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Films that You DIDN'T UNDERSTAND...

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Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange". While I find the film intriguing and innovative for it's time I find myself wondering it's true message. Is it a product of it's time? some hidden political message I've yet to grasp? What is Kubrick trying to tell us?

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I'm 100% with you on "A Clockwork Orange".


I have one that I'd go even further with though, although I don't believe this has ever aired on TCM. "The English Patient", which won Best Picture for 1996, and about 7 other awards. This film just did NOTHING for me and to this day I don't understand how this was better than "Fargo" or just about any other film of that year.

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The Big Sleep.


I've seen this film about 5 times and I still can't connect all the dots. I've even TiVo'd it and backed it up to rewatch parts to try and get it.


Nope. No luck.


I was really happy when I heard Robert Osbourne say that he doesn't get it either. Made me feel alot better.

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I think this film was purposely confusing, to try to make it seem clever and intellectual and to bedazzle the audience.


One time I studied the film to try to figure it out, and I noticed during a nightclub scene later in the film Lauren Bacall tells Bogart something she had just learned about someone. Something about some guy being married to or dating some woman. I remembered that story from earlier in the film, so I re-wound the film and I discovered that Bogart told Becall that very same story earlier in the film while they were in his office. So the story is in the film twice, but even then it didn?t make any sense.

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That might be it, Fred. Or I was thinking that maybe someone did a bad job of editing, and edited out some dialog that would make the thing make sense.


As it stands, whenever I watch that film I have this sense of "You can't get there from here".

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I've read the novel, along with other Raymond Chandler works. I think there is some point in the story where even Chandler can't explain who murdered someone. I think the best part of this film is Bogey going into the bookstore, and sparring with Dorothy Malone.

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I think that was the dead guy in the car that went off the end of Lido pier. The story goes... even the book author didn't know, when the film's script writers called him up to ask him.


Of course it's still a great film, for the acting, situations, and norisms.

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Hi, all --


Fred's exactly right about "The Big Sleep." The movie is faithfully adapted from Raymond Chandler's novel, and during a point in the shoot neither director Howard Hawks nor Bogart could figure out who had murdered the chauffer, whose body was found in the submurged limo. The team called Chandler, and the author couldn't figure out the answer either!

But it's like Leonard Maltin wrote in his film guide, the plot is all but incoherent, but the overall movie is "so entertaining, nobody has ever cared!"

As for the apparent repeated information in a scene between Bogart and Bacall, this could well be. What is sometimes forgotten is Hawks' "The Big Sleep" exists in two versions -- a 1945 pre-release version (that some U.S. servicemen apparently viewed overseas) and the much more commonly seen post-release version.

The big difference between the versions is that Bacall's character dresses more glamorously and shares more screen time w/Bogart in the final cut. This is because the studio insisted on having a film that could credibly follow in the wake of 1944's "To Have and Have Not," where Bogart and Bacall had proved an electrifying team. Very little of this romantic tension between the two was originally evident in the film, and new material, such as the lengthy sequence with all the double-entendres about horse riding, etc. etc. was added in retakes.

It is therefore possible that the repeated information was something that inadvertently happened during the major revamping that TBS underwent back in mid-1945.

It's probably also worth noting that in the book, Bacall's character murders the blackmailing serial pornographer (sorry, I forget his name). This plot wrinkle apparently was included in the screenplay at some point, and as I recall the story has to leap through some pretty big hoops to finally exonerate Bacall's character and point the finger at the younger character!


As for "A Clockwork Orange," ...well.

The late critic Pauline Kael, wriring in the New Yorker some years ago, distilled the central thesis of Kubrick's 1975 picture "Barry Lyndon" as being that "people are ugly and things are beautiful."

That was a little glib, but with more than a glimmer of truth. I think Kubrick's point in "A Clockwork Orange" (which is indisputably a masterpiece, in my opinion), is that humanity is more or less thoroughly rotten -- succumbing all the time to baser insticts and desires, and that Alex -- played by Malcolm McDowell -- has exceptional qualities as well (love of music, verbal wit) that many if not all of the other characters lack altogether.

ACO also asks whether brainwashing techniques like the "Ludovico Treatment" are an acceptable technique if they bring about an end to violence and and viciousness against women. The key scene is where Alex -- after his first encounter with the Ludovico Treatment -- expresses mystification to the female doctor that 'viddying' the scenes of violence and rape had made him ill. He always enjoyed things like that before, he says.

The illness occurred, says the doctor, "Because you are getting healthy. Violence is a sickening thing and it should arouse in us feelings of revulsion and horror."

That's quite a paraphrase, so excuse me, but the content is correct.

Of course, it's rather hard to quibble with the doctor's rationale -- who does want to stand up in favor of violence and rape -- but the plain fact is Alex is just being conditioned like a dog -- and that his 'sickness and revulsion' is directly in conflict with his actual desires.

So...what can we say?

ACO (which I just had the pleasure of looking at again) is a tough picture. Kubrick is exploring big ideas about the human condition, and he doesn't paint a pretty portrait. There's no real 'buried' message in the film, just a exceptionally jaundiced view of humanity, which, when you think about it, has already been sketched in films like "Dr. Strangelove" and "The Killing," and which will be presented again -- unforgettably -- by Jack Nicholson and company in "The Shining."

Kubric surely was no Capra. But I think the world would be a less interesting place, surely, without Kubric's films. (Or Capra's, for that matter.)

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I actually prefer "The English Patient" to Fargo. "I can still taste you," is, in my opinion, one of the most erotic lines of the nineties. The fact that Fiennes' character is having an affair with his friend's wife and ends up helping the Nazis make him, in my opinion, a complex character. By contrast William Macy in "Fargo" earns our contempt not because his plans end up in people getting killed, but because he is a pathetic loser.

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Hopefully Fargo was more than just Macy. Fienne's character was essentially an adulterer. If he was much more than that, then I'm not remembering.




The help he gave to the Nazis was practically by default if I remember rightly. He had to get his identity straightened out and to do so lent the appearance of being a Nazi sympathizer although he was not ideologically tied to the Nazis at all. I enjoyed Fargo much more. The English Patient did have its moments though (as you point out). It had one of the most passionate (albeit brief) love scenes I?ve ever seen. Fienne?s character manages to excuse himself from the get-together in the patio and arrange a meeting with KST in an adjacent building. With the noise of potential discovers all around, he puts her against a wall and she is so overcome with passion that she bites anything she can get a hold of, which just so happened to be his finger. Maybe it's something you have to see, but I thought it an effective scene with a nice touch.

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