chord. Under its current mayor, New York City has yielded numerous freedoms in return for a reduction in the crime rate. And in Russia, the famished citizens would give up all their newly acquired rights for the promise of full bellies.
A Clockwork Orange is told in three acts. The setting is an unspecified English city some time in the near future. Crime is rampant, with prison congestion reaching emergency levels. Gangs of young ruffians roam the streets, engaging in a virtually unchecked reign of terror. Anyone unlucky enough to become their target may be raped, robbed, beaten, murdered, or a combination of those four. The government, eager to clean out the prisons (so, amongst other things, they can be used for political criminals rather than hard-core cases), has come up with a method of rehabilitation. By exposing a prisoner to countless images of sex and violence while pumping his body full of drugs that cause waves of nausea, doctors are able to develop a negative Pavlovian response to immoral and illegal activities. Thus, acts against society are inextricably linked to an unbearable sickness, and the brainwashed criminal is able to re-enter society and become a productive zombie. Cries of the liberals, that men are "no longer capable of [making] a moral choice" are ignored in the government's zeal to proceed with what seems to be a foolproof plan.
Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell) is the leader of a quartet of "droogs" who spend their nights engaged in a number of unsavory activities. They beat up helpless drunks, break into houses and rape the women who live there, and brawl with rival gangs. One day, however, fissures develop in the group. Two of the four members express an unwillingness to continue to blindly follow Alex's lead. His response is to thrash both of them. After that incident, they bide their time and nurse their wounds until the opportunity arises to set up Alex. They strike at the scene of a botched burglary/murder, knocking him senseless and leaving him for the police to find. He is tried, convicted, and sentenced to 14 years in prison. While there, he plays the role of the model prisoner, earning the chaplain’s trust. After learning about the government's experimental rehabilitation program, he aggressively pursues becoming a candidate. He is eventually selected and subjected to the procedure, then sent back helpless into the violent world that he is a product of. He soon becomes a pawn between those seeking to bolster the government's actions and those who want to topple it.
Many have watched A Clockwork Orange without understanding what it all means. And for those who take everything presented on screen in a straightforward manner, a certain amount of confusion will result. But, like Terry Gilliam'sBrazil, George Orwell's1984, and other futuristic political satires, A Clockwork Orange is meant to be understood as part allegory, part black comedy, and part drama. The film takes aim at the ineffective and inhumane methods often devised by governments to stem criminal behavior, asking what sacrifices we're willing to make to live in relative security. Then there's the trickier question of whether the removal of free will destroys an individual's essential humanity. Does the State have the right to do this, to "kill the criminal reflex"? Would execution be a preferable fate? Finally, Kubrick illustrates the fickle nature of public opinion. Those that laud the government's methods one day revile them the next.
While thematic content and plot form the unshakable foundations of a film like this, it's style that elevates it from the level of a thought-provoking piece to a genuine classic. Style has always been one of Kubrick's strong points, even in his less successful efforts. The director maintained a reputation for an obsessive attention to detail, and it shows in the final product. The film's language, kept intact from the 1962 novel upon which it is based, is a mixture of common expressions, Shakespearean English, and slang. The set design is flawless, suggesting a future that is at once familiar and alien, where the commonplace details of everyday life are slightly skewed. This does not look like 1971; it looks like 2010. Shot selection and editing are also carefully calculated. There are no abrupt or jagged transitions, and the director's penchant for long, unbroken takes is in evidence. Then there's the use of music. The score of A Clockwork Orange is varied, with Beethoven's 9th Symphony, "The William Tell Overture,” and "Singin' in the Rain" all making key contributions.
At the center of A Clockwork Orange is the character of Alex, so McDowell's contribution to the film is a key component (even though the actor was twice the age of the character in the book). McDowell's Alex can be charming, chilling, sympathetic, despicable, or deliciously over-the-top - all as the situation demands. Kubrick was known for getting the most out of his actors (witness Matthew Modine's surprisingly solid turn in Full Metal Jacket), and there's no doubt that McDowell's work here is some of the best of his career. Alex's character has a long and twisted arc as he travels from amoral hedonist to beaten zombie, and McDowell doesn't miss a beat. And, perhaps most astonishingly, Kubrick and McDowell cause us to identify with this thoroughly detestable individual.
It is difficult to rank A Clockwork Orange in Kubrick's body of work. Its look and approach are unique, but not as visionary as 2001. Its tone is bitingly satirical, but it's not as corrosive as Dr. Strangelove. Few, however - even the movie's critics - would debate that it leaves a forceful impression, and, when you study the reason for that, you uncover the evidence of genius. A Clockwork Orange has a universal message. Admittedly, it's one that many would prefer not to hear, but to deny the importance of its central themes or to dismiss the movie as a descent into debauchery is to ignore both an artistic achievement and a cautionary tale. A Clockwork Orange is not a pretty or comfortable experience. It does not pander to the crowd-pleasing mentality that shapes the structure of many films. (In that scenario, a Rambo-like Alex would have avenged himself upon all of his wrongdoers in the final fifteen minutes.) But it demands thought, compels the attention, and refuses to be dismissed. And, for that reason, A Clockwork Orange must be considered a landmark of modern cinema. – James Berardinelli, 1999.
At Film Space Saturday, December 19: Stranger Than Paradise (1984) by Jim Jarmusch– 89 mins – US/ West Germany, Comedy/ Drama. Generally favorable reviews: 76 out of 100.
This is about a self-styled New York hipster (John Lurie of the Lounge Lizards) who is paid a surprise and quite unwelcome visit by his pretty sixteen-year-old Hungarian cousin. From initial hostility and indifference a strange affection grows between the two exiles. Due to complete boredom they decide to visit their aunt in the wastelands of Cleveland and then proceed to sunny Florida where they lose all their money and unwittingly gain a fortune. With a final ironic twist, they are at the end, back where they began.
Roger Ebert: Stranger Than Paradise is a treasure from one end to the other. It is like no other film you've seen, and yet you feel right at home in it. It seems to be going nowhere, and knows every step it wants to make. It is a constant, almost kaleidoscopic experience of discovery, and we try to figure out what the film is up to and it just keeps moving steadfastly ahead, fade in, fade out, fade in, fade out, making a mountain out of a molehill.
At Film Space Saturday, December 26: Psycho (1960) by Alfred Hitchcock – 109 mins – US, Horror/ Thriller. In B&W. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 89 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: Credited with inventing the genre of the modern horror film, Psycho has had its share of sequels and imitators, none of which diminishes the achievement of this shocking and complex horror thriller. Alfred Hitchcock's choreography of elements in Psycho is considered so perfect it inspired a shot-by-shot remake by Gus VanSant in 1998. However, Hitchcock's black-and-white original, featuring Anthony Perkins's haunting characterization of lonely motel keeper Norman Bates, has never been equaled. Bates presides over an out-of-the-way motel under the domineering specter of his mother. The young, well-intentioned Bates is introduced to the audience when Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), a blonde on the run with stolen money, checks in for the night. But Momma doesn't like loose women, so the stage is set for this classic tale of horror--and one of the most famous scenes in film history. Psycho was initially received by audiences with shock and amazement--and it still terrifies today. Though it is now considered prototypical Hitchcock, its setting, pace, and emphasis on terror were major departures for the director at the time, coming after the more classically grand North By Northwest.
Consensus: Infamous for its shower scene, but immortal for its contribution to the horror genre. Because Psycho was filmed with tact, grace, and art, Hitchcock didn't just create modern horror, he validated it.