Top positive review
One of Kubrick's finest films brutal to the core
on September 13, 2003
It was rated X when it first came out. Why? The violence is so repulsive that the ratings board decreed that it should only be seen by someone over the age of 21. That didn't hurt its box office. A Clockwork Orange captures many of the bleaker aspects of Burgess novel. Kubrick wraps the story in a pop art day glo look. It's very much a movie of its time.
Our hero is Alex the leader of a violent gang who is captured after committing "ultra violence" which includes the rape and murder of a prominent writer. The government decides to make an example of Alex. Using a form of behavior modification, they make violence repulsive (to the point where Alex becomes physically ill). He's proclaimed "cured" and released now a potential victim vs. the predator he was before.
While Kubrick's film decries the esmasculation of others in pursuit of peace, he also satirizes the very government that attempts to make Alex safe for society. Kubrick seems to be arguing that redemption isn't possible for Alex and that, in fact, society will never be free of the predators around us. He implicates everyone in this failure of society and suggests that it's (much like he did in Dr. Strangelove, Paths of Glory and 2001)that violence fuels much of our society.
The imagery in Orange is still amazing fresh and vital 30 years on. As a satire, Orange occasionally fails; Kubrick's point of view doesn't exist. His detached style makes the film nonjudgemental about Alex and the world he grew up in. That approach makes it appear as if Kubrick approves of the very violence he deplores; the film is celebrated by those who miss the point for the violence at the heart of the film.
This DVD transfer is a huge improvement over the first release. There's very little of the analog artifacts (i.e., scratches, dirt, etc)that marred the original release of this classic film. The oustanding transfer does justice to Kubrick's vision. The color, flesh tones, blacks and grays are right on target as far as I can tell. There's little of the edge enhancement that marred the previous release as well. The widescreen composition is intact as well.
The sound has been digitally remastered in dolby digital 5.1 and sounds much improved over the previous version as well. The improvement doesn't jump out at you the way the visual improvements do. Obviously the 5.1 format isn't used here quite as effectively as more contemporary films (when it was released stereo was a luxery afforded few film releases) but it's utilized quite nicely.
There really aren't any extras to speak of except for the original trailer. Why a documentary wasn't produced and added to this release is beyond me. Perhaps it had more to do with Kubrick's private nature. Since Malcolm McDowell, David Prowse and other cast members are alive, the least that Warner could have done was provide an audio commentary. Perhaps with Kubrick gone they'll do that with the next edition. Hopefully we'll see a quality documentary about the controversy surrouding the film similar in nature to the one recently added to the Dr. Strangelove re-release.
Orange isn't an easy film to watch or to appreciate. It also isn't an easy film to pidgeonhold. Those very qualities make for great cinema. Unfortunately, Kubrick's and Burgess' vision is subject to intrepetation which has allowed Orange to be both misunderstood and misjudged ever since the day of its release. Kubrick's film doesn't make the case for violence but does suggest that violence is the heart and soul that fuels humanity. His cool, detached style also suggests that there is little hope of escaping the qualities that allowed us to arise out of the muck of creation and rule the world. It's a sad but true observation about our world.