Kurick Tells What Makes 'Clockwork Orange' Tick
By BERNARD WEINRAUB
Special to the New York Times
LONDON, Jan. 3 -- Stanley Kubrick grew up on the Grand Concourse and 196th Street in the Bronx, attending Taft High School with some infrequency but eagerly showing up at the Loew's Paradise and R.K.O. Fordham twice a week to view the double features.
One of the important things about seeing run-of-the-mill Hollywood films eight times a week was that many of them were so bad," the 43-year-old filmmaker said. "Without even beginning to understand what the problems of making films were, I was taken with the impression that I could not do a film any worse than the ones I was seeing. I also felt I could, in fact, do them a lot
Few critics and moviegoers would dispute this. As the creator of "Paths of Glory," "Lolita," "Dr. Strangelove," "2001: A Space Odyssey" and now "A Clockwork Orange," Mr. Kubrick has firmly placed himself in the highest rank of international film-makers. Last week the New York Film Critics named "A Clockwork Orange" the best movie of the year, and Mr. Kubrick was voted best director.
Office at Home
Mr. Kubrick now lives in a sprawling home in Borehamwood, 30 minutes out of London, with his third wife, Christiane, an artist, and their three daughters, together with several cats and three golden retrievers. The house, enclosed by a brick wall, also contains the director's offices and editing facilities.
"It's very pleasant, very peaceful, very civilized here," Mr. Kubrick said in an interview. "London is, in the best sense, the way New York must have been in about 1910. I have to live where I make my films and, as it has worked out, I have spent most of my time during the last 10 years in London."
Mr. Kubrick discusses his work -- and his career -- with some difficulty. He speaks gently and unaffectedly, with a New York accent, but remains tense and somewhat distracted.
At a restaurant near his home, he sat down wearing a heavy windbreaker, polished off his lunch in 15 minutes, then absently removed the coat. He relaxed slowly and discussed "A Clockwork Orange," which was taken from the chilling novel by Anthony Burgess.
"The book was given to me by Terry Southern during one of the very busy periods of the making or "2001," he recalled. "I just put it to one side and forgot about it for a year and a half. Then one day I picked it up and read it. The book had an immediate impact.
A Merciless Vision
"I was excited by everything about it. The plot, the ideas, the characters and, of course, the language. Added to which, the story was of manageable size in terms of adapting it for films."
The film itself is a merciless vision of the near-future. Roving: gangs rape, kill, maim and steal, citizens live in vandalized pop art culture, gaudy, icy and filthy. Politicians and the police are vicious. The film's central character, Alex (Malcolm McDowell), is transformed by scientists from an underworld tough to a defenseless model citizen only to be resurrected, at the end, to his savage original state by the "good" forces.
The story functions, of course, on several levels, political, sociological, philosophical and, what's most important, on a kind of dream-like psychological-symbolic level," Mr. Kubrrick said.
"Alex is a character who by every logical and rational consideration should be completely unsympathetic, and possibly even abhorrent to the audience," he went on. "And yet in the same way that Richard III gradually undermines your disapproval
of his evil ways, Alex does the same thing and draws the audience into his own vision of life. This is the phenomenon of the story that produced the most enjoyable and surprising artistic illumination in the minds of an audience."
"I think an audience watching a film or a play is in a state very similar to dreaming, and that the dramatic experience becomes a kind of controlled dream," he said. "But the important point here is that the film communicates on a subconscious level, and the audience responds to the basic shape of the story on a subconscious level, as it responds to a dream.
Man In Natural State
"On this level, Alex symbolizes man in his natural state, the way he would be if society did not impose its 'civilizing' processes upon him.
"What we respond to subconsciously is Alex's guiltless sense of freedom to kill and rape, and to be our savage natural selves, and it is in this glimpse of the true nature of man that the power of the story derives."
As an artist, Mr. Kubrick has a point of view that is undeniably bleak. "One of the most dangerous fallacies which has influenced a great deal of political and philosophical thinking is that man is essentially good, and that it is society which makes
him bad," he said. "Rousseau transferred original sin from man to society, and this view has importantly contributed to what I believe has become a crucially incorrect premise on which to base moral and political philosophy."
A film craftsman who associates say is obsessed by his work, Mr. Kubrick rarely goes to parties or takes vacations. (His last one was in 1961 when he completed "Lolita.") Characteristically, he is now spending days and nights checking prints ot "A Clockwork Orange," and expects to view about 50 in the next few months as the film is released around the world.
