Thursday, June 4, 2015

Well well well well. If it isn't little Alex.

This is just the type of post I might have written as a Question Your Assumptions piece, except I didn't really feel like I had any questions about the greatness of A Clockwork Orange, which I currently have ranked #107 on Flickchart despite only a single viewing some 15 years ago.

That doesn't mean there weren't interesting takeaways from Monday night's second viewing. Here are five, listed somewhat randomly, starting with an explanation of my subject:

1) This line is spoken, of course, by the police officer formerly known as Dim, played by Warren Clarke, as he comes across the "rehabilitated" Alex after Alex has been assaulted by a gang of old homeless people. I'm not sure why, but the way Clarke enunciates his lines made this line particularly memorable at the time that I saw it, such that I actually quoted it with my then-roommate -- who did not actually watch the movie with me on this particular viewing. The confluence of L's sounding like W's actually makes it come out more as "Wew wew wew wew wew. If it isn't wittiw Awex." Which somehow makes this moment of gleeful superiority seem all the more frightening, as the man's halfwit insanity is all the more unpredictable than would be that of a man with his full faculties. This was the moment of the movie I was most anticipating, and I greeted its arrival with my own kind of glee.

2) For the first time (makes sense, as this is only my second viewing) I noted a rather cheeky Easter egg. When Alex is in a record store, picking up the girls whom he will boff on fast forward in the next scene, he stops in front of a vinyl of the score for 2001: A Space Odyssey. Which of course was also directed by one Stanley Kubrick. What surprises me most about this is that I would have never pegged Kubrick as being interested in such juvenile methods of self-congratulation. I'd think they would be beneath him.

3) One of my favorite scenes in the whole movie is when Alex's uncle? family friend? who is that guy? accosts him in his bedroom as a means of trying to break through to him before it's too late. His method of asserting dominance over Alex is unusual and kind of arresting. Instead of standing over him, getting him in a headlock, or some other traditional display of strength, he merely leans the both of them back so they're lying down on Alex's bed. Alex is pinned, so the move is effective, but it is also incredibly non-traditional and almost passive-aggressive. I spent several minutes pondering the brilliance of that odd choice for this character. (I looked it up -- it's his probation officer. He wasn't quite avuncular enough to be an uncle, I guess.)

4) It struck me on this viewing just what a small percentage of the running time actually features Alex in full droog getup. Given that all the iconography from this movie surrounds Malcolm McDowell with that piercing look of utter anarchy in his eyes, you really only get 15 to 20 minutes, all told, of them involved in their ultra-violent shenanigans. Much more of the time he spends as a mop-topped dork in various stages of rehabilitation, actual or imaginary. But I guess that doesn't look as good on the posters.

5) I was still most shocked by the "Singin' in the Rain" scene, in part because you later learn that the woman they raped died a month after her rape. I hadn't specifically remembered that, though perhaps that's why it was so indelible the first time I saw it. I also noted that Mr. Alexander, her husband whom they beat in that same scene, makes me think of Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) on Breaking Bad. Because he's gagged and because Hector can't talk, they both share a kind of stricken, wordless apoplexy, powerless to stop whatever terrible thing is being done to them.

At #107 of the 4162 movies I've ranked on Flickchart, A Clockwork Orange will still beat all but the highest 2% of films I've seen. After this second viewing, now it will just do it with an extra dose of confidence.

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