Review: ‘Once Upon a Time … “A Clockwork Orange”’

Once Upon a Time … "A

A wonderfully unusual cine-documentary that focuses more on the titular movie's historical context and philosophy than on its production and reception.

Co-written by critic Michel Ciment and featuring interviews with a psychologist and a sociologist, “Once Upon a Time … ‘A Clockwork Orange'” is a wonderfully unusual cine-documentary that focuses more on the titular movie’s historical context and philosophy than on its production and reception. Gallic docu benefits from archival audio commentary by the late Stanley Kubrick, who offers his rationale for making the controversial, devilishly prescient proto-punk cult classic: “Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven.” Though the docu is absent from Warners’ “Clockwork” reissue on Blu-ray, its co-production by TCM raises hopes of Stateside cable play.

Despite Kubrick’s legendary control, star Malcolm McDowell here takes credit for several key costume elements, including the bowler hat, oversized eyelashes, and pre-assault song-and-dance of his ultraviolent character. Still, the filmmaker’s sizable presence is all over the docu, whose Kubrickian tracking shots down the long, private road to his family’s Hertfordshire manse will enthrall obsessive fans. “A Clockwork Orange” (1971), based on Anthony Burgess’ 1962 book, is chiefly situated by Ciment and his collaborators in relation to the ’60s rise of youth-generation rebellion and concurrent popularity of behavioral therapy.

Once Upon a Time … "A Clockwork Orange"

France

Production

A Folamour, Arte France, Turner Classic Movies production, with the support of Centre National du Cinema et de L'Image Animee (CNC). Produced by Marie Genin. Directed by Antoine de Gaudemar. Written by Michel Ciment, de Gaudemar, Serge July, Marie Genin.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Emmanuelle Collinot; editor, Isabelle Martin. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Cannes Classics), May 19, 2011. Running time: 54 MIN.

With

Stanley Kubrick (voice), Anthony Burgess, Malcolm McDowell, Christiane Kubrick, Jan Harlan, Warren Clarke, Bernard Williams, Gaspar Noe, Laurent Mucchielli, Elisabeth Roudinesco. (French, English dialogue)

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