Before you gather your torches and pitchforks, just hear me out. I’m not denying that Stanley Kubrick was a prominent and impactful filmmaker. I mean, anyone who would deny that would be seriously mistaken. But prominent and impactful doesn’t mean infallible. A Clockwork Orange is my least favorite Kubrick film, and it’s one that I can’t seem to understand, no matter how hard I try. By “understand,” I’m not claiming that the film is confusing and beyond my level of intellect. “Understand” here is more of a “sympathize with.” I’m all for filmmakers constructing films that mess with the mind and push the limits, but this movie just goes a little bit too far, and believe me when I say that I’m usually the last person to say things like that. It isn’t too far because it has bare boobs or full frontal nudity of both sexes, but when Alex (Malcom McDowell, in a disturbing and excellent performance) is singing “Singin’ in the Rain” while raping Mrs. Alexander, it just turns me off.
And no, I’m not critical of all rape scenes. If rape is a key element in the plot, then there’s no reason not to include it in a film. Both of the rape scenes in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo are terrifically effective. The ones in this movie, though, just don’t work.
Even though it is my least favorite Kubrick film, it isn’t a “bad movie.” There are some visually dazzling bits, as anyone could expect from a director as precise as Kubrick. I like the stuff in the prison, but it comes too late and by then I’m already wanting it to end. The last hour feels like two. The wacky dystopia meshed with the rape and violence just doesn’t work. It may be art, but I don’t like it.