Re-examining the Crossed Wires in Kubrick’s and Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange
“If you accept the idea that one views a film in a state of ‘day-dream’, then this symbolic dreamlike content becomes a powerful factor in influencing your feeling about the film. Since your dreams can take you into areas which can never be part of your conscious mind, I think a work of art can operate on you in much the same way as a dream does.” ~ Stanley Kubrick on A Clockwork Orange1
To watch Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange is to enter a nightmare, a curiously frigid funhouse inferno where human values have been turned upside down. The ordinary order of things has been made stale, ugly and repressive; repulsive brutality has been given a fluid allure, a breathless excitement. Though the film has been fairly tamed by time’s power to assimilate most everything, it still retains a certain edge, an unpleasant disreputable aura. There is nothing really “nice” about the movie — and though the critical clamor over it has of course long since vanished, the cloud of danger surrounding it has chemically colored the film inalterably.
In the decades since its release, critics have been pretty passionately split on the subject: the likes of Rex Reed, Robert Hughes and Vincent Canby thought it a perfectly brilliant “tour de force” when it came out, while such usually divergent folks as Andrew Sarris and Pauline Kael despised the thing. And despite its having won many awards, being nominated for four Oscars, Kubrick was eventually forced to cut the film so as to shed its initial X rating, which was hindering a wide release. Over the years it has continued to get a bad rap from Timeout’s film guide; Entertainment Weekly in 2006 voted A Clockwork Orange the second most controversial film of all time, after The Passion of the Christ; and as late as 2007, in the book On Kubrick, an appreciation of the director by James Naremore, the author seemed oddly uneasy in his critical assessment of the movie’s ultimate value.
After the film’s release, its supposed excesses were blamed by the media for inciting all kinds of copycat crimes: a woman was raped by assailants performing “Singing In the Rain”; boy gangs marauded around England dressed as the droogs; Arthur Bremmer, who shot George Wallace, reported in his diary having watched the movie and been inspired to get Wallace all through it (his diary, in turn, became partial inspiration for Paul Shrader’s Taxi Driver script); and a sixteen-year-old boy obsessed with the film beat a sixty-year-old tramp to death.2 Despite the insistence by Burgess and Kubrick on the primacy of art and the film’s essential morality, both would display a great deal of ambivalence on the subject over the years. Burgess eventually wearied of defending it, grew to wish he had never written the book. Kubrick was pompous. “Although a certain amount of hypocrisy exists about it, everyone is fascinated by violence,” he told an interviewer. “After all, man is the most remorseless killer who ever stalked the earth. Our interest in violence in part reflects the fact that on the subconscious level we are very little different from our primitive ancestors . . .”3 He argued that the film’s violent content did not provide an audience with the easy rhetorical set-ups that usually made its consumption guilt-free. Even so, he took the perceived dangers of his film seriously enough to voluntarily remove it from distribution in England for decades, until after his death in 1999.4
In other words, the jury’s still out on this one, and probably always will be, since the film’s message, not to mention its perversely gleeful perspective, make it impossible to fully justify. For that reason, Kubrick’s vicious, campy comic-book vision is always worth another look. Having kept much of its provocative messy power intact, it remains, as Gore Vidal once said of the novel, “chilling and entirely other.”5 Not to mention that the kernel of primitive truth in the material remains ever relevant. From My Lai to Al-Mahmudiyah to the latest tabloid atrocity, ultra-violence is always with us.
A Clockwork Orange‘s simple story is structured around a fable-like what-goes-around-comes-around framework. In a futuristic London, or what now appears to be a tackier version of the 1970s London it was filmed in, Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell) and his droogs (Warren Clarke, James Marcus, Michael Tarn) are one among several street gangs battling to rule the night, drugging, raping and pillaging. On the evening the film opens, Alex and pals beat up an old man in a tunnel-like pedestrian underpass, fight a rival gang in the theater of a derelict casino, go on a wild high-speed drive, gang-rape an upper-middle-class writer’s wife, and relax afterward in their favorite milkbar while some local “sophistos” sing Beethoven. It seems like a nice enough life for Alex, until his droogs rebel against his domination of them, not to mention his high-toned musical taste, by having plans of their own. When Alex violently reasserts his authority over the pack, his droogs avenge themselves by setting him up at the scene of a robbery-gone-wrong and leave him to the police and a hefty prison sentence. After two years, he’s sprung from the clink when he’s chosen as a guinea pig for a new program, the “Ludivico Technique,” which “cures” prisoners of their criminal tendencies. Submitting to drugs and a series of films depicting rape, violence and fascism, he becomes completely averse to any aggressive or libidinous urges, and thus helpless. Out of prison, in stylized succession, Alex is confronted by those whom he has wronged. Each gets back at him, beating and tormenting him to the point he throws himself out a window, which threatens to become a publicity nightmare for the government that sponsored the inhuman plan in the first place. In compensation, Alex is deprogrammed and given a cushy job. At movie’s end, we are left to feel he will be terrorizing London again as soon as he can get out of the hospital; the film closes in tones of freakish ironic ambivalence — one is amused, horrified and exhilarated simultaneously.
The thing to keep in mind about the movie now is the milieu from which it first emerged. It was one of those ghastly kinds of controversial films that was probably only possible in the context of that shell-shocked, “Vietnamized” era. A whole host of such pictures from the late sixties through the mid-seventies comes to mind: Taxi Driver, Straw Dogs (often connected in the media with Clockwork at the time); The Devils (which Ken Russell directed after giving up on doing an adaptation of Burgess’ novel himself); Nashville, Carrie, Petulia, Night Porter, X,Y, & Z; Apocalypse Now, Midnight Cowboy; and many others. As they began to roll through select theaters, the old code of censorship crumbled in the wake of the new ratings system; confused and collapsing studios were too stunned and desperate from a vanishing market to put up much of a fight against them. Hence a wave of hysteria, horror, paranoia and female nudity splashed across gaping screens in a way that’s unlikely to recur anytime soon. Could the ugly male fears of inadequacy and misogynistic nastiness in something like Sam Peckinpah’s remarkable, silly and provocative film Straw Dogs ever run the gauntlet of politically correct euphemism currently cutting a tepid swath through cineplexes? The gleeful willingness of those long-gone filmmakers to muck around with incredibly indelicate and unpleasant subject matter gave their work, in retrospect, a certain desperate truth that one rarely comes across nowadays. Even if much of the stuff smeared and seared across the screen in movies like A Clockwork Orange and radical-minded muddles like Marat Sade, or in the ugly exploitative Marxist con games of Fassbinder, or the black-comic affectlessness of Badlands, or the Freudian bombast of Women in Love seems questionable, repulsive or just plain tasteless, you still can’t help feeling these filmmakers were really trying to do something. They shrugged off all the old rules, the generations of genericism that had previously dictated the spreading of creamy predigested bromides over everything, so anything would go down nice in the end.
