Directed by Stanley Kubrick (1971, rated R, 136 minutes)
Sponsored jointly by the Yale Film Study Center (courtesy of Paul L. Joskow), Films at the Whitney (supported by the Barbakow Fund for Innovative Film Programs at Yale), and the Yale Center for British Art, this film will be screened in 35 mm at the Whitney Humanities Center, 53 Wall Street.
The following film notes have been written by the artist George Shaw:
“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.” So wrote George Orwell in 1984. That picture and that future appeared in cinemas as A Clockwork Orange. Based on Anthony Burgess’s 1962 novel, Kubrick’s film follows the teenage Alex and his gang of “droogs” on a trail of rape, murder, and “ultraviolence” leading to his eventual psychological “rehabilitation.” In the spirit of much dystopian science fiction, the film remains shocking and relevant. Kubrick himself withdrew the film from British release in response to allegations that it led to copycat violence.
Although it’s set in the future, the film always looks like it’s set in the 1970s Britain I grew up in (industrial disputes, power cuts, ludicrous clothes). Everything was under a constant shadow of violence: from gangs of youth on the streets to police brutality, from bigger boys in the playground to teachers in the classroom. And you always had to be on your guard—if you looked or acted differently, even more so.
This screening is part of the artist’s film series Films of Innocence and Experience, with titles selected by George Shaw.
Film was an important part of my childhood years and continues to be an influence in how I see the world. Films have had an influence in nearly every one of my paintings. For this series, I have selected films from a range of genres, including the kitchen sink tradition of the sixties through to science fiction, crime, horror, and comedy. For me, they present a picture of Britain that is almost autobiographical, and I see in them a landscape that is so familiar, so angry, so disturbing, so eerie, and so funny that it can only be the Britain in which I grew up.
The title of the series is a nod to William Blake’s illustrated book of poetry Songs of Innocence and Experience, which I had the pleasure of viewing during my last trip to the Center. When I was asked to select some of my favorite films to complement the exhibition, I found that many of the themes in the films I chose echoed those within Blake’s poetry: Innocence falling into experience at the hands of the state, of religion, of industry, of economics, of the abuses of power, and of our own fears and anxieties as life slips by.