It's been a busy few weeks as Kat and I have been getting all the pieces together for the inaugural production of our theatre company, Australian Made Entertainment. In September, we will be presenting Cosi, a classic Aussie comedy about a bunch of mental patients who cobble together a performance of Mozart's opera, Cosi fan tutte. If you can't make it to New York in September, you could always check out the film version, which I believe is also available on Netflix. In any case, be sure to 'like' us on Facebook to keep up to date with our progress.
After a hectic week, I managed to squeeze in a viewing of another Best Picture nominee from 1971's contest...
A Clockwork Orange
(based on the novel by Anthony Burgess)
Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Adrienne Corri, Miriam Karlin, Godfrey Quigley, Anthony Sharp, Warren Clarke, Aubrey Morris, Michael Bates
In an indeterminate futuristic time period, London has a serious crime problem with gangs of young thugs terrorising innocent citizens on a regular basis. One such gang of "droogs", led by Alex (McDowell), enjoys a night of "ultra-violence", first beating up a homeless man and then assaulting writer Frank Alexander (Magee) and raping his wife (Corri) in a home invasion. The next night, after Alex brutally rapes another woman (Karlin), his "droogs" turn on him, leaving him to be caught by the police. When the woman later dies, Alex is sentenced to prison for murder.
A couple of years later, Alex becomes a test subject for a new aversion therapy, a rapid conditioning technique intended to cure violent tendencies in criminals. While agreeing to the treatment gives him a get-out-of-jail-free card, he soon struggles with its often disturbing and inhumane effects.
Stanley Kubrick certainly knows how to give a film a distinctive style. Each of his films is unique in its presentation and A Clockwork Orange is perhaps his most stylised, in large part due to Anthony Burgess' source novel, which supplies the film's dialogue with some peculiar new English words. Burgess essentially created a new dialect that is best described as a Russian-influenced English. While it certainly lends the story an air of originality, it sometimes comes across as rather childish, as in the case of "eggiwegs".
Another standard of a Kubrick film is its sumptuous design and again, A Clockwork Orange is no exception. The retro-futuristic sets are beautifully fascinating, as are the strange costumes, particularly Alex's mother's weirdly inappropriate outfits. We are also treated to some inventive make-up as each of the central droogs displays an individual, asymmetric style. Even the music is somewhat stylised. While most of the score consists of classical music, it is juxtaposed with occasional moments of electronica, just in case we forgot we were in the future.
Punk'd. The artificiality also makes it easy to desensitise oneself to the violence in the film. I mean, how seriously can you take an assailant when he assaults his victims while dancing and crooning "Singin' in the Rain"? Or beats a lady with an oversized penis sculpture? Well, actually, those scenes are kind of creepy. In fact, despite the style, there are plenty of emotionally moving moments, so maybe the point is made.
While the character of Alex is unmistakably theatrical, Malcolm McDowell (pictured) at times shows clever restraint in his breakout role as the troubled youth. Other actors fail to avoid consistently theatrical performances, namely Patrick Magee, whose wild facial ticks are somewhat distracting. On the other hand, Michael Bates' pantomime portrayal of an enthusiastically gruff prison guard has its funny moments. Star Wars fans may appreciate seeing the man inside the Darth Vader suit, David Prowse, as Frank's placid attendant, Julian.