Yet ,while it’s clearly one of the key films of this era, A Clockwork Orange is not really like any of those other movies. Kubrick’s approach to his incendiary subject matter never goes hysterical, for one. It’s cool and cerebral, while tapping a deep emotional core. After several viewings, the film’s walloping force strikes one now as not being much related to the dramatic ideas at stake in its narrative scaffolding about free-choice either. Kubrick was aware of this fact and in interviews suggested the film worked on two levels: the obvious one about how it’s bad for the government to brainwash people; and the other, more important level, he claimed, concerning the charisma of the main character, Alex. “The power of the story is in the character of Alex,” Kubrick told an interviewer, “who wins you over somehow, like Richard III despite his wickedness, because of his intelligence and wit and total honesty. He represents the id, the savage repressed side of our nature which guiltlessly enjoys the same pleasures of rape.”6
But Kubrick could not have fully understood what Malcolm McDowell’s brilliant, mythic performance would do to these careful cerebrations; how iconic his long-sleeved whites, cod-piece and derby-doffing would become. In the more than three decades since he stalked across the screen, Alex has inflated outside the movie and been transformed into all the angry modern youth. He’s become anyone who ever felt strangled by the growing tentacles of a corroded institutionalism that’s supposedly therapistic and socially conscious, while really just being a crude way of trying to control one’s instincts, or at least how one talks about them, so as to turn people into passive cog-like citizens. Even though Alex was a vile rapist and a brute, to a couple of generations of young male viewers he could at least lay claim to being his own thug with his own aesthetic sensibility, who finally couldn’t be fully co-opted into a bland system of corrupt regulated adulthood — though in fact he pretty much was. Alex is one of pop-culture’s first screen punkers and Heavy Metal angsters; he’s all the churlish white kids who ever wore makeup and freakish clothes and thumbed their noses at everything everybody stood for.
It was in just this way that critics like Pauline Kael misread the film when it came out. In the process of spewing her supercilious revulsion of the film, she mistook her own outrage as Kubrick’s:
Kubrick has assumed the deformed, self-righteous perspective of a vicious young punk who says, ‘Everything’s rotten. Why shouldn’t I do what I want? They’re worse than I am.’ In the new mood . . . people want to believe the hyperbolic worst, want to believe in the degradation of the victims — that they are dupes and phonies and weaklings. I can’t accept that Kubrick is merely reflecting this post-assassinations, post-Manson mood; I think he’s catering to it. I think he wants to dig it.”7
The distinction she makes between “reflection” and “catering” is interesting. She seems to be saying that it’s forgivable if a director assumes the views of his time unconsciously, but if he deliberately shapes the rhetoric of his story in order to exploit the audience’s emotional relationship to the subject that he’s somehow committed an immoral act — the difference between a crime of passion and cold-blooded murder?
But there’s a point here: the film does wallow in the base nature of its character’s perspective; Alex does “dig it” to use Kael’s woodenly “with-it” phrasing. It’s the crux of Kubrick’s approach. “I’d say my intention . . . was to try to see the violence from Alex’s point of view,” Kubrick said, “to show that it was great fun for him, the happiest part of his life, that it was like some great action ballet.” To do so, “It was necessary to find a way of stylizing the violence, just as Burgess does by his writing style.”8 Hence Alex’s victims became more grotesque, the attacks somewhat more bizarre than they were in the novel. That this might not actually have been the only point to the movie doesn’t much matter anymore and probably never will because the perceived theme of “youth’s proud rebellion” has become the movie’s legacy, how one has to watch it; despite the cruelty, it’s also a big part of what makes the film good.
What’s become of Alex in the course of time is rather like what’s happened to some of the mythical characters of Shakespeare, to follow up on Kubrick’s way of seeing him. When you read them in context you may find the experience somewhat disappointing: a figure like Lear seems less a great man with tragic flaws than a son of a bitch who’s unhappy unless everyone’s kissing his ass all the time; Hamlet, far from procrastinating and whining around too long before finally avenging his father, runs whole hog almost immediately, cold-bloodedly carrying out a vendetta so grossly excessive he incinerates everyone and everything, becoming the guiltiest creature of all. Likewise Alex, in Kubrick’s film, is really no more than a self-centered sociopath who rapes, batters and steals for kicks while seeing himself in heroic terms as less corrupt than those he destroys, as the one who is essentially wronged. In the world according to Alex, he’s the one we should feel sorry for; when he’s restored to his former predatory state after being deprogrammed at the end, it’s done up as a final triumph; and the viewer nearly agrees with him. Kael and others who saw the film as being more or less Kubrick’s endorsement of the character and thus a shallow vicious criticism of bourgeois culture, and possibly a bone being cast to his youthful audience, were right about the film’s major theme but misread the perverse irony, which was not exactly in code, as Kubrick’s explicit personal vision of society’s subhuman worthlessness. But in part this was a testament to the mythic success of McDowell’s outsized portrayal.
To some extent, these problems are so closely bound up with the muddled nature of the story and its supposedly larger themes about whether or not good and evil mean anything if a person doesn’t have free will (which I’ll get into later) that this sort of blurring was bound to occur. Especially when the director’s feelings about his antihero were somewhat mixed. “Alex, like Richard [III] is a character whom you should dislike and fear,” Kubrick said in an interview with Penelope Houston, “and yet you find yourself drawn very quickly into his world and find yourself seeing things through his eyes. It’s not easy to say how this is achieved, but it certainly has something to do with . . . the fact that all the other characters are lesser people, and in some ways worse people.”9 Kubrick (above, with Alex and the giant penis) articulates a slightly different purpose to the way he presented the character in another interview: “We have seen so many times that the body of a film serves merely as excuse for motivating a final blood-crazed slaughter by the hero of his enemies, and at the same time to relieve the audience’s guilt of enjoying this mayhem.”10 Yet most if not all critics, even those who liked the film, believed Kubrick had at some level done just that; made Alex’s victims unsympathetic kinky puppets who evoke no audience sympathy. Simply put, though, Burgess’ book and Kubrick’s film exploit one of the fundamental rules of stories: you always identify with the main character just because he is the main character. And when this figure is completely immoral, the viewer or daydreamer may become uncomfortable because they’re always aware something a little untoward is going on.