The laboratory is quite capable of making dreadful mistakes," said the director, who was a Look magazine photographer at 17. "Just the other night l saw "Paths of Glory" on television, and the lab had printed several reels a word out of synchronization. Printing machines can make the print too dark, too light or the wrong colors. There are many variables involved."
Providing the Right Ideas
Discussing his role as a director, Mr. Kubrick said: "In terms ot working with actors, a director's job more closely resembles that of a novelist than of a Svengali. One assumes that one hires actors who are great virtuosos. It is too late to start running an
acting class in front ot the cameras, and essentially what the director must do is to provide the right ideas for the scene, the right adverb, the right adjective.
"The director must always be the arbiter ot esthetic taste," he added. "The questions always arise: Is it believable, is it interesting, is it appropriate? Only the director can decide this."
Mr. Kubrick said that film criticism, good or had, rarely affected him. "No reviewer has ever illuminated any aspect of my work for me," he observed.
The director said that his next film will deal with Napoleon, but that someday he hopes to do a film in New York. "I would like to capture some of the visual impressions I have of the Bronx and Manhattan," he said. "I love the city -- at least I love
the city that it used to be."
New York Times -- 4th January, 1972
'Orange' -- 'Disorientating But Human Comedy'...
By VINCENT CANBY
STANLEY KUBRICK's ninth film, "A Clockwork Orange," which has just won the New York Film Critics Award as the best film of 1971, is a brilliant and dangerous work, but it is dangerous in a way that brilliant things sometimes are.
I'd hardly put it in the same category with nuclear energy, "A Declaration of Independence" and "The Interpretation of Dreams," but it is a movie of such manifold, contradictory effects that it can easily be seen in many ways and may well be wrongly used by a number of people who see it. It is an almost perfect example of the kind of New Movie that is all the more disorienting -- and thus, apparently, dangerous -- because it seems to remain aloof from, and uninvolved with, the matters it's
Somewhere during the second third of the film, Alex (Malcolm McDowell), a vicious teenage London hood who has the cheeriness of a ratty Candide, is subjected to the Ludovico Technique, a type of aversion therapy that effectively neutralizes Alex's passions for both ultra-violence and the music of lovely lovely Ludwig Van, by making him physically ill whenever these passions arise-
New York Times -- 9th January, 1972
Nice Boy from the Bronx?
By CRAIG McGREGOR
So what is a nice Jewish boy from The Bronx like Stanley Kubrick doing making bizarre films like "A Clockwork Orange"? Well, says Stanley, everybody starts off being a nice boy from somewhere. He smiles. He has a good sense of humor. He is eating halibut in a restaurant, he is wearing his habitual drab olive flak jacket, and with his brooding, bearded face he looks not unlike the Napolean he is going to make his next movie about. He doesn't look like a genius, no apocalyptic lumina haloes his head, and with his soft New York accent he could almost be that mythical nice boy from the Bronx.
By the time you're 43, and Movie Director of the Year, and a Cult Figure as well, you change. You live in a big manor house with a high wall around it, and you drive a Mercedes, and communicate through a radio-telephone, and what you see of the real world you often don't like; and so you end up, years later, making a movie like "A Clockwork Orange": a macabre, simplistic, chillingly pessimistic film whose main themes are rape, violence, sexual sadism, brutality, and eternal savagery of man.
"Man isn't a noble savage, he's an ignoble savage," says Kubrick, reaching for the iced water. "He is irrational, brutal, weak, silly, unable to be objective about anything where his own interests are involved -- that about sums it up. I'm interested in the brutal and violent nature of man because it's a true picture of him. And any attempt to create social institutions on a false view of the nature of man is probably doomed to failure."
Like what? "Well, many aspects of liberal mythology are coming to grief now--but I don't want to give any examples or I'm going to sound like William Buckley..."
Kubrick's vision of society is just as bleak: it can make man worse than he naturally is. "The idea that social--"
New York Times -- 30th January, 1972
A Liberal Fights Back
By FRED M. HECHINGER
LIBERALS, said Malcolm McDowell, star of "A Clockwork Orange," hate that film. The implicatlon is that there is something shameful in the liberals' reaction -- that at the very least they don't know the score. Quite the opposite is true. Any liberal with brains should hate "Ciockwork," not as a matter of artisitc criticism but for the trend the film represents. An alert liberal should recognize the voice of fascism.
