When Stanley Kubrick Banned His Own Film, A Clockwork Orange: It Was the “Most Effective Censorship of a Film in British History”

"What in hell is Kubrick up to here?" asked Roger Ebert in his original 1972 review of A Clockwork Orange, whose marketing announced it as a film about "the adventures of a young man whose principal interests are rape, ultra-violence, and Beethoven." How could this acclaimed director really want to involve us in the "psychopathic little life" of this dubious protagonist? "In a world where society is criminal, of course, a good man must live outside the law. But that isn't what Kubrick is saying. He actually seems to be implying something simpler and more frightening: that in a world where society is criminal, the citizen might as well be a criminal, too."

Others in the press leveled similar criticisms at A Clockwork Orange, most of them much simpler and more accusatory. They had more serious consequences for the picture in Kubrick's adopted homeland of England. Within two weeks of its release there, writes David Hughes in The Complete Kubrick, "right-wingers and tub-thumping MPs were baying for the film to be banned there before copycat violence could spread among the nation's impressionable youth. Under a headline that read 'CLOCKWORK ORANGES ARE TICKING BOMBS,' the Evening News predicted that the film would 'lead to a clockwork cult which will magnify teen violence.'"

The direct attributions of violent incidents involving young people to A Clockwork Orange continued until the film was finally pulled from British theaters — by the filmmaker himself. "In early 1974, Kubrick and Warner Bros quietly withdrew it from circulation," Hughes writes, "refusing to allow it to be shown under any circumstances." Attempted breaches of this "most effective censorship of a film in British history" were dealt with harshly: London's Scala Cinema, for example, was forced to shut its doors forever after showing the film in 1992. A Clockwork Orange finally received a British re-release in 2000, the year after Kubrick's death.

That same year the documentary Still Tickin': The Return of A Clockwork Orange, which you can watch on YouTube, told the story of the film's suppression and re-emergence. But why would such a forcefully individualistic filmmaker as Stanley Kubrick pull his own film from circulation in the first place? "Stanley was very insulted by the reaction, and hurt," Hughes quotes his widow Christiane as saying. Kubrick "didn't want to be misunderstood and misinterpreted," nor did he want to keep receiving the "death threats" that the bad press had been drawing.

Kubrick "never spoke about the decision" to ban his own movie, writes Devin Faraci at Birth.Movies.Death., and surely didn't see it as to blame for youth violence in Britain, but "he was still sickened to see the clothes of his characters hung on these perpetrators. The message of his film was being missed, and he refused to let the movie take on a life of its own." Kubrick had discussed his own opposition to the idea that art promotes violent behavior during the initial promotion of A Clockwork Orange: "There has always been violence in art," he said to journalist Michel Ciment. "There is violence in the Bible, violence in Homer, violence in Shakespeare, and many psychiatrists believe that it serves as a catharsis rather than a model."

In Kubrick's view, "the people who commit violent crime are not ordinary people who are transformed into vicious thugs by the wrong diet of films or TV. Rather, it is a fact that violent crime is invariably committed by people with a long record of anti-social behavior, or by the unexpected blossoming of a psychopath who is described afterward as having been '...such a nice, quiet boy.'" Either way, "immensely complicated social, economic and psychological forces are involved," and "the simplistic notion that films and TV can transform an otherwise innocent and good person into a criminal has strong overtones of the Salem witch trials." Whether or not Kubrick went too far in withdrawing A Clockwork Orange, he certainly had a clearer sense of what creates the kind of malevolent characters it depicts than many of its early viewers did.

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Stanley Kubrick’s Rare 1965 Interview with The New Yorker

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away Opens in China 18 Years After Its Original Release: See Beautiful New Posters for the Film

Animation fans all over the world love the films of Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, but animation fans in China have never, until very recently, been able to see them on the big screen. Part of the problem has to do with the sensitivity of Chinese authorities to what sort of media enters the country — especially media from a country like Japan, with which China has not always seen eye to eye. "Miyazaki films did not open theatrically in China until a re-release of My Neighbor Totoro in December 2018," writes Indiewire's Zack Scharf, "one sign that the relationship between Japan and China is getting less tense."

Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli has produced few characters as winning as Totoro — the outsized guardian of the forest who resembles a cross between a cat, an owl, and maybe a bear — and his winning over of China's censors seemed to have opened the gates to the Middle Kingdom for the rest of Miyazaki's beloved filmography. "The Totoro release was a huge box office success with more than $26 million," writes Scharf, "and Spirited Away is widely expected to perform even better given its enduring popularity." Having opened in Japan back in 2001 as 千と千尋の神隠し, or "The Spiriting-Away of Sen and Chihiro," it stands not only as the top-grossing film of all time at the Japanese box office, but one of the several undisputed masterpieces among Miyazaki's works.

Spirited Away tells the story of a ten-year-old girl who, lost in an abandoned amusement park, finds her way into a parallel world populated with the countless spirit creatures enumerated in the Japanese folk religion of shinto — which, as revealed in Wisecrack's video essay "The Philosophy of Hayao Miyazaki," figures heavily into some, and perhaps all of the master's work. As displeasing as the presence of religion, let alone a Japanese religion, may long have been to Chinese higher-ups, the Chinese public's enthusiasm for Miyazaki's films can hardly be disputed.

