A Clockwork Orange (1972)

Genre: Crime, Sci-Fi, Drama

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Writers: Stanley Kubrick, Anthony Burgess (novel)

Starring: Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Michael Bates

Rating: ★★★★★

A film from one of my favourite directors, and one of the best directors to ever embrace the cinematic world, A Clockwork Orange challenged audiences to question the need for violence in life and wowed Academy’s as it picked up a string of awards including Best Picture and Best Director.  Previously being withheld from millions, once viewed it is obvious to see the brilliance behind a film which although has an unconventional storyline, holds cinema-changing craftsmanship.

Alex is a young boy, a member of a futuristic Britain, a much changed world. His main interests are ultra-violence, rape and Ludwig Van Beethoven of course. Rolling about with his three “droogs” Pete, Georgie and Dim he adventures on another night of mugging and raping, but when he faces a challenging woman after breaking into her house, he is arrested for murder and is imprisoned. Once inside he soon learns his life will be nothing but following orders and ending each sentence with “Sir”, but when hearing about a new experiment which could reduce his sentence he volunteers himself. The study attempts to brainwash convicts into detesting any form of violence, and once completed Alex is released into the mean streets he once created and ruled; his morals may have forcibly changed but others haven’t.

A Clockwork Orange is a rollercoaster of a film, with excitement and action in every sequence, something that Kubrick delivers excellently. The scenes of violence and rape are not as shocking as some explain, however what is problematic is how as an audience we are encouraged to side with Alex, and therefore break the rules in the film’s society as well as our own. Kubrick seems to question the need for violence in society, what you take from the film is down to your own mind-set and outlooks; however A Clockwork Orange is known as a film which seems to question individual’s morals and beliefs, making it somewhat unique.

The film is witty, and clever with the dialogue something I find brilliant. It makes the film fun, although it shouldn’t be given the plot, I find it really is. The futuristic world created is likewise the same, and both together seem to create interest and awe.

The acting is something which should be credited and for me Malcolm McDowell’s portrayal as Alex is fantastic and is one of my favourite. The deliverance of every line and syllable creates emotion, and every step and movement seems to be natural and exciting. Kubrick’s direction throughout really shows to full extent his talents, and why his breakthrough in cinema was so influential. The range of shots, the selection of shots and certain scenes are great. The way the camera pans in Mr and Mrs Alexander’s house was innovative whilst the close ups on Alex’s eyes in the testing scenes are rather disturbing, and that’s surprising considering the film itself.

The soundtrack is an interesting choice, the mixture of “Ol’ Ludwig Van” with violence summarises A Clockwork Orange perfectly, something with so much craft, making an unconventional masterpiece. However my favourite would be Singin’ in the Rain along with its inclusion within the film and certain scenes, in the mugging and rape scene as Alex starts to beat Mr Alexander it is clever and fun, a real highlight in the film. It’s a moment that you seem to find hard to remove from ya Gulliver!

A Clockwork Orange is a classic and a film which is part of history, another piece added by the fantastic Stanley Kubrick. Its unconventional, but that’s it likability, its unique, fun and exciting but at the same time it can shock its audience and eventually leave them with a few questions. I can’t find fault in Kubrick’s creation, maybe due to its uniqueness there is not much you can compare with, however every element seems to work and the end product is nothing short from flawless.

 

 

Advertisements

Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Genre: Crime, Thriller

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Writers: Quentin Tarantino, Roger Avary

Starring: Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Chris Penn, Steve Buscemi, Edward Bunker, Lawrence Tierney

Rating: ★★★★★

Reservoir Dogs was Quentin Tarantino’s breakthrough film as it made a prestigious name at the Sundance Festival of 92’.  A mixture between cool, gruesome and fun it is one of my favourite films being somewhat flawless in form of story, directing, acting and soundtrack.  It is entertaining from the very first second and deserves its place as an all-time classic and one of the best films ever made.

The film stays mainly within a warehouse in the aftermath of a jewellery heist gone incredibly wrong after a police ambush.  As the story unfolds we are introduced to the infamous colour-coded gangsters as the four remaining survivors discuss who’s betrayed them and “what the fuck happened!” Mr White (Harvey Keitel) and Mr Orange (Tim Roth) charge into the warehouse, Mr Orange has been shot in the gut, blood everywhere, Mr Pink (Steve Buscemi) shorty follows, screaming it’s a set-up. Shouting, swearing, screaming they’re clueless in what to do and who has betrayed them.  The film then switches showing the story of how they were picked for the job by leader, “the thing” look-alike Joe Calbot (Lawrence Tierney). Mr Blonde (Michael Madsen) then strolls in; he’s psychotic and has a cop in the boot as a hostage; they attempt to find the rat again. Soon after Eddie (Chris Penn) arrives, the son of Joe, he’s angry, Joe is angrier, they go through the plan again together, the meetings, their history looking for the rat that has turned a robbery into a mix between a bloodbath and a western stand-off.

