Kubrick considered `Clockwork Orange' re-release
FILM CONTROVERSY Before his death, director contemplated lifting his own ban on showing of his violent classic based on the Burgess novel
Friday 03 December 1999
The director had talked with the film distributor to determine whether he should reverse his decision, made in 1973, to withdraw the film from cinemas in the UK. Yesterday, it was revealed that Warner Brothers is hoping to re- release the film next year.
For 27 years, Kubrick's adaptation of Anthony Burgess's futuristic novel of urban violence has been unseen in Britain, except in the form of flickering bootleg copies.
However, Kubrick had not forgotten the British audience for the film, which has continued to be shown elsewhere around the world. He spoke regularly on the subject to Julian Senior, a senior vice-president of Warner Brothers.
"Over the last couple of years we talked about it many times," said Mr Senior. "Two or three years ago he didn't think it was the right time to do it. He then disappeared off on Eyes Wide Shut [his final project]."
While Kubrick was working on that film, the subject of A Clockwork Orange receded. After that "although it was never specifically on the agenda we did discuss it generally," said Mr Senior, indicating that, by the time of his death in March, Kubrick had been still prepared to talk about the matter, but had not yet made up his mind. "I said to him I didn't think there would be the kind of violent reaction there was in 1972," Mr Senior said.
Crucially, the director's widow, Christiane, retains rights of consultation on releasing A Clockwork Orange. She is now on holiday but, with her brother, Jan, will continue discussions with Warner Brothers on her return in January.
The film is now before the British Board of Film Classification, which is deciding which certificate to give it for release in cinemas to replace the "X" certificate it earned in 1972. Warner Brothers has not asked the board to pass the film for video release.
James Baxter, author of a recent biography of Kubrick, said: "The idea that somehow Kubrick was deeply involved in a moral issue over this is completely erroneous. His way was always to let somebody else fight his battles for him. He let Anthony Burgess fight the battles over A Clockwork Orange.
"As to the re-release, you can see from this, the family never had any strong objections to it. I think Warner Brothers always wanted to have it on release. It is in every other country in the world and has been since it was made."
Kubrick's decision to withdraw the film came to light only when the National Film Theatre asked for a copy to show as part of a retrospective. "He [Kubrick] withdrew the film secretly, nobody knew it had been withdrawn, it had come to the end of its life [in the cinema]... Kubrick simply arranged with Warner that the film would just be allowed to die off quietly."
The film's proposed re- release was welcomed by experts yesterday. "It's a very, very disturbing film, there's no question about that, and I'm not confident that little bits and pieces from it won't be copied again," said David Thomson, author of the Biographical Dictionary of Film, referring to the old controversy over copy-cat violence. "But I'm all for the film being released and the taboo quality being taken from it."
Jim Wilson, deputy head of production at FilmFour, said the impact of the film would be in its cinematic quality.
"A Clockwork Orange is part of an undervalued, auteur-driven vision of cinema which is quite rare now, and will be an inspiration to young British film-makers."
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