It is therefore difficult not to think that critics of Kael’s type, and there were many, were being willfully obtuse when they complained the film made Alex the only “good” character in the movie, the only “real” human being. I mean, after all, it is the character’s film, narrated by him — it would have been strange if Alex hadn’t seen things his way. What’s so striking about A Clockwork Orange, and what probably got on these critics’ nerves, is that Kubrick had progressed so much as a filmmaker he was able to successfully do here what he had failed at in his somewhat satisfying 1962 adaptation of Lolita. In that earlier picture, Humbert Humbert’s quest for underage nymphets became a singular yearning for a very sexually mature-looking Dolores Haze. The point to Vladimir Nabokov’s great novel was in Humbert’s feverish sexual obsession, his wild hyperbolic projections and witty self-justifications. The film turned the book’s tricky game of moral perception into an objective reality where Humbert, despite desiring an underage girl, came across as a suave, sincere, desperately well-meaning lover manipulated and cheated by everyone else around him, and not the “vain and cruel wretch”11 Nabokov wrote his novel about. Though vestiges of the written character’s nature remain, despite much cleansing (Humbert, for instance, does not try drugging Lolita so he can have his way with her in her sleep as in the novel), all these do is give the film’s situations and characters a cold-fish unpleasantness that stews throughout without ever quite coming to fruition. Yet Kael loved that movie.12
By contrast, A Clockwork Orange totally and overwhelmingly immerses the viewer in the character’s state of mind. Its look — eye-scalding colors, self-reflexive settings, weird lens effects — and narration constantly convey to us the difference between what Alex tells us and what he’s actually saying, without ever letting us settle on the “right” interpretation. The film’s hypnotic pace, Alex’s amusing, flamboyant impudence, lull viewers into at times extremely close and uncomfortable identification with him, then run them up against hard-edged ironies about what a brute he is: Alex’s reveries over the “gorgeosity” of Beethoven’s Ninth, for instance, fill him with lovely images of capital punishment, war, prehistoric mayhem, and a funny insert of himself as a grinning vampire drooling blood; later, in prison, Alex meditates beatifically over the bible, imagining himself personally whipping Christ on the way to the crucifixion! The bombastic seventies tacky fashions and decor, the mixture of orchestral music and canned space-age electronica, the curiously bland pornographic artwork that hangs everywhere, and especially that awful giant phallus Alex uses to assault his tough female victim, The Cat Lady (Miriam Karlin), whose subsequent death sends him to prison — all create the acrid far-out air of a rotten world viewed through a rotten lens. You try to pinpoint exactly where the line between both lies, which is probably being plugged as two sides of the same ugliness, and all you come up with is a queasy ambivalence that makes parsing the story’s message impossible; a viewer’s own crude urges and fears start to trickle into the background of what’s playing across the screen. What I mean is that the audience — never told precisely where they stand in relation to what goes on — projects its own subconscious feelings onto what Kubrick dramatizes through Alex.
And critics’ various reactions over the years to certain elements in the film have been quite revealing. Kael thought the movie was saying very simply that Alex’s world was populated by corrupt subhuman freaks who deserved what they got, but was it? What makes Kael and other critics so certain Kubrick intended everyone but Alex to be utterly unsympathetic? True, in the Penelope Houston interview quoted above, Kubrick described those around Alex as “in some ways worse people,” but just as Kael allowed herself to make the dubious distinction between “reflecting” and “catering” to an audience, one should not forget the real and important difference between some ways and all ways, an uneasy gray area without which Kubrick’s film could not function the way it does.
Stuart Y. McDougal, who edited a 2003 collection of essays on Clockwork, also took the view, along with most of its contributors, that everyone in the film was more unsympathetic than Alex. He assumes all kinds of questionable things in his introductory essay: that Alex, for one, masturbates to Beethoven when he goes to bed on the first night of the film, after the gang rape, though nothing is shown but McDowell’s rapt face13 ; McDowell himself claims on the DVD he was merely removing his boots out of frame. Thomas Allen Nelson, author of Kubrick: Inside a Film Artist’s Maze, takes Alex’s musical masturbation for granted as well.14 The scene between Alex and his corrections officer, Mr. Deltoid (played with sneering insouciance by Aubrey Morris), the next morning, which takes place in Alex’s parents’ bedroom, is seen by McDougal to be some kind of unsuccessful seduction of Alex. James Naremore in On Kubrick states without any qualifications whatsoever that the chaplain who counsels Alex in prison, the voice of the story’s conscious moral about free will according to Kubrick, is gay, presumably because he places a hand on Alex’s shoulder a touch more tenderly than seems strictly paternal as Alex reads the bible. Naremore also several times refers to The Cat Lady whom Alex kills as an “upper class anorexic” just because she’s shown exercising, though she does not appear excessively thin.15 Other critics have taken her to be a lesbian — because of her aggressiveness and the female nudes hanging on her walls? In the HOME scenes, the house of the writer Mr. Alexander (Patrick Magee), whose wife (Adrienne Corri) Alex rapes, has a sleek mirrored entranceway with chessboard tiles and a multileveled arrangement to its main rooms that give the place an encased feel, totally plastic and sterile. His wife’s bright-red one-piece pantsuit, seen as she emerges from a white egg-shaped chair to answer Alex’s ring, makes her seem like just another piece of the garish modernistic furniture (especially since her outfit matches her husband’s typewriter). As the scene progresses, the writer’s face, gagged with tape, has a sort of creepy look shot from a low angle with a distorting lens as he’s forced to “viddy well” his wife’s violation; throughout which he appears to be having a seizure (the shot is strikingly similar to one of Danny Lloyd having a psychic fit late in The Shining). Are we really meant, as several critics have suggested, to make judgments about the couple, their marriage and class based on such indicators? Does the film find them guilty? Even in the second HOME scene, where Alex coincidentally winds up after getting out of prison, when Mr. Alexander is wheelchair bound and grotesquely attended by a muscleman wearing obscene shorts (David Prowse), it’s hard to believe that Alex’s, and the audience’s, fear the writer will discover Alex’s identity as his wife’s rapist, not to mention the way the writer’s revenge is cast as totally hypocritical and unjust, are not intended at least somewhat ironically, since Alex really does deserve what he gets no matter how phony the liberal’s ideology may be. And are we meant to believe The Cat Lady at some level gets what’s coming to her just because of the way she decorates her parlor, because she keeps a comically giant ceramic phallus?
That the film attempts to provoke responses in viewers they may not be able to fully articulate, that Kubrick himself may not have been able to fully articulate, I think goes without saying. But ascribing a rigorous meta-moral to these things, as critics have permitted themselves to do without the least self-consciousness, is hopeless because nothing and nobody in the film is ever in any position to tell us precisely how we’re supposed to react to the grotesque pageantry. Our only clues come from Alex, our “humble narrator” as he humorously refers to himself in the novel, and he’s not a trustworthy witness. It’s as if because Alex is a brutal sociopath, Kubrick wanted the whole movie to reflect this sociopathy in every possible way, explaining the movie’s uniquely stark and ugly gawking look combined with its natty, ironic yet incredibly successful fluid beauty, much of it the result of the high-culture soundtrack.
