A Clockwork Orange (Film)

Reception

Critical reception

A Clockwork Orange was a box-office success in the United States. It grossed more than $26 million on a conservative budget of $2.2 million, was critically acclaimed, and was nominated for several awards, including the Academy Award for Best Picture (losing to The French Connection).[25] As of 24 April 2019, A Clockwork Orange holds a 90% "Certified Fresh" rating among critics on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 60 reviews with an average rating of 8.41/10. The website's critical consensus states: "Disturbing and thought-provoking, A Clockwork Orange is a cold, dystopian nightmare with a very dark sense of humor".[26]

The movie was the most popular film of 1972 in France with 7,611,745 admissions.[27]

Vincent Canby of The New York Times praised the film saying:

McDowell is splendid as tomorrow's child, but it is always Mr. Kubrick's picture, which is even technically more interesting than 2001. Among other devices, Mr. Kubrick constantly uses what I assume to be a wide-angle lens to distort space relationships within scenes, so that the disconnection between lives, and between people and environment, becomes an actual, literal fact.[25]

The following year, after the film won the New York Film Critics Award, he called it "a brilliant and dangerous work, but it is dangerous in a way that brilliant things sometimes are".[28]

Despite praise from many critics, the film had detractors. Film critic Stanley Kauffmann commented, "Inexplicably, the script leaves out Burgess' reference to the title".[29] Roger Ebert gave A Clockwork Orange two stars out of four, calling it an "ideological mess".[30] In her New Yorker review titled "Stanley Strangelove", Pauline Kael called it pornographic because of how it dehumanised Alex's victims while highlighting the sufferings of the protagonist. Kael derided Kubrick as a "bad pornographer", noting the Billyboy's gang extended stripping of the very buxom woman they intended to rape, claiming it was offered for titillation.[31]

John Simon noted that the novel's most ambitious effects were based on language and the alienating effect of the narrator's Nadsat slang, making it a poor choice for a film. Concurring with some of Kael's criticisms about the depiction of Alex's victims, Simon noted that the writer character (young and likeable in the novel) was played by Patrick Magee, "a very quirky and middle-aged actor who specialises in being repellent". Simon comments further that "Kubrick over-directs the basically excessive Magee until his eyes erupt like missiles from their silos and his face turns every shade of a Technicolor sunset".

The film was re-released in North America in 1973 and earned $1.5 million in rentals.[32]

Responses and controversy

American version

In the United States, A Clockwork Orange was rated X in its original release in 1972. Later, Kubrick voluntarily replaced approximately 30 seconds of sexually explicit footage from two scenes with less explicit action for an R rating re-release in 1973. Current DVDs present the original version (reclassified with an "R" rating), and only some of the early 1980s VHS editions are the edited version.[33][34]

Because of the explicit sex and violence, The National Catholic Office for Motion Pictures rated it C ("Condemned"), a rating which forbade Roman Catholics seeing the film. In 1982, the Office abolished the "Condemned" rating. Subsequently, films deemed to have unacceptable levels of sex and violence by the Conference of Bishops are rated O, "Morally Offensive".[35]

British withdrawal

Although it was passed uncut for UK cinemas in December 1971, British authorities considered the sexual violence in the film to be extreme. In March 1972, during the trial of a 14-year-old male accused of the manslaughter of a classmate, the prosecutor referred to A Clockwork Orange, suggesting that the film had a macabre relevance to the case.[36] The film was also linked to the murder of an elderly vagrant by a 16-year-old boy in Bletchley, Buckinghamshire, who pleaded guilty after telling police that friends had told him of the film "and the beating up of an old boy like this one". Roger Gray QC, for the defence, told the court that "the link between this crime and sensational literature, particularly A Clockwork Orange, is established beyond reasonable doubt".[37] The press also blamed the film for a rape in which the attackers sang "Singin' in the Rain" as "Singin' in the Rape".[38] Christiane Kubrick, the director's wife, has said that the family received threats and had protesters outside their home.[39]

The film was withdrawn from British release in 1973 by Warner Brothers at the request of Kubrick.[40] In response to allegations that the film was responsible for copycat violence Kubrick stated: .mw-parser-output .templatequote{overflow:hidden;margin:1em 0;padding:0 40px}.mw-parser-output .templatequote .templatequotecite{line-height:1.5em;text-align:left;padding-left:1.6em;margin-top:0}

To try and fasten any responsibility on art as the cause of life seems to me to put the case the wrong way around. Art consists of reshaping life, but it does not create life, nor cause life. Furthermore, to attribute powerful suggestive qualities to a film is at odds with the scientifically accepted view that, even after deep hypnosis in a posthypnotic state, people cannot be made to do things which are at odds with their natures.[41]

The Scala Cinema Club went into receivership in 1993 after losing a legal battle following an unauthorised screening of the film.[42] In the same year, Channel 4 broadcast Forbidden Fruit, a 27-minute documentary about the withdrawal of the film in Britain.[43] It contains footage from A Clockwork Orange. It was difficult to see A Clockwork Orange in the United Kingdom for 27 years. It was only after Kubrick died in 1999 that the film was theatrically re-released and made available on VHS and DVD. On 4 July 2001, the uncut version premiered on Sky TV's Sky Box Office, where it ran until mid-September.

Censorship in other countries

In Ireland, the film was banned on 10 April 1973. Warner Bros. decided against appealing the decision. Eventually, the film was passed uncut for cinema on 13 December 1999 and released on 17 March 2000.[44][45][46] The re-release poster, a replica of the original British version, was rejected due to the words "ultra-violence" and "rape" in the tagline. Sheamus Smith explained his rejection to the Irish Times:

I believe that the use of those words in the context of advertising would be offensive and inappropriate.[47]

In Singapore, the film was banned for over 30 years, before an attempt at release was made in 2006. However, the submission for a M18 rating was rejected, and the ban was not lifted.[48] The ban was later lifted and the film was shown uncut (with an R21 rating) on 28 October 2011, as part of the Perspectives Film Festival.[49][50]

In South Africa, it was banned under the apartheid regime for 13 years, then in 1984 was released with one cut and only made available to people over the age of 21.[51] It was banned in South Korea[48] and in the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Nova Scotia.[52] Alberta reversed the ban upon Kubrick's death in 1999. The Maritime Film Classification Board also reversed the ban eventually. Both jurisdictions now grant an R rating to the film.

Accolades

Award Category Recipient Result
Academy Awards Best Picture Stanley Kubrick Nominated
Best Director Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Nominated
Best Editing Bill Butler Nominated
British Academy Film Awards Best Film Nominated
Best Director Stanley Kubrick Nominated
Best Screenplay Nominated
Best Editing Bill Butler Nominated
Best Production Design John Barry Nominated
Best Cinematography John Alcott Nominated
Best Sound Track Brian Blamey, John Jordan, Bill Rowe Nominated
Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directorial Achievement Stanley Kubrick Nominated
Golden Globe Awards[53] Best Motion Picture – Drama Nominated
Best Director Stanley Kubrick Nominated
Best Actor - Drama Malcolm McDowell Nominated
Hugo Awards Best Dramatic Presentation Won
New York Film Critics Circle Best Film Won
Best Director Stanley Kubrick Won
Venice Film Festival Pasinetti Award Won
Silver Ribbon Best Foreign Director Stanley Kubrick Won
Writers Guild of America Awards Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium Nominated

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