This violently satiric take on juvenile delinquency was written, produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick (based on the Anthony Burgess novel), arguably the greatest modern American filmmaker. His talent is undeniable, but I have trouble with his relentless, cold approach to cinema. A film like “2001: A Space Odyssey” is impressive and all, yet it’s so distant and puzzling that it’s hard to really get into it. “A Clockwork Orange” also lacks warmth, but it’s more exciting thanks to a frighteningly good performance from Malcolm McDowell. He was really young when he made the movie, but his intensity is still grander than many experienced actors’. His cold blue stare is just riveting, especially in the opening. His Alex is a cruel, sick man, but there’s also a great deal of cynicism and sheer enthusiasm to him. His narration is somehow very soothing, almost poetic.
Of course, you must also praise Kubrick’s superb direction. His film is packed with brilliantly crafted sequences of sex and violence, and the camerawork is always inventive. The subject matter might sometimes be crude, but it’s amazing how Kubrick portrays it. Just think of the scene in which Alex kills a catlady with a big phallic sculpture or of the great high-angle “breast shot”. The art direction is impressive, with insane sets like a milk bar decorated with naked female mannequins. But mostly, this movie might be the ultimate reference as far as film music goes. There’s a real cool pseudo-modern-cheez-pop-muzak score, but mostly, Kubrick makes terrific use of classical music. He achieves to turn Beethoven’s 9th Symphony into an anthem of sufferance and despair. And who could forget the depraved yet exhilarating scene in which Alex beats up an old man and rapes his wife while singing and dancing to “Singin’ in the Rain”? “A Clockwork Orange”: a disturbing yet thought-provoking masterpiece.