In fact, the world of the movie seems to be made up of either harshly lit, hideous close-ups, or stately, static arrangements arrived at by reverse-zoom slow-reveals that draw the viewer’s eye over each detail as if they were riddles positioned across a carefully composed canvas. The film is all question marks. What, one wonders, do the kitschy commercial erotic paintings of the dark woman in the De Large household suggest? Or the white plexiglass furniture in the Korova milkbar in the great opening shot, which starts with a funny-creepy close-up of Alex’s leering face that gradually pulls out to show him surrounded by tables and milk dispensers shaped like nude women? What of the horrible bright-colored wigs, or the vaguely S&M leather outfits Alex’s elderly mother sports? You don’t get the idea she’s supposed to be dressing especially lewdly. Nor does The Cat Lady seem particularly debauched either; she out of hand dismisses the idea her giant phallus should be seen as dirty — to her it’s a valuable artwork. Why did Kubrick have Alex’s little afternoon orgy tricked out with speeded-up motion, the William Tell Overture comically blasting over it? Who is the woman reporter during the second HOME sequence who helps the writer avenge himself on Alex? What does the chirpy female doctor (male in the novel) who deprograms Alex late in the film think when she performs her psychological tests on Alex to make sure he’s back to “normal”? Showing him a series of pictures on a portable monitor, she asks him to make up stories that go with them; his violent and sexually suggestive scenarios elicit from her nothing more than a nose-crinkling smile.
But I think the most bizarrely suggestive scene in the whole film comes when Alex is forced to undergo a staged public demonstration of how effective the “Ludovico Technique” has been in “curing” his deviant behavior. After being made to lick a man’s shoes to satisfy an audience that Alex is incapable of violence, he then proves he can no longer act on sexual impulses when a beautiful blond actress wearing nothing but white bikini-briefs appears on stage in front of him. Entranced by her breasts, shown from directly above, he reaches hands up toward the camera as if to grab them, then becomes ill and starts retching. With several flamboyant bows, the woman, un-raped, gracefully exits the stage to a round of applause. Only a single person shown in the audience reacts as if this were a particularly unusual or arousing stunt. One wonders what it says about the authorities that they thought this was a trustworthy means of showing Alex couldn’t victimize anybody, and that Alex, aroused by the woman, actually attempted to touch her breasts in full view of a seemingly bourgeois audience. Even the prison chaplain only objects to the display on philosophical grounds and not the R-rated obscenity. Kubrick has taken a slipshod narrative maneuver from Burgess’ novel — a scene hastily tricked up merely to establish the rules of Alex’s total helplessness that will govern the fairy-tale comeuppance portion of the story to follow — and transformed it into a grotesque sideshow (scored with the sort of music one associates with Shakespeare in the park) comically depicting the deadened distance between natural sensation and the signs and symbols of it. No one is much bothered by the girl’s frank nudity because in the world of the film such things have apparently decayed into nothing more than automatic gestures, a stark elaboration of the theme that people in Kubrick’s movie have become clockwork toys, denatured robots.
Here we must try to enter the dark, haunted, but always consistent core of Kubrick’s aesthetic, which isn’t easy. Each of the films he did beginning with 2001 are startlingly different than the last. Yet they’re all of a piece, related by their overwhelming stylistic and technical concerns. Up through The Shining, taken together, the films Kubrick made in the 1970s could almost be seen as a dialectic elaboration of each of the three parts of the poetic arguments comprising 2001, though I don’t wish belabor that point here. All I want to note is that it’s interesting to see how Kubrick assimilates himself to his subjects: the stark vulgarity of Clockwork; the ironic romantic painterly portraiture of his adaptation of Thackeray’s picaresque novel Barry Lyndon; the cold bright blinkless trance-out of The Shining. Watching them one after the other, you see how totally and subtly Kubrick immersed himself in the visual and aural problems each new set of narrative themes posed while showing the same artistic concerns throughout.
One thing common to all those films was Kubrick’s measured pace and cold tone, which often manifested itself in the way the action tended to congeal into weird uncomfortable scenes and tableaux. In A Clockwork Orange, for instance, when the corrections officer Mr. Deltoid confronts Alex (clad only in briefs), in his parent’s bedroom the day after the gang-rape, with suspicions that he (Alex) was involved in criminal activities the night before, the movie comes to a halt with icky knowing suggestions that Deltoid may have a letch for Alex, or something stranger, that fuels his wormy-administrator’s hostility. The joke that punctuates this scene — Deltoid drinks without looking from a glass on the bedside table containing a set of grinning pink false teeth — is not so much funny as a kind of burlesque of nausea, Kubrick’s ashen flavor throughout. Such motionless scenes trap the actors, as if under an unflattering microscope.16
Another thing connecting the films of this period is an air of rarified intensity created by the director’s famous use of classical music (Rossini, Beethoven, Purcell and others in Clockwork) played over images with conscious precision, giving them a gliding well-tuned beauty that sometimes jars with their brutality and horror (though in The Shining I suppose Bartok goes quite nicely with lurking evil). In A Clockwork Orange, the music imparts to every scene a texture of cold-blooded calculation curiously at odds with, but also simultaneously fed by, the crude primitive subject matter.
Before Kubrick settled on the project of adapting Burgess’ novel in 1969, he had at first planned to make a film about the exploits of Napoleon, until the funding fell through. He did a great deal of research and was excited at the prospect of filming large-scale battle scenes, whose patterns he thought had a great aesthetic quality. He told Joseph Gelmis he thought they were
almost like a great piece of music, or the purity of a mathematical formula. It’s this quality I want to bring across, as well as the sordid reality of battle. You know, there’s a weird disparity between the sheer visual and organizational beauty of the historical battles sufficiently far in the past, and their human consequences. It’s rather like watching two golden eagles soaring through the sky from a distance; they may be tearing a dove to pieces, but if you are far enough away the scene is still beautiful.17
This notion goes to very heart of the art of Kubrick’s filmmaking, and from the distance of the distorted future of A Clockwork Orange‘s dystopia, he dramatizes it with rancid brilliance, creating not only the contradictory sensation of serene beauty and savagery, but getting disturbing ironic grotesquerie out of it as well.
