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A Clockwork Orange (free)

  • Central Library 201 West Mifflin Street Madison, WI, 53703 United States (map)

As part of the annual Banned Books Week in September, which celebrates a free press and open access to literature, the Cinesthesia Series is presenting Stanley Kubrick's iconic classic A Clockwork Orange (1971) on Blu-ray. The film is based on on Anthony Burgess' linguistically innovative 1962 novel, which uses the backdrop of an oppressively bleak England to satire society's obsession with behavioral psychology and its facile arguments about goodness and morality. Kubrick's avant-garde direction adds yet another layer to Burgess' lurid and subversive story with a fourth wall-breaking opening zoom that introduces viewers to the sadistic indulgences of the anti-authoritarian Droogs gang, posed as mannequins and anachronistically dressed in white collared shirts, false eyelashes, blonde wigs, and black bowler hats. With a thrilling menace, leader Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell) narrates, in Nadsat slang, their threatening conduct and warped code as they down glasses of "milk-plus" laced with LSD and mescaline, pick "ultra-violent" fights with rival Billyboy (Richard Connaught), and raid the home of dissident writer F. Alexander (Patrick Magee). These and other terrorizing acts in the film, committed by or against Alex and his cronies, are ironically scored with rousing classical music (from the likes of Beethoven and Edward Elgar), demonstrating Kubrick's taste for the absurd and his belief in pushing the bounds of cinematic language. To further stress the urgency of his adaptation and vision, Kubrick himself once called the film "a running lecture on free will," which peaks when Alex is captured by the authorities and forced to endure a comparably cruel rehabilitation (or aversion therapy). As with Thomas Pynchon, the cunning brilliance of Burgess helped to usher in postmodernism, and Kubrick helped bring this dystopian tale to a wider audience a decade later. Today, amid an alarming resurgence of fascism, A Clockwork Orange is simply vital viewing. —Grant Phipps

Earlier Event: September 27
Antibalas, Black Market Brass
Later Event: September 28
Ran (free)