1) A Clockwork Orange
Stanley Kubrick proved himself in the 1960s. Dr. Strangelove was like his “What’s up, guys?” and 2001: A Space Odyssey was like “Yeah. What’s up.” In 1971, he didn’t really have to prove himself as a respectable and virtuosic filmmaker; at this point, he just was one. And so his next project was decidedly one of the most shocking movies ever made, an X-rated satirical examination of violence and social psychology.
One of the qualities that marked movies of the 1970s was a consciousness of movie history unlike ever before. It’s an awareness that informed the work of cinephiles like Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg as they were rising to the fore of American cinema. A Clockwork Orange shares this awareness, this consciousness of cultural influence and the perceived effects of popular culture on the greater society.
But Kubrick subverts this modern notion, placing at the center of the film’s violent actions and sensibilities Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, as well as the generally amiable and harmless tune “Singin’ in the Rain,” sung by the main character Alex during a particularly gruesome and disturbing scene. It’s notable also that the film depicts violence with this kind of distance, in a slightly absurd manner in terms of some of the musical choices but with a disturbing level of realism in the nonchalance with which these violent deeds are carried out. The entire movie is deliberate and detailed, and challengingly ambiguous. But most of all, it’s cruelly compelling. All marks of surging trends at this time.
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