It is easy to spot the link between the pure genius in structure when looking at Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction as it is flawless. Starting completely with intriguing dialogue and introductions, followed by thrilling action which leads to “flashbacks” filling every hole and answering every question about each character and story; finishing in an amazing end climax filled with swearing, loud bangs and blood.  The script is hilarious at times with so many classic lines – “Why am I Mr Pink?” “Cause you’re a fucking faggot” –  “Don’t you think Mr Brown is too close to Mr Shit” – “Are you gonna bark all day little doggy or are you gonna bite?” – The dialogue is then complemented by classic scenes, including the famous and somewhat horrific ear-cutting scene which is filmed directly to the 70’s classic Stuck in the Middle of You as Mr Blonde decides to play games with his hostage, it is one of my favourite film scenes ever created.  The whole film, from start to finish is filled with fun and entertainment and rarely within in a film there is not a single boring moment you want to rush through.

The characters are excellently developed within the structure, Mr White is our main character somewhat, and we like him most. Mr Pink is annoying, selfish and pig-like, he also doesn’t tip waitresses. Mr Blonde is a psycho; however he’s cool mysterious and someone who you wouldn’t argue with. The stories are so well structured and planned out you learn and see into the personality of each character. The acting of these characters is also a faultless aspect, Harvey Keitel as Mr White is brilliant with the final and opening scenes really being his highlights.  Buscemi’s Mr Pink is also another standout, although annoying he deserves credit for some great moments especially when he’s calming down Blonde and White.

The all 70’s soundtrack is something which adds this fun and different element to Reservoir Dogs making it stand out.  Simply including it would have had a great effect within the film however in a master-class way Tarantino many times makes the music diegetic putting it within the “film world”. Shown in full extent as Mr Blonde cuts of an ear and then throughout as the gang plays K-BILLY’s 70’s classics driving around.

Reservoir Dogs is an unforgettable watch, one which you will go back to time and time again as the film is definitely one of the best and most definitely one of my favourites ever made.  Tarantino’s debut is simply faultless showing its own created style within every frame.  Classic dialogue, an excellently executed story, a cool soundtrack along with brilliant acting makes this an easily watchable, fully entertaining experience.

Seven Samurai (1954)

Genre: Action, Drama

Director: Akira Kurosawa

Writers: Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto ,  Hideo Oguni

Starring: Toshirô Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Keiko Tsushima

Rating: ★★★★★

Seven Samurai is possibly one of the best and most popular Japanese films to be released until this present day with such a great deeper meaning behind an entertaining, touching and comedic story. Akira Kurosawa’s classic shows off some great directing and acting too from what was at the time an iconic and popular cast. Seven Samurai is a film that is must-watch not just for some entertainment but for appreciation of classic Japanese cinema as well as cinema as a whole.

The story of Seven Samurai follows a group of farmers who each year allows bandits to take their women, food and crops as they invade doing their expected “duties”. However they call for a time of change and for others to take action. Rikichi (Yoshio Tsuchiya) a young farmer demands that his fellow farmers must stand up and protect their land so they set off to their local town to hire seven Samurai to defend them from the bandits. Finding the Samurai is not easy for the farmers; those who pass have masters or better values than to serve peasants with the wage of a bowl of rice. Despite this they acquire their Seven Samurai returning to their farm, they begin to form a strategy and a plan to defend and defeat the bandits. When the bandits attack the Samurai and farmers stand brave and strong, but in a battle there are always fatalities and the farmers have to pay a price for their land.

Seven Samurai has a much more deeper meaning than what first meets the eye, the film is actually a metaphor for the battle between Japanese Society and the Military in 1954 Japan as post-war to American a big paradigm shift took place, something I will separately post about when I analyse Kurosawa’s classic. There’s so much depth to the story and characters that you seem to form a connection with so many and route for them all the way. The individual characters of the seven Samurai are brilliant, Kikuchiyo (Toshirô Mifune) is my personal favourite as he offers so much in the sense of comedy and for entertainment, and he also delivers such a powerful and meaningful speech. The character of Kyuzo (Seiji Miyaguchi) a skilled samurai is also brilliant, as at one point he arrives back with his sword telling the leader Kambei (Takashi Shimura) to cross off another two dead bandits. In a whole all the cast give great performances and even more than 50 years on they are still as believable and effective, like the film itself. A huge amount of credit is deserved and should be directed towards the writers for such amazing development of characters as well as conveying that important hidden meaning and additional message.

The directing from Kurosawa is also something that is excellent, something that makes Seven Samurai such a classic. The battle scenes are entertaining and a real treat, what I find remarkable is how at the time to manage to capture rain on the camera they had to use black dye and buckets full of water had to be constantly chucked over the set and actors. When you realise the effort they all went to, it is actually amazing. The way he also chooses to shoot certain scenes are interesting, especially when delivering those important messages which again help to emphasise arguments and values.

Another aspect I find a real positive is how Seven Samurai is a staggering 202 minutes,  in the present day that isn’t a common runtime but what I find remarkable is how despite that enormous length of time you stay so engaged and entertained, something I don’t think many modern day films could even achieve in short amount of time.  Since 1954 it has become a real classic and furthermore a “template film” in terms of structure and story, with films such as Antz (1997) playing a complete homage.

Seven Samurai is certainly my favourite Japanese film of all time, a real classic too and there’s no surprise it ranks so highly among IMBD’s Top 250. The story, directing and acting are just brilliant but once you analyse the film and truly see its excellence everything becomes a work of art. It brings great action, comedy and entertainment making it a real “must-watch” and an enjoyable experience so I would recommend it greatly.