Inspired by Robert K. Elder’s book (The Film That Changed My Life) I thought it would be fun to take that very idea and point that question in the direction of fellow bloggers and cinema enthusiasts such as myself and see what the result ends up being.
My relationship with Stanley Kubrick and his film A Clockwork Orange has been one of mutual respect and nightmares. It’s taken me near eight years of movie watching to be able to sit through this film without needing the same treatment that McDowell himself had done to him in the procedure. I’m actually happy that this interview forced me to rewatch the film because I found a lot more to love this time around. Anyways hope you enjoy the interview below:
Me: Well, tell me about the first time you actually saw this film.
A. James: The first time I saw A Clockwork Orange I was over at a friend’s house, I was about fourteen years old, maybe fifteen, and I was just sleeping over and we were looking for a movie to watch and we’re going through all the usual suspects: the John Hughes’ and Vacation and all this stuff and then his Dad comes down and says, “you guys want to see something really crazy? Something you’ve never seen before.” We we’re like, “I don’t know old man. I don’t know if we want to watch your kind of stuff, but, alright sure. Show us something CRAZY,” and he’s like, “it’s called A Clockwork Orange, it’s from the early 70s, I think you guys will love it.” He popped it in, and we watched the thing, and I was mesmerized. I was actually really surprised that I liked it so much, because up until that point, for the most part, I was into just mainstream blockbuster type stuff; the Steven Spielbergs, the Robert Zemeckis or John Hughes, like I said. So all of a sudden there’s this thing that I’ve never seen anything like it before. I watched it and just went, “WOW. You can do this?” I think from there that is what just made me branch out to other things.
Me: You said that at that age you were watching a lot of “blockbusters” like John Hughes and such, did you come from a home where you were restricted in your movie watching?
A. James: Not at that age. In fact, when I was a kid we had Showtime and HBO, which showed all the movies and my mom was a little bit strict on stuff, but she couldn’t watch me all the time. I saw some horror movies and I saw some John Carpenter stuff and whatnot. For the most part though, I wasn’t quite interested in anything that was remotely art house I guess. I always thought that foreign films were stuffy boring dramas and had not interest.
I watched a lot of stuff, just most of it was really fantastical or action.
Me: Getting onto the ultra-violence of this film, being a sticking point with a lot of people. The way that Kubrick, not necessarily, glorifies violence, sex and youth overtaking age in the film, especially with that early scene with the bum under the tunnel. You say you were mesmerized by this film. Did that sort of imagery help or hurt at all?
A. James: Definitely. That was the first time I had seen violence and sex played for, I hesitate to say, comedy, but definitely like in a humourous way. At the same time though it’s very brutal and hard to stomach and I think that is what was so great about it, because I felt uncomfortable watching this stuff, but at the same time it was thrilling andyou have a smile on your face. There’s that really intense rape scene where they go in and beat up an old guy and rape his wife but the whole time he’s singing Signin’ In The Rain and kicking the guy, in rhythm, and they’re dressed up in these crazy costumes. It’s this thing where you’re disgusted but you just can’t look away because it’s so surreal.
I still think that’s one of the greatest sex scenes ever with this sped up William Tell overture and he’s got the two girls in his room. Not only that, but there’s other nudity. Malcolm McDowell is naked a couple of times, where you ‘see’ stuff, and the jail warden sticks a flashlight up his butthole and you’re watching this and for me that was all new stuff that I had never seen before.
Me: You said you watched it for the first time when you were fourteen years old. I’m going to make a leap and assume that you didn’t get all of the nuances of the story at that point in your life.
A. James: Probably not. I’m thirty-six now. I feel like everytime I watch it I gather something new from it. At the time though I was more shocked than anything else. Not that the movie is that shocking, especially today. If a kid who’s fourteen today who’s seen everything on the internet then watches this he might not be shocked, but I was. I had just watched Back to the Future. I’d seen some brutal stuff, sure, but it was like The Beastmaster and stuff. It was all fantastical and fun. This put a heightened realism on everything that was just really intense.
Of course there’s also all this commentary and Stanley Kubrick is working with the idea of behavioural modification and I’m not sure if I got into all that political stuff and realized exactly everything that was going on, but it was fun just watching it.