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Mark Atwood
Review, A Clockwork Orange
I've been slowly watching A Clockwork Orange. Slowly, because it's a hard film to watch.

Not because the imagery is really all that shocking. At over forty years remove, the "shock" of the tittalating visual sexuality of that future (technically now an "alternate past") has been drained of most of it's energy. In fact, it's rather amusing and quaint, and oh so very "the future of 1970" in feel. And the portrayals of "ultra-violence" likewise. Alex and his "droogs" would have been chewed up as a light snack by any real-world contemporary urban street gang.

I think that's what makes it hard to watch, is that I can see what Kubrick and Burgess were trying to do, and they were being rather dumb about it. They were being so in the way that most every other non-genre writer is when they try to slum around in the SF genre neighborhood. Heck, SF writers from the mortifying era of Hugo Gernsback often did a better job of thinking their way thru the social implications of social and technological changes, and by the time that John Campbell was at the helm, quite a lot better.

Piers Anthony once wrote a schlocky SF novel titled The Ring, and everything that A Clockwork Orange was about, The Ring did better. (Otherwise, Anthony's novel was crap deeply flawed.)

Hell, Anthony even got correct the need for protective oversight of "the cured", and the deep social divide between "normal people" and "the cured", that the people in ACO were so surprised to discover and exploit.

This movie is important because of all the cultural referants based on it.

But as a story of ideas, it doesn't live up to the hype, and the older it gets, the less it does.

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6 comments or Leave a comment
hipgnosis6 From: hipgnosis6 Date: January 8th, 2007 01:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
I highly reccomend doing two things after watching Clockwork Orange:

Find and listen to a copy of the score. Not the soundtrack, but the amazing early electronic score by Wendy Carlos.

Read the book. It's a skinny little thing, but it makes a lot of things clear that get very blurred or glossed over in the film. Kubrick really does an amazing job of capturing the essence of the book, but there's a great deal packed into it that doesn't make it or doesn't translate well to the screen.
intrepid_reason From: intrepid_reason Date: January 8th, 2007 06:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
While the level of violence can't compare to modern day, it still disturbs me. It's like seeing a horror movie, I just won't, I've had enough scary shite in my life, I don't need to pay for it.
jordan179 From: jordan179 Date: January 8th, 2007 07:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
They were being so in the way that most every other non-genre writer is when they try to slum around in the SF genre neighborhood.

What I find irritating is the way in which the snob critics gush all over any "mainstream" writer who incorporates a science fiction idea into his book, even if he does so very badly and in a poorly thought-out fashion. Case in point: Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, which really makes no sense, but pushes all the right feminist-paranoia-towards-men buttons and hence is treated as a work of genius.

(I know I've ranted all about why the scenario doesn't work on Usenet, and you've probably read my rants, so I won't clog your blog with it again).
mauser From: mauser Date: January 9th, 2007 02:18 am (UTC) (Link)
My archetypical example of SFnal Agnosis is "Earth II" where the producers were PROUD that they didn't have anyone on the staff with even a nodding acquaintence with science fiction. I guess they thought it would somehow be "Fresh" if they reinvented the wheel, but they managed to invent a square one.
jordan179 From: jordan179 Date: January 9th, 2007 09:42 am (UTC) (Link)
I guess they thought it would somehow be "Fresh" if they reinvented the wheel, but they managed to invent a square one.

... and it almost always works that way. The reason why I say "almost" is that Olaf Stapledon claimed to be unaware of genre science fiction, and yet managed to write a number of ground-breaking science fiction novels, including the epics Last and First Men and Star-Maker, both of which introduced new concepts into the field.

Stapledon's claim is suspect, however. He did read a lot of the "pre-genre" science fiction, including most explicitly H. G. Wells (who was one of his major inspirations). And I find it very hard to believe that he hadn't read any of the stories that appeared in the American magazines, especially since I know some of them were reprinted in Britain by the 1930's at least.

One writer who I believe was strongly affected by the American pulps, and whose connection to these pulps has never been properly investigated, is J. R. R. Tolkien. In particular, I suspect him to have derived some inspirations from both Robert E. Howard and H. P. Lovecraft -- Howard, because of the similarity of obsessions (creating prehistoric "Nordic" type myth-worlds) and Lovecraft because of the Tolkienian use of horror in his fantasy (which is often under-realized by readers who just love the Elves and Hobbits). We also know that Tolkien was a voracious reader in general, and that one of the things he specifically did read was "weird fiction" -- in other words, science fiction and fantasy.
fallenpegasus From: fallenpegasus Date: January 13th, 2007 09:07 am (UTC) (Link)
You should clean it up a bit, and then post it to your blog.
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