It is almost mind-boggling to think that A Clockwork Orange is forty years old. Stanley Kubrick’s brilliant cinematic rendering of Anthony Burgess’ groundbreaking novel, filled with its colorful Nadstat vocabulary not only became a controversial cultural force upon its release but continues to resonate with audiences today. The sex and violence portrayed in this dystopic vision of a near future Britain rampant with crime, and a ruling party seeking to control bad human impulses through a twisted therapy called The Ludovico Technique, might seem tame by current societal standards, yet somehow its brutality still kicks you in the face. Starring as Alex DeLarge, the misanthropic young man who spends his nights committing robbery, assault and rape, and who is later the subject of the government’s controversial criminal reformation process, Malcolm McDowell created one of the most famous villains in the history of cinema. But as despicable as he is, his roguish charm sucks us into the story. In order for us to be unnerved both by his character’s behavior, as well as the actions of both a political and penal system that clearly do not know how to address the problems plaguing their society, some sympathy, no matter how small, must be elicited. And McDowell was the perfect man for the part. In the end, it is all about free will and its consequences, good and bad.
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the film, Warner Bros. recently screened the film at Cannes, along with one of two new documentaries from their forthcoming Blu-ray release, and then brought it to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City this week for a public screening with a post-film Q&A between star Malcolm McDowell and long-time Kubrick associate Leon Vitali that also included audience questions. I met both men and found them charming, and the next morning I chatted with McDowell for NextMovie. That piece will go online next week, and I will post additional interview material on A.D.D. covering other McDowell film and TV works like Class Of 1999, the forthcoming Suing The Devil and his recent Never Apologize documentary, a tribute to the late director Lindsay Anderson.