The image that most literally fits this vision of eagles tearing a dove apart, though on a much smaller scale than any Napoleonic battle, is the first scene I ever really admired in A Clockwork Orange, which got so far under my skin it’s never got out. Early on the first night of the film’s action, Alex and his droogs interrupt a rival gang of boys in a derelict casino as they ready a well-endowed woman for rape on a dilapidated stage. The scene begins with the close shot of a golden, classical-looking painting of a landscape that placidly adorns the top of a proscenium’s elaborate arch; slowly moving downward and outward, the camera reveals the shadowy sight of a bunch of military-jacketed thugs capering about the stage, violently ripping a scared woman’s clothes off, all scored to Rossini’s Thieving Magpie, the girl’s screams and the boy’s giggles. Alex challenges the gang to a rumble, ironically saving the girl, and the music climaxes as the boys indulge in a rousing fight with shattered glass and flying furniture. Framed by the stage, the shadowy pyramidal architecture of the casino, this ugly scene of raw youth seems utterly transformed, beautifully stylized and poetic, which is funny because the cool measured artistry of it is what makes Alex see himself as not only tough but sensitive and deep — you’re aware of the layers of enjoying something offensive and laughing at the character’s ostentation about it. The same goes for the remarkably pleasing composition of the writer’s stripped wife in the first HOME scene just before Alex rapes her: shot from floor-level, Alex is shown kneeling in the right foreground of the frame speaking directly to the camera, the lewd phallic nose of his mask jutting out at us; left, deep in the background, the writer’s nude wife stands, held from behind by one of the droogs; running along the wall behind them is a large lovely painting of a garden (painted by the director’s wife) precisely framing the action, smoothly drawing the eye back and forth over the image.
That Kubrick must have been deliberately after such dueling effects, or simply dueling against himself, is indicated by some remarks.
From the rape on the stage of the derelict casino, to the super-frenzied fight, through the Christ figure’s cut, to Beethoven’s Ninth, the slow-motion fight on the water’s edge and the encounter with the cat lady where the giant white phallus is pitted against the bust of Beethoven, movement, cutting, and music are the principal considerations — dance?18
He seems to be suggesting that the music is intended to give the violence a certain aesthetic value. Yet he also said, “Culture seems to have no effect upon evil. People have written about the failure of culture in the twentieth century: the enigma of Nazis who listened to Beethoven and sent millions off to the gas chambers.”19 So, apparently, Kubrick uses beauty ironically while retaining its genuine seductiveness, and I can’t think of any other movie more effective than this one in making the stupid point that aesthetics equals fascism (though it is a nice antidote to the unpleasant naïveté of a recent film like The Lives of Others). Surely this is why the film has been such a powerful fantasy for angry immature viewers while seeming so repulsive and “juvenile” to older ones, who see in it a pretentious dangerous justification of misogyny and mayhem. This great unresolved tension is what makes the film so unsettling and fascinating.
Also, it works so well because the primitive ugly emotions are not simply heightened in the usual way. Kubrick doesn’t try to use his rigid strictness to make the sensations more personal, the way Hitchcock, also a control freak, did. In Hitchcock’s best work you felt he was drawing you directly into the skin of the cinematic experience, his “dermal” approach as Jean-Luc Godard called it,20 which was great fun, suspenseful and at times quite perverse. Kubrick’s style, however, is so forcefully cerebral in approach and atmosphere that one is always aware of a kind of aesthetic sheet of glass between the action and the viewer, an effect lovely, bracing and repulsive. At the deepest level, somewhere in the texture of his artistry, we sense a monstrous form of inhuman tyranny somehow connected to the forces of conflict at play against his film’s characters’ fates. When Alex in slow-motion beats his chums with a cane, tosses them into a river, unsheathes a blade and cuts Dim’s hand with it — Rossini’s music pouring over everything — flooded with a huge close of McDowell’s leering exhilaration, you find yourself exhilarated as well, but conscious of the rhetoric, the cultured precision of the sequence, the music, the beauty of the motion, the delicate reflection of the splashing river, etc. In this scene and others, Kubrick has taken the idea that lay behind the elegant image of the flying weapon/bone becoming a satellite in 2001 and made a whole movie out of the implications, but in such a natural way that you don’t think, oh what he’s saying is that underpinning the cool sophisticated future is really nothing more than savagery — no, it skates across your emotions so that you feel this connection. Yet, as I’ve said, the material never seems overwrought or exploitative, the way it sometimes did in Taxi Driver or Straw Dogs (both films I greatly admire). What makes A Clockwork Orange so strange and so great is how powerfully and imaginatively Kubrick winds up his little clockwork world and sets it in motion; how fun and scary and easy it is to identify with an exuberant destroyer like Alex.
But, brothers, this biting of their toenails over the cause of badness is what turns me into a fine laughing malchick. They don’t go into what is the cause of goodness,so why of the other shop? And I was patronizing the other shop. More, badness is of the self, the one, the you or me on our oddy knockies, and that self is made by old Bog or God and is his great pride and radosty. But the not-self cannot have the bad, meaning they of the government and the judges and the schools cannot allow the bad because they cannot allow the self. And is not our modern history, my brothers, the story of brave malenky selves fighting these big machines?21
What doesn’t work in the movie are the big ideas about how doing good is entirely meaningless without the choice to indulge evil; that sinister Government attempts to manufacture morality result in something less than human, something queer as “a clockwork orange.” Neatly underscoring this is the fact that nowhere in the movie do you ever discover why it’s called A Clockwork Orange.
For that you have to read Burgess’ novel, where all the problems begin. In the scene where Alex and his droogs gang rape the writer’s wife, Alex destroys a manuscript called A Clockwork Orange, a political tract about the state’s attempt to control its citizens to turn them into something which, according Burgess’ introduction to the story, “has the appearance of an organism lovely with colour and juice but is in fact only a clockwork orange.”22 What, in short order, happens to Alex when he is literally re-conditioned by the government.
Now in trashing the film, Pauline Kael unproblematically flogged it with the book as if it were a foil. “The movie follows the Anthony Burgess novel so closely,” Kael wrote, “that the book might have served as the script, yet that thick-skulled German professor [Kubrick] may be Dr. Strangelove himself, because the meanings are turned around.” She describes Burgess as being “clearly a humanist . . . A Christian horrified by the possibilities of a society . . . in which life is so mechanized that men lose their capacity for moral choice.” According to her, “There seems to be no way in this boring, dehumanizing society for the boys to release their energies except in vandalism and crime . . . Alex the sadist is as mechanized a creature as Alex the good.”23 Whereas the film, she insists, says only the criminal’s free, implying that Kubrick’s meaning was a single blanket; that he simply pulled his hateful reading of the book out of his ass.