"Movies don't alter the world, they pose questions and warnings," said Mr. McDowell. This is close to the truth. Movies reflect the mood of the world because they pander to the frame of mind or their potential customers.
During the Depression years, Hollywood offered those eye-filling and mind-soothing productions that took a despondent publlc's thoughts off the grim realities. Occasionally, the diverting tinsel was laced with some "Grapes of Wrath" realism.
During and after World War II, Hollywood reflected the American mind with an outpouring of syrupy patriotism and comic-strip anti-Nazism. Minor modifications allowed the technique to be adapted, as in "The Manchurian Candidate," to the subsequent spirit of the Cold War.
More recently, the movies, chasing the youth buck, have wallowed in campus revolution, alienation, radical relevance and counter-culture. The plastic greenlng of Hollywood did little, one must agree with Mr. McDowell's thesis, to alter the world: it
was merely the industry's frantic attempt to keep abreast of society's changing script.
It is precisely because Hollywood's antennae have in the past been so sensitive in picking up the national mood that the anti-liberal trend should indeed "pose questions and warnings," though not in the manner intended either by Mr. McDowell or by Stanley Kubrick, "Clockwork's" director.
The bad seeds had been sown during the period of mindless youth-culture exploitation. Anthony Quinn, who played Zorba the Prof in "R.P.M.," that ersatz ideological movie about the campus revolt, was the anti-liberals' perfect prototype of the superannuated, well-intentioned but ultimately ineffectual, obsolescent, self-destructive liberal. "Getting Straight" delivered the same cumulative message. The liberal in "Easy Rider," a pathetic, confused drunk, was intended to show the fate that ultimately awaits the bleeding hearts. Even his death, at the hands of fascist bullies, carefully avoided being either heroic or central
to the picture's mood. Too bad about the fuzzyminded fellow, but what can you expect... .
New York Times -- 13th February, 1972
Now Kubrick Fights Back
By STANLEY KUBRICK
AN alert liberal," says Fred M. Hechinger, writing about my film "A Clockwork Orange," "should recognize the voice of fascism." They don't come any more alert than Fred M. Hechinger. A movie critic, whose job is to analyze the actual content of a
film, rather than second-hand interviews, might have fallen down badly on sounding the "Liberal Alert" which an educationist like Mr. Hechinger confidently set jangling in so many resonant lines or alarmed prose.
As I read them, the image that kept coming to mind was of Mr. Hechinger, cast as the embattled liberal, grim-vlsaged the way Gary Cooper used to be, doing the long walk down main street to face the high noon of American democracy, while out of the Last Chance saloon drifts the theme song, "See what the boys in the backlash will have and tell them I'm having the same," though sung in a voice less like Miss Dietrich's than Miss Kael's. Alert filmgoers will recognize that I am mixing my movies. But then alert educationists like Mr. Hechinger seemingly don't mind mixing their metaphors: "Occasionally, the diverting tinsel was laced with some 'Grapes of Wrath' realism," no less.
It is baffling that in the course or his lengthy piece encouraging American liberals to cherish their "right" to hate the ideology behind "A Clockwork Orange," Mr. Hechinger quotes not one line, refers to not one scene, analyzes not one theme from the film -- but simply lumps it indiscriminately in with a "trend" which he pretends to distinguish ("a deeply anti-liberal totalitarian nihilism") in several current films. Is this, I wonder, because he couldn't actually find any internal evidence to support his trend-spotting? If not, then it is extraordinary that so serious a charge should be made against it (and myself) inside so fuzzy and unfocussed a piece of alarmist journalism.
Hechinger is probably quite sincere in what he feels. But what the witness feels, as the judge said, is not evidence -- the more so when the--
New York Times -- 27th February, 1972
Malcolm McDowell Objects, Too
To the Editor:
This letter is in reply to Fred M. Hechinger's article, which was prompted in part by an interview that I gave to Tom Burke. I am an actor, not a philosopher -- nor, thank God, a joumalist. If a New York Times interviewer questions me on philosophical, social or political issues, he must expect to get answers that are inspired by feeling and intuition, rather than by the steely logic of a Fred M. Hechinger. But my comment on the sentimentalism of the "liberals" was not gleeful -- it was despondent. (If I had
been writing an article instead of replying to questions, I would have put the word "liberal" in quotes.)
