75. 'A Clockwork Orange'
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Stanley Kubrick's eye-popping visual interpretation of Anthony Burgess'
classic, controversial novel is one of those films that will enthrall your
senses and repulse your sensibilities. Its star, misanthropic droog Alexander
DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell), is a truant high school student who likes to rape
and pillage at night. He also adores Beethoven. After he gets arrested for
murder, he volunteers for a bizarre rehabilitation process that makes him
physically ill when he conjures violent thoughts. McDowell, through his charming
portrayal of this shrewd sociopath, makes us sympathize with Alex, despite his
manipulation and emotional deceit.
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Before this film, Hollywood villains tended to be cultured madmen, rough 'n'
tumble gang leaders or brutal thugs. The brutal yet cultured Alex was an anomaly
that would become one of the greatest anti-heroes of '70s cinema (and beyond), a
diverse group that would also include Travis Bickle and Dirty Harry. During
college, I caught this film at Cinema Village and was disturbed at people
laughing at things that didn't seem funny, at least to me at the time. Many
people in his adopted UK did not like the film, and alleged threats against
Kubrick and his family lead to him withdrawing his own film from circulation
there for 27 years. By creating disturbing juxtapositions — such as a gang rape
and melee scene set to "The Thieving Magpie" — the director made us
uncomfortable with our own (often amused) reactions to the onscreen violence.
Satire at its wickedest. — Bryan Reesman Get more MSN
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(Malcolm McDowell in "A Clockwork Orange"/Courtesy Everett Collection/Rex