Certainly the characters of the novel explain this Christian business to us a few times over several talks, though it is by no means very clear-cut. First of all, one should remember, any truly Christian view of life is that it’s naturally evil. Secondly, with any scrutiny whatsoever, Burgess and Kael’s sense of that clockwork metaphor quickly breaks down as something of an equivocation, since you could just as easily view nature as the deterministic force and scientific attempts to alter it as the true acts of free will; metaphorically one might say oranges are already machines. Nor is Burgess’ novel, as Kael says, criticizing the post-industrial repression of natural male urges; he’s saying the attempt to program man’s moral nature is more evil than any evil act, which is necessarily elided into the physical because morality is not exactly natural. Burgess literally means that if you are forced to do “good,” it doesn’t really count because you couldn’t do anything else, which he thinks is wrong because God endowed man with the free will to be bad, possibly so he could legitimately punish him for it in the afterlife. In interviews, Burgess went further to suggest that evil is a necessity because without it goodness would be merely an empty concept. He says this in his introduction to the novel as well. “It is as inhuman to be totally good as it is to be totally evil. The important thing is moral choice. Evil has to exist along with good, in order that moral choice may operate.”24 Good is therefore defined by opposition to the bad, which imparts significance to man’s choice to do so. This cosmic tension of his, of course, is nothing more than a linguistic trick (you know, as in “up” requires “down,” “back” needs “front,” and without a “bottom” you have no “top,” etc.); and at times he comes perilously close to saying the best way to get to God is through being an inveterate sinner, probably because all this religious gunk has been blended with an artsy bohemian anti-institutionalism. Thus a weird avant-garde Dostoyevskian ambivalence trickles through the novel’s highly literary characterization of Alex’s activities.
In 1986, Burgess brought out a complete American edition of his novel, which had been expurgated in the early sixties. In his introduction, he described the unusual way the book had been censored when first published here, missing its final chapter. Originally it had had twenty-one. Burgess claimed he had deliberately structured the novel in three parts, each with seven chapters apiece adding up to twenty-one, the age of maturity, to parallel the character’s emotional growth to adulthood. Therefore in the last chapter, after Alex has been deprogrammed, after returning to his life of hooliganism, he soon tires of it and decides to settle down, marry and have a child. Curiously, Burgess’ New York publisher thought he had gone soft on the character at the end and simply lopped this last part off. And it was this version Kubrick read when he decided to make the movie. Only during production did he finally peruse the real ending and agreed with the publisher that it was “completely out of tone with the rest of the book.”25 Even Burgess says as much. “There is no hint of this change of intention in the twentieth chapter. The boy is conditioned, then de-conditioned, and he foresees with glee a resumption of the operation of free and violent will.”26
While I hate agreeing with publishers and filmmakers about anything, I have to say the last chapter really is a horrible cheat. Not so much the idea Alex might think, at eighteen, he ought to obtain a family — he probably would — but it’s hard to imagine he wouldn’t find this future wife and child anything other than a nuisance, and that they would be making frequent appearances at the local emergency room sporting all kinds of odd injuries. Meanwhile for Alex, a few more stints in prison followed by an early death, because Burgess hasn’t provided us with anything in Alex’s nature that could possibly grow into the responsible adult he wished to suggest. At some level Burgess must have realized this as well. For all his stiffness in his introduction about how a novel is not really a novel unless it charts the change of its characters over the course of time (which his version of A Clockwork Orange doesn’t do) — meaning the American version of the book and Kubrick’s film were merely deterministic fables — Burgess nonetheless allowed for doubt. “Readers must decide for themselves whether it [the final chapter] enhances the book they presumably know or is really a discardable limb. I meant the book to end this way, but my aesthetic judgment may have been faulty.”27 Would any self-respecting writer ever have allowed for this kind of monumental second-guessing unless he knew he was wrong? Once you learn the turbulent history of the book’s composition, it’s not difficult imagining his aesthetic faculties were not only a little “faulty” at the time, but completely impaired.
His 1986 introduction is witty and balanced in its placid self-assurance — “I enjoyed raping and ripping by proxy” — and in its bald claims he deliberately wrote the book to provoke and titillate his reader’s nastier fantasies. What’s really intriguing about it, though, is what it doesn’t tell us, the dramatic backstory behind the writing of the book; Burgess’ diverse and wildly ambivalent feelings about it ever since. In earlier interviews he claimed “it was the most painful thing I’ve ever written . . . that damn book.” He said he had grown to hate it and wished he had never written it. He also said the book’s dense slang was his way of softening the impact of its extensive violence.28
If Burgess found the writing so painful, he had his reasons. During the Second World War, in London, a group of drunken American soldiers (“four deserters” according to Burgess) attacked him and his wife, causing her to miscarry their child. Afterward she became depressed and attempted suicide. This trauma lay dormant for more than a decade until 1959, when he was diagnosed with a fatal brain tumor and given only a year to live. Frantically he wrote five novels so that his widow would have something to live on, of which A Clockwork Orange was merely one. Crossing the incident of the soldiers with that of disenfranchised gangs he’d recently seen running rampant around England, he cast himself as the unpleasant hypocritical liberal author targeted by the first-person narrator of this sci-fi prophecy of engulfing urban lawlessness (a horrible joke played on his own experience that makes the mind reel with admiration). It’s sort of like the juvenile delinquent pulp of Blackboard Jungle combined with the satire of Candide, but done up as Vladimir Nabokov’s dystopic fantasy Bend Sinister. It is narrated in a teen slang called “nadsat,” which combines Soviet terms with a fleet-footed Elizabethan robustness. Once you get the hang of Alex’s little lexicon, the book moves with remarkable swiftness, has a light harlequinade Punch and Judy quality that Kubrick’s heavyish film version doesn’t quite capture, though the movie has a coherence of vision and a power that goes well beyond Burgess’ conception.
He hammered the work out with incredible speed, in a haze. “I was very drunk when I wrote it,” he said in an interview around the time the film came out. “It was the only way I could cope with the violence. I can’t stand violence. I . . . I loathe it! And one feels so responsible putting an act of violence down on paper. If one can put an act of violence down on paper, you’ve created the act! You might as well have done it! I detest that damn book now.”29 While in his 1986 introduction he was able to say with perfect equanimity that his only problem with the book was its too obvious moral didacticism, in his autobiography You’ve Had Your Time: The Second Part of the Confessions, Burgess had other problems. “I saw that the book might be dangerous because it presented good, or at least harmlessness, as remote and abstract, something for the adult future of my hero, while depicting violence in joyful dithyrambs.”30
So whom do we believe, Burgess or Burgess? Keeping in mind Burgess categorically denied everything the press ever attributed to him, let me humbly suggest that both writers were in the uncomfortable position of trying to justify an essentially immoral work written out of several levels of fury and trauma: the fear of dying, stress over medical bills, concerns for his wife’s future well-being, etc. The novel is not really the work of a “Christian humanist,” as Kael thought, but the white-hot satire of an inebriated nihilist on the verge of the void. Feeling he had nothing left to lose, he cobbled together a furious “fuck you” to humanity. Only the whole thing is slightly out of balance and muddled, no doubt an effect of having written the book almost entirely under the influence of alcohol in a couple of months.
