Archived Comments for Clockwork Orange Post

Briefly, I think the movie's more than "a satire of state control over the individual's free will". Firstly, I don't think Kubrick cares much for the notion of free will - in fact, free will itself might be his clockwork orange (a much grander indictment than youth or the state as clockwork orange, and a clue as to why he may find Burgess' last chapter optimistic). Secondly, the movie is a satire, yes, but if I'm getting you right, you're arguing that Kubrick is mocking the state; in my view, he's laughing at the whole shebang, from Alex to Mr. Alexander (interesting that they share the same name - is it the same in the book?), to youth, conformity, hipsters, priests, policemen, etc... all come under Kubrick's withering gaze. Isn't it the same in most of his movies? In fact, it's almost impossible to get a sense of what Kubrick *does* believe in, which is why he's considered one of cinema's great misanthropes.toshi yano Email Homepage 02.09.08 - 1:23 am #

You're just baiting a comment from me, aren't you?As it happens, A Clockwork Orange is my "official" favorite movies. Admittedly, largely a leftover from a time when I did things like decide on what my favorite movie is. It's doubtful if I started a list of my favorite movies now without recollection of the old one, that I'd select this now, but then I've never felt like anything I've seen quite unseats it either.I'm less pleased with the last chapter than others. I agree with you (and with Burgess) in regards to what the 21st Chapter is attempting to do, but I find it to be lacking the full texture to make it a cohesive part of the novel. It always feels to me like an epilogue, handily wrapping up a thematic loose end rather than another chapter extending the story organically.Again, I know what you (and Burgess) are talking about. I think that there's real wisdom in the idea he's conveying in that chapter and I understand why it feels missing from the movie to others familiar with it. But, I can't quite convince myself that it works as well as others imagine it does.Neil Email Homepage 02.09.08 - 1:46 am #

Toshi - Yes the name's the same in the book and no I'm not arguing that Kubrick is just mocking the state but that he is satirizing all of contemporary society. And I think it works very well. I always worry that if I split down the middle as I did here people will miss it (and I'm not saying you did) but I couldn't pick one over the other as I think both film and book succeeded admirably. It's just that I like the book's 21st Chapter and since it is unfamiliar to many decided to spend most of the time discussing that.By the way Toshi I visited your blog - nice work. I've added it to my blogroll.Jonathan Lapper Email Homepage 02.09.08 - 9:59 am #

Neil - There's nothing like baiting you - but I wasn't I promise. As I said to Toshi I think both work. I prefer the book ending with Chapter 21 instead of 20 and yes, it does feel like an epilogue but in this case, that's what I like about it. And since I love Barry Lyndon so much with it's extended epiloguesque ending I can imagine Kubrick ending this the same way. As it is, the 20th Chapter ending certainly has more immediate punch to it than ending with a musing Alex and Lyndon could have ended with the duel but I don't think it would have been as powerful, although it certainly would have had a more immediate shocking impact.And again, I think the film does an excellent job. In this case, unlike when I did The Shining I just prefer the book ending to the movie and American published ending.Jonathan Lapper Email Homepage 02.09.08 - 10:06 am #

Nice comparison of the book to the film Jonathan. I think you're right on the money by pointing out the differences between Kubrick's film and Burgess' book. And I didn't think you were really calling one or the other superior.I personally think the book and film's endings are equally "optimistic," (Note: That word doesn't come to mind when I think about A Clockwork Orange) and I don't think they differ much at all.Some might say that Kubrick sort of sidestepped Alex's personal responsibility and laid the full blame for Alex's actions at the feet of his peers, where Burgess might have wanted his readers to consider their own culpability more. But in the end I find it's sort of like watching a dog chase his tail or the old "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" argument. At least to me anyway, even if Burgess didn't see it that way.I think both the film and the original book both hold up as equally brilliant and important pieces of work from two different artists and that's more then I can say for most adaptations.Kimberly Email Homepage 02.09.08 - 4:37 pm #

"...where Burgess might have wanted his readers to consider their own culpability more.I think that sums up in large part what Burgess intended with the ending. And I guess you can use the word "optimistic" for both because in both the individual either conquers (film) or grows and reflects (book). I think the film is more optimistic ending the story where it does whereas the book giving us Alex's realization that no matter what he does with his son and his son does with his and on and on it won't change anything is a bit more defeatist. That's why I was surprised by Kubrick's reading of it. But then many people reading this comment thread would probably think we're all crazy for calling any of this story optimistic in the first place.Jonathan Lapper Email Homepage 02.09.08 - 5:30 pm #

The 21st chapter of the book really bugs me. People who rape and terrorize in their teenage years don't simply grow out of that behavior. If they change, it's because they did serious prison time, had counseling while there, that sort of thing. I don't think Burgess (who I'm a fan of) is really interested in criminality and violent behavior. If he was, the 21st chapter wouldn't exist as it does.bill Email 02.10.08 - 9:08 am #

When I was discussing this with someone before I posted it I conjectured that it was all highly exaggerated to make his points throughout the novel. Just as in Network I don't believe television executives would go from selling themselves out in the interest of higher ratings to contract killings in a matter of a couple of months. But I accept it as satire and I accept the 21st chapter here. As satire, he is careful to make Alex the most intellectually curious and the one with the broadest cultural horizons. As such, while I can imagine Dim and Georgie (especially Dim) being brutal for the sake of being brutal, I can also imagine within the context and confines of Burgess' story, Alex doing it out of boredom and thus becoming disillusioned with it at a later age. My main problem, context or not, is that I believe Burgess would have done better by himself to have Chapter 21 take place a few years later than it did when Alex was, say, 24 or 25. Then it might be more acceptable to readers with the same beef you have to more readily accept it as a result of age. I do accept it as that but only because I basically ignore when it's happening and imagine it's happening ten years later. Which is a cop-out on my part probably. Had I adapted the book to the screen and included the 21st chapter, that is a change I would have made. I would have had the epilogue occur much later.Jonathan Lapper Email Homepage 02.10.08 - 10:02 am #

