- STRAW DOGS
second of the Controversies series up for review,
Peter Krämer’s study of A Clockwork Orange
is considerably less interesting that Stevie Simkin’s look
at Straw Dogs.
While Simkin managed to straddle the line between academia and
popularism, Krämer comes down strictly on the side of academy,
and the book is worse for it.
It’s not as if there isn’t anything interesting to
work with – the story of A Clockwork Orange
is a long, complex and fascinating one, from Anthony Burgess claiming
to have written the book as catharsis after his wife was raped
by a gang of American GI’s (some have disputed this story),
through to Andy Warhol’s own movie version – Vinyl
– and the production, critical reception and eventual repression
of Kubrick’s film in the UK, this is a fascinating story.
But unfortunately, Krämer approaches it in a somewhat dry
manner, and can’t seem to escape the restrictions of the
academic – each section opens with a summary of what is
to come and closes with a recap of what we have just read. This
might be fine – necessary, even – in a dissertation,
but is pretty superfluous here, and while these books are aimed
primarily at the academic market, there is no reason why, as Simkin
generally did, they can’t also pitch themselves at the crossover
crowd. Too much of this book feels like the humourless, misguided
genre studies that briefly took over the cult movie book scene
in the mid 1990s. Krämer really lost me when he commented
“anyone… who sets out to produce a new piece of
writing about the film, should, of course, be grounded at least
in a basic, and ideally very intimate, familiarity withal that
has already been said about it by other scholars”.
Because God forbid that anyone could reach their own opinions
based on simply watching the film…
not a terrible book by any means – it manages a fairly exhaustive
study of the film’s history, and at least should help shut
up the smug commentators who love to criticise Kubrick for not
filming the final chapter of the book; as is pointed out here,
even Burgess was unsure about including this in the original novel,
and his own version of the screenplay also omitted it. Let’s
be honest here – the final chapter of A Clockwork
Orange feels like an old fashioned square-up reel, a
‘happy’ ending to take the edge of the story, while
Kubrick’s climax is one of cinema’s finest moments.
Also covered in detail are the press reactions, claims of copycat
violence and other hysterias surrounding the film., resulting
in Kubrick pulling it from release and the film reaching mythical
status in Britain.
But I found it hard to stay interested, thanks to the dry, rather
pompous tone of the book. This is one strictly for the media students
amongst you, I fear.
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