Trussing his thriller up in a little bromide — that evil is preferable to mechanized goodness — Burgess excitingly managed to strip out the hypocrisy that usually crops up in this sort of thing, wherein an equivocating protective good/bad rhetoric is introduced, typically in the character of a foil much much more evil than the protagonist, who understands nothing but killing. True, Alex’s appreciation of music, which runs to a lot of obscure twentieth-century names, apparently goes past Burgess’ original irony about how un-ennobling art can sometimes be and suggests that Alex really does have a kernel of sensitivity and soulfulness. Still, in the last chapter, when Alex decides to “grow up,” it’s so abrupt one has the feeling Burgess suddenly thought, oh I’m not going to die after all, so I had better give all this some acceptable purpose. Not to mention that the notion that Alex could simply hit the off-button on his sociopathy is ridiculous.
In the 1986 introduction, Burgess tellingly described the difference between his original work, the expurgated version, and the film, in political terms.
My book was Kennedyan and accepted the notion of moral progress. What was really wanted [by his New York publisher] was a Nixonian book with no shred of optimism in it. Let us have evil prancing on the page and, up to the very last line, sneering in the face of all the inherited beliefs, Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Holy Roller, about people being able to make themselves better. Such a book would be sensational, and so it is. But I do not think it is a fair picture of human life.31
Well, of course that’s not a fair picture of life, but then a work of speculative fiction needn’t be, since they’re never right about anything anyway. We’ve all thought from time to time the only good thing about people is they die, and it’s fun reading a book that tests this Truth by letting it out of the box to play, as Kubrick’s film version does with such spectacular fullness.
It’s also very interesting the way Burgess sees his book’s theme in such bluntly political terms, falling along American party lines. Meaning that he felt his intent was essentially liberal and progressive, Democratic in nature. The New York publisher, and Kubrick, he believed, wanted a story of Nixonian — i.e., Republican — reactionary nihilism. A little reminiscent in tone of Kael’s idea that Kubrick’s movie was catering to the post-Manson mood in America. It also suggests the silly old saw that liberals are supposedly dewy-eyed optimists while conservatives take a much darker view of life. Reading Burgess’ supercilious disapproval of his publisher’s desire to put out a book “sneering” at all religions and idealistic institutions, it’s difficult not to think he was either putting us on or was caught in an iron state of denial, since here precisely he puts his finger on the novel’s well-chiseled structure. One by one, the book pits Alex against civilization’s pillars: the family, education, law, religion, science, art — and, one by one, their representatives are either impotent to stop Alex or just try to exploit him for their own ends. The whole thing has been cast as a biblical parable about doing unto others, except that Alex cheerfully refuses to learn the lesson. Unlike other works that say everything’s empty, pointless and ugly, though, Burgess’ book is no existential wail. Gleefully jeering, its narrator Alex enthusiastically revels in the fun of breaking things, and Burgess’ attempt to reinstitute a moral compass at the end where before he had been operating quite nicely without it is more than a letdown; it’s a travesty.
But the really big problem with the novel, and the film, in my opinion, is the central brainwashing plot. It’s geared to make the point that, “God made man free to choose either good or evil and that this is an astounding gift.”32 Burgess seems to have taken this idea quite seriously, though in fact it’s really nothing more than a device, a McGuffin, like the medicine that turns Jekyll into Hyde, or the witches at the beginning of Macbeth who prophesy the character’s fate, or the Freudian double-personality shenanigans at the end of Psycho.
Kubrick understood this about the material better than the author did. As he told an interviewer:
Really Clockwork Orange operates on two levels. One is the sociological argument — the question of the evil committed by the government in trying to change Alex’s nature. It’s an interesting level, it serves to provide the structure of the plot, but I don’t think that it’s actually from this aspect that the story derives its uniqueness or its power.33
This is why the film is so much more overwhelming and incendiary to experience than Burgess’ brilliantly written novel. Having left off the ludicrous last chapter and pruned away most of the discussions about free will, losing even the title’s meaning, which makes it into a poetic impressionistic half-image of sterile modernity, Kubrick freed the subject of the guilty second thoughts plaguing the book and concentrated specifically on the charismatic thrill of savagery; satirized the dreary attempts of a dreary society to effect empty reforms. Because conditioning is the novel’s pivot point, though, and because of all the to-do that’s made about the morality of it, it seems like a bigger deal than it should.
Though the director’s words nicely point the way into the murkier, more successful elements of the subject — its texture, atmosphere and danger — the story’s more overt and shallow “ideas” concerning the facile debate surrounding the Ludovico Technique nearly ruins the movie, because it only pretends to work through the issues while functioning as the plot’s linchpin. Whether or not Burgess thought he was making the point that programming a human being, even one who deserves it, makes him less than a person, he was really giving us a primal fairytale with, as I pointed out, a rather rudimentary moral — do unto others . . . — but triumphantly reversed. The “Ludivico” brainwashing technique, which produced those famous images of McDowell straight-jacketed, eyelids clipped, therefore seems more important than it should for a mere structural device, though there was probably no way around it if the film was to have coherent development. Plus it’s an entertainingly funky twist. Rhetorically and philosophically, though, it’s utterly empty, since if you think about Alex in any objective way, no matter how amusing he is, no matter how much you may find yourself rooting for him against the system — even if in the long run you believe conditioning people into “good” citizens would be a pretty sinister practice — we’re always aware he’s s such a conscienceless thug that I suspect most of us would probably be happy to make a special exception for Alex, who definitely could do with a nice brainwashing.
Especially since in the film’s terms, and the book’s, the mind control system the scientists have worked out doesn’t actually seem too bad. It looks as if all that were necessary to completely neutralize Alex were a series of hypodermics over a couple weeks with an extensive movie marathon of snuff flicks (starring doppelgangers of Alex and his droogs), and that’s it. That Alex can’t bear listening to Beethoven afterward doesn’t seem like such a great loss — Beethoven wasn’t doing him or his victims any favors anyway. Leaving aside the naïveté behind the notion that a filmed image could ever function as an absolute stand-in for real physical experience, on which the doctors of the Ludovico Technique completely depend (here Burgess has accidentally made the argument that people really are clockwork oranges, I think), the relative painlessness of the technique suggests the only real reason to object to brainwashing is for fancy meta-cosmic questions concerning man’s freedom and liberty, so that both film and book perversely come to the conclusion that it’s better to be preyed on by gangs of hooligans than to do anything other than hope they’ll find Dostoyevky’s Sonia at the end of Crime and Punishment.