But Burgess's argument about why he wrote the 21st chapter is because he says that it wouldn't be a novel if the main character didn't change. Without the 21st chapter, he believes "A Clockwork Orange" only functions as a fable. First off, I don't see what's so bad about fables, and second, making Alex change to fulfill his definition of a novel seems awfully arbitrary to me.bill Email 02.10.08 - 11:10 am #

Also, Alex is a sadist. The extra three or four years you would give him wouldn't make the difference for me.bill Email 02.10.08 - 11:19 am #

Well there you have it. I can't argue this because it's a matter of what one accepts or doesn't. I believe Dim is a sadist, while Alex is a bored teenager using violence as a means of control over his world. So I don't see the end as a stretch.Jonathan Lapper Email Homepage 02.10.08 - 12:09 pm #

Well, if you can't argue it, then I can't argue back. Good day to you!bill Email 02.10.08 - 12:47 pm #

Come back on Monday - I've decided to make that 2 arguments for the price of 1 day. I shall be arguing that: 1) By speeding up the sex scene with the two girls from the record store he dimished the power of the same scene in the novel where the girls enjoy it while drunk but then feel Alex is taking it too far.and 2) Darth Vader looks like a dork in real life.Jonathan Lapper Email Homepage 02.10.08 - 1:43 pm #

You know, I'm not feeling particularly energetic today, or as full of the kind of Deep Thoughts you've come to expect from me, which is a shame because "A Clockwork Orange" is a movie I have very mixed feelings about. I think it's "great" and everything, but the sped-up sex scene is actually kind of terrible, both in its humor and for the reason you just pointed out. Upping the age of so many of Alex's victims is to the film's detriment.But Kubrick was right about the ending.bill Email 02.10.08 - 2:26 pm #

Well, we've got a part of the movie we agree on. As I said in my comment above I think the jokey nature of the scene in the movie strips it of its power. I've often wondered if it had something to do with the new freedom given directors by the ratings system where they felt they could now "make a joke" out of a sex scene and look edgy. I wonder that because when I was listening to the commentary by Mike Nichols and Steven Soderbergh on my DVD of Catch 22 a couple of years ago I was pleasantly surprised to find Nichols so forthcoming about what he had done wrong in the film. Much of it had to do with sex jokes and he stated that it was for the reason I cited above that some of them were done but now he felt embarrassed by their immaturity. In particular he hated that when Yossarian is watching the beautiful Italian woman approaching he used the 2001 Strauss riff. He thought it was clever at the time but now felt it was extremely dated. I have a feeling Kubrick may have felt the same way about that scene years later but I have no proof.And Burgess was right about the ending.Jonathan Lapper Email Homepage 02.10.08 - 2:58 pm #

That commentary track on "Catch-22" is fantastic, one of the best I've heard. I love the story about John Wayne.It is my naive belief that Kubrick would be above the sort of thing you describe. I just can't picture him being that shallow; then again, there's the scene, right there in "A Clockwork Orange", and it's the shallowest scene of his entire career.I'm right about everything. You're wrong about everything.bill Email 02.10.08 - 4:36 pm #

I liked the commentary more than the movie. And I never knew that the Italian traffic cop was Buck Henry, at least the second shot of the cop when he stops Yosarrian. I also like the Orson Welles' stories.Oh yeah, and I almost forgot... damn near slipped my mind...You're wrong.Jonathan Lapper Email Homepage 02.10.08 - 7:42 pm #

I was gonna drop a line to say I was impressed by this piece, Jonathan, but it looks like you've already had your car waxed enough today, so...Ed Hardy, Jr. Email Homepage 02.11.08 - 12:38 am #

But my balls haven't been washed. Although Bill, as usual, handled the job of chapping my ass.Jonathan: The sky is blue.Bill: I disagree, it's really more of an absence of red.Ed, I hope you enjoyed my Something about Mary comment - I wasn't trying to say you're an insane hitchhiker you understand. Someday we'll have to enact the scene out on stage at some kind of Annual Blogger's Revue. They do have those right?Jonathan Lapper Email Homepage 02.11.08 - 7:52 am #

Oh, sure, give me the illogical, contradictory-for-the-sake-of-being-contradictory side of the argument.bill Email 02.11.08 - 8:59 am #

Actually, I think it makes you look like more of a philosopher, someone who doesn't go for the easy "this is this" Deer Hunter kind of an answer.Jonathan Lapper Email Homepage 02.11.08 - 9:10 am #

Hmm...yes, I AM something of a philosopher, aren't I? The next time someone disagrees with me, I'm going to say, "Don't argue with me. I'm a philosopher. That'll shut 'em up.bill Email 02.11.08 - 9:15 am #

Or just put a single bullet in a gun, spin the chambers and hold it to their head shouting "This is this!" I bet that'd shut 'em up too.Jonathan Lapper Email Homepage 02.11.08 - 9:21 am #

Jonathan: I actually laughed my ass off, and then went, "Wait, what is that from?" It took me a good twenty minutes of wandering around saying "you know, from the SEA," before the whole scene suddenly popped into my head. I haven't seen that movie in years!Ed Hardy, Jr. Email Homepage 02.11.08 - 10:49 am #

I'm glad you liked it. I thought for a second, "I hope he doesn't think I'm belittling what he does or anything," but for some reason "seven minute abs" popped into my head while reading the last one you did and I couldn't resist.Jonathan Lapper Email Homepage 02.11.08 - 11:15 am #

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