On the Edge
Monday night Kubrick retrospective at the Michigan Theater wraps up in November and early December.
After such audacious landmark films as Dr. Strangelove, Lolita, the trippy 2001: A Space Odyssey (October 31) and A Clockwork Orange, no one expected Kubrick to come out with something like 1975's Barry Lyndon (November 7), a period costume drama. Like many fans of the time, I dismissed it as a bore, but in fact it is a lush, lustrous, and canny film for the patient viewer.
It is only a short distance between at the top and over the top, and Kubrick's films always balance precariously near that cliff edge. None teeters so daringly as 1971's A Clockwork Orange (November 14). Many films can be carelessly described as groundbreaking, but this movie about a charming psychopath (Malcolm McDowell) presages a slew of cinematic knockoffs about nihilistic youth gang culture violence and chilling institutional retribution. None matches the intensity and audacity of A Clockwork Orange; none is nearly as disturbing nor as can't-stop-watching entertaining. And forty years later, one still wonders in amazement how Kubrick was so prescient about the "ultraviolent" future yet to unfold.