As an actor, of course. I spoke emotionally -- from a violent emotional reaction to the violence and hysteria with which New York assails any visitor, and a violent and emotional reaction against the complacency or cowardice of "intellectuals" too scared to face or to interpret the harsh allegory which I believe Mr. Kubrick's picture to be.
To call "A Clockwork Orange" fascist is as silly as to say that "If . . . ." preached violence. But some people will never read the writing on the wall.
Your humble narrator and friend,
New York Times -- 27th February, 1972
'Clockwork Orange' to get an 'R' Rating
Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange" will be withdrawn from exhibition for 60 days beginning about the end of october in accordance with rules governing a change in its rating from X to R.
In a statement issued in London, Mr. Kubrick said that the Motion Picture Association of America had given the film an X rating because of explicit sexual material involving two scenes -- about 30 seconds of scene time.
"I have now replaced those 30 seconds with less explicit film from the same scenes," he said. "The film has been resubmitted to the M.P.P.A., who viewing it, and who now having no further reason to rate it X, have changed the rating to R."
"A Clockwork Orange," based on the Anthony Burgess novel, opened in New York last Dec. 19 and won the best film award of the New York Critics and best director award for Mr. Kubrick.
The R-rated version, which is expected to be released before the end of the year, will be available for booking in many areas where X-rated films are not permitted to be shown, a spokesman for Warner Brothers, the distributor, said.
New York Times -- 25th August, 1972
A Clockwork Orange
Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange is the first Warner Bros release ever to play for over a year in the West End of London. A Clockwork Orange opened on January 13, 1972, at the Warner West End Theatre, and so far 550,716 cinemagoers have totalled up a gross of £438,797 for the film.
The Times -- 18th January, 1973
'Clockwork Orange' link with boy's crime
The violent film , A Clockwork Orange, was in the mind of a boy aged 16 who beat an elderly tramp to death, it was alleged at Oxford Crown Court yesterday. The only money the tramp, Mr David McManus, aged 60, had, 1½p, was missing when his body was searched, Mr John Owen, for the prosecution said. The boy, who comes from Bletchley, Buckinghamshire, was sentenced to be detained during her Majesty's pleasure for murder. He had pleaded guilty.
The boy told the police that his friends had told him about the film "and the beating up of an old boy like this one".
Mr Owen said: "If this was robbery, it was all for 1½p or it may have been carried out for excitement as a result of the film. If so, the makers of the film have much to answer for." It seemed as if momentarily the devil had been planted in the boy's subconscious.
The irresistable conclusion was that it was the influence of the book. Many people had much to answer for, whether they were authors, film directors, television producers or those who allowed those films to be shown. He continued:
"It has produced a canker among the impressionable young, which all reasonable people desire to see stamped out at once".
Mr Roger Gray, for the defence, said: "The link between this crime and sensational literature, particularly A Clockwork Orange, is established beyond any reasonable doubt".
The Times -- 4th July, 1973
Film an argument for censorship, judge says
From our Correspondent
Manchester, July 23
Judge Bailey at Manchester Crown Court today attacked the film Clockwork Orange. He said it presented an "unassailable argument" for a form of censorship.
He had heard of the Sunday afternoon a boy aged 16, dressed like a character in the film, had attacked a boy aged 15. Sending him to borstal, the judge said: "Cases like yours present, in my view, an unassailable argument in favour of the return as quickly as possible of some sort of censorship to prevent this sort of exhibition being released on the screen or stage, which is evil in itself.
"If this happens, it will be very salutary in that those salacious creatures who appear to dominate what is called show business today are compelled to earn a more respectable and honorable livelihood instead of inciting young persons to violence at the expense of their victims."
He said that it was the second case he had heard in the past three weeks in which "a dispicable young bully has attributed his wicked behaviour to having seen this dastardly film".
The boy was convicted at heywood, Lancashire, on June 13 of causing grievous bodily harm to the boy of 15. He was said to have kicked him several times while wearing heavy boots.
The Times -- 24th July, 1973
Pittsburgh -- A teenager was sentenced to life in prison for fatally stabbing and strangling a friend in a crime he said was influenced by seeing the film A Clockwork Orange. (AP)
The Times -- 24th August, 1990
Jane Giles, a projectionist at the Scala cinema, at King's Cross, London, has been charged under the Copyright Designs and Patents Act over a showing of the film A Clockwork Orange. The film, withdrawn from distribution by the director Stanley Kubrick, has not been shown in cinemas since the early 1970s.
The Times -- 21st January, 1993