Of course, if you’ve ever dipped into the subject of mind control and brain-conditioning at all, you know that in real life it would take a lot more than the quick clean treatment elliptically glossed over in the film to produce anything remotely like what happens to Alex; the amount of physical and emotional duress required — which wouldn’t have worked anywhere near as well — would have been so frightening as to constitute very cruel and unusual punishment, and which would have left Alex pretty traumatized even after his deprogramming. According to Vincent LoBrutto’s biography, Kubrick supposedly read up extensively on the subject, but you can’t tell; the research didn’t make the scenes any different than they were in the book, excepting in the film some of the doctors were female and everyone philosophized a lot less. Since it’s a fantasy, of course, it’s possible to have anything happen any which way you please, but by making the conditioning more believably grueling, both book and film might have had a real subject. If we had seen Alex the thug at his worst, then had to sit through him going through a meat grinder, with our conflicted sense of identification and repulsion, we might have found ourselves becoming terribly uncomfortable with the genuinely sinister implications of governmental coercion, which we had tacitly wanted to see imposed. In that case the question of the worser of two evils might have had a real bite to it. Possibly Burgess did intend something like this, but because he was too hurried and too drunk — not to mention tied down by that first-person perspective — he was unable to fully dramatize it. It seems like the ethics of conditioning per se aren’t even really the point, would actually have hampered it, because they’d have mired us in the purely physical and the tangible: whether or not it’s right to cause pain so that good may come of it; whether it violates and degrades not only the subjects of such conditioning, as Alex violated his victims, but also the society that sanctions it. The film and book are interested in “the spirit of mankind,” which is a wispy philosophical conceit of an issue that needs a wispy theoretical conceit of a structure. Therefore, any real brutality in the process had to be smoothed over; Burgess needed to keep the specifics of the conditioning easy and vague so that he could stay in the realm of pure high-minded notions about the immorality of mechanizing nature, though no one, not even hard mechanistic scientists, probably believe people ought to be programmed like computers or machines for the public’s safety. And of course by the time a government could do that, we’d no longer be perusing books by Burgess or anyone else; we wouldn’t care either because we would all have . . . SEEN THE LIGHT. Because you sense that all the brainwashing nonsense was really just a way of romanticizing immutable qualities of human experience such as that old high-school English class favorite: man’s inhumanity to man — you start to sense that the film is really just a cracked misanthropic satire of liberal humanism, and therefore at some level completely immature (and terribly exciting), despite the author’s insistence that the bits of progressive optimism appliquéd here and there in the book, and stripped to a cool degree of absolute ambivalence in the film, are just a bridge the author is trying to sell us, or himself.
While these problems ultimately trip the book up and build a certain amount of semi-deliberate absurdity into the movie as well, Kubrick thought everything out enough so that the flaws in the reasoning are part of the art. One of the things that great, mediocre and terrible movies all have in common is that they’re imperfect. In great films, though, the flaws don’t necessarily make things fall apart; sometimes they work with what’s successful to make the movies more fun, more memorable, probably because there’s always something a little silly and buffoonish about the pretend of movies and books to begin with. So while all the brainwashing in Clockwork has been used as the film’s and novel’s pivotal plot turn, and seems to be a philosophical message of some sort — which one critic I came across has apparently taken to be an endorsement for a peculiarly crazed form of libertarianism! — it’s really so much nonsense leaving the nihilistic anti-civilization satire slightly out of focus and skewed. Without it, though, the story would have had no direction; the corrosive joke on humanity would have been much too blunt and clear-cut; the movie would have lacked the mystery and magic without which artistic truth is unlikely. Not to mention that without the obfuscations, even drunk, Burgess probably would not have allowed himself to play this particularly nasty prank on life. That would have been a shame.
- Vincent LoBrutto, Stanley Kubrick, A Biography. (New York: Donald I. Fine Books 1997). 339. [↩]
- Ibid. [↩]
- Ibid. All quotations from Stanley Kubrick and Anthony Burgess, unless otherwise cited, come from interviews culled in LoBrutto’s chapter on the film. [↩]
- James Naremore, On Kubrick (London: BFI, 2007), 154. [↩]
- Gore Vidal, “Why I Am Eight Years Younger Than Anthony Burgess,” in United States Essays 1952-1992 (New York: Random House,1992), 111. [↩]
- LoBrutto, 340. [↩]
- Pauline Kael, “Stanley Strangelove,” in For Keeps (New York: Plume 1994), 416. [↩]
- LoBrutto, 338. [↩]
- Penelope Houston, “Kubrick Country,” The Saturday Evening Review (25 December 1971), 42.. [↩]
- LoBrutto, 334-377. [↩]
- Vladimir Nabokov, Strong Opinions (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company 1973), 94. [↩]
- Pauline Kael, “Lolita,” in For Keeps, 39-43. While wittily unbothered by the changes Kubrick made in transferring Nabokov’s novel to the screen, she rakes the director over the coals for having “removed many of the obstacles to our identifying with Alex.” For instance, that the full-grown girls Alex picks up in a record shop in the film and cavorts with simultaneously are only about ten years old in the novel, and he liquors them up to take full advantage. But then in the book Alex was only fifteen, while McDowell was almost thirty. And none of the alterations from novel to film distort the source anywhere near as consistently as Lolita. [↩]
- Stuart Y. McDougal, “What’s It Going to Be, Eh?” in A Clockwork Orange (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 5. [↩]
- Thomas Allen Nelson, Kubrick: Inside a Film Artist’s Maze (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982), 143. [↩]
- Naremore, 160-161. [↩]
- And I couldn’t help wondering who those teeth belonged to — mother or father? They have been transferred to the water glass from the mouth of a character in the novel that doesn’t appear in the movie. [↩]
- Joseph Gelmis, The Film Director as Superstar (New York: Doubleday, 1970), 293-315.. [↩]
- LoBrutto, 339. [↩]
- Ibid, 334-337.. [↩]
- Jean-Luc Godard, Godard on Godard. (New York: Viking, 1972) , 51. [↩]
- Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange. (NewYork: W. W. Norton & Company, 1986), 40. [↩]
- Ibid. Introduction, “A Clockwork Orange Resucked,” ix. He also said somewhere that the phrase was cockney street slang, but it has been suggested this was a bit of leg-pulling. [↩]
- Kael, For Keeps, 414-415. [↩]
- Burgess, A Clockwork Orange, Introduction, ix. [↩]
- LoBrutto, 241. [↩]
- Burgess, A Clockwork Orange, Introduction, viii. [↩]
- LoBrutto, x. [↩]
- LoBrutto, 336. [↩]
- Ibid. [↩]
- Anthony Burgess, You’ve Had Your Time: The Second Part of the Confessions. (New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991), 61. [↩]
- Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange, Introduction, viii-ix. [↩]
- LoBrutto, 339. [↩]
- Ibid. [↩]