That powerful force could even return to Spirited Away the title of most successful Japanese animated film ever, which it held until Makoto Shinkai's Your Name came along in 2017. The marketing of Spirited Away's eighteen-year-late Chinese theatrical release, which includes this series of posters newly designed by artist Zao Dao, will certainly help give it a push. Every Ghibli enthusiast in China will certainly come out for it, and with luck, they may also be able to see the upcoming How Do You Live? — Miyazaki's next and perhaps final film, for whose production he came out of the latest of his retirements — in theaters along with the rest of the world.

via @MadmanFilms

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

 

Watch 3,000 Films Free Online from the National Film Board of Canada, Including Portraits of Leonard Cohen, Margaret Atwood & Jack Kerouac

What, exactly, is Canada? The question sometimes occurs to Americans, living as they do right next door. But it might surprise those Americans to learn that Canadians themselves ask the very same question, living as they do in a country that could be defined by any number of its elements — its vastness, its multiculturalism, The Kids in the Hall — but never seems defined by any one of them in particular. Many individuals and groups throughout Canadian history have participated in the project of explaining Canada, and indeed defining it. Few have done as much as the National Film Board of Canada and the filmmakers it has supported, thanks to whom "three thousand films, from documentaries to narrative features to experimental shorts, are available to stream free of charge, even for Americans."

Those words come from The Outline's Chris R. Morgan, who writes that, "for the 'Canuckophile' (not my coinage but a term I happily own), the NFB’s Screening Room is one of the supreme pleasures of the internet. Since 1939, the NFB has facilitated the telling of Canada’s story in its people’s own words and images."

Morgan points up to such NFB-supported productions as 1965's Ladies and Gentlemen … Mr. Leonard Cohen, which "follows the titular 30-year-old poet giving witty readings, partying, and living around Montreal," and the 2014 Shameless Propaganda, described at the Screening Room as an examination of "Canada's national art form." That art form developed in the years after the NFB's founding in 1939, a time when its founding commissioner John Grierson called documentaries a "hammer to shape society."

Not that most of what you'll find to watch in the NFB's screening room comes down like a hammer — nor does it feel especially propagandistic, as we've come to understand that term in the 21st century. Take, for instance, the documentary portraits of Canadian writers like Margaret Atwood and Jack Kerouac.

The latter lead a life described by filmmaker Herménégilde Chiasson as "a Franco-American odyssey," which will remind even the most Canada-unaware Americans of one thing that clearly sets Canada apart: its bilingualism. That, too, provides material for a few NFB productions, including 1965's Instant French, a short about "the adventures of a group of businessmen who are forced into taking French lessons to stay competitive in their field."

"At first put out by this news," continues the description at the Screening Room, "one by one they begin to realize that gaining fluency in another language has its benefits." Hokey though it may sound — "definitely a product of its time," as the NFB now says — a film like Instant French offers a glimpse into not just Canada's past but the vision for society that has shaped Canada's present and will continue to shape its future. You can browse the NFB's large and growing online archive by subject (with categories including literature and language, music, and history) as well as through playlists like "Expo 67: 50 Years Later," "Extraordinary Ordinary People," — and, of course, "Hockey Movies," which  reminds us that, elusive though Canadian culture as a whole may sometimes feel, certain important parts of it aren't that hard to grasp.

via The Outline

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

See the Very First Solar Eclipse Captured on Film: A Magical Moment in Science and Filmmaking (1900)

The “conquest of space,” so to speak—the human understanding of and travel to the cosmos—has come about through a succession of great scientific minds, as well as some of the most interesting and accomplished people all around. We never seem to tire of learning about their devotion to mathematics, physics, medicine, and scientific discovery writ as large as possible. But sometimes the conquest of space has required the unique talents of magicians. From the ancient mages who excited human imagination about the stars for thousands of years, to alchemists like Isaac Newton and beyond.

Witness the strange career of Marvel Whiteside Parsons, better known as Jack Parsons: sci-fi fanatic, occultist, disciple of Aleister Crowley, and onetime magical partner of L. Ron Hubbard. Parsons is most famous for founding the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the research center that powers NASA. Then we have magician Nevil Maskelyne—son of magician John Nevil Maskelyne, and possible descendent, so he said, of the fifth British Royal Astronomer, “also named Nevil Maskelyne,” writes Jason Daley at Smithsonian. Maskelyne the very much younger documented the first total solar eclipse ever captured on film.

Granted, he was a stage magician, not a follower of “The Great Beast 666.” Maskelyne's interest in showmanship and spectacle drew him not to sex magic but to filmmaking and astronomy, interests he combined when he made the first film ever of a total solar eclipse. Nowadays, millions of people have the means to make such a film in their pocket, provided they have a good view of the infrequent cosmic event (and do not ever look at it directly). In 1900, when Maskelyne undertook the challenge, filmmaking was just emerging from infancy into toddlerhood.

The Lumière brothers, often credited as the first filmmakers, had held their first public screening only five years earlier. They called their early productions actualités, essentially "reality films." Some of these, like the legendary L'arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat, famously shocked and terrified audiences out of their seats. In 1900, film was still a kind of magic, and “like magic,” says Bryony Dixon, curator at the British Film Institute (BFI), film “combines both art and science.” The story of Maskelyne’s achievement is “a story about magic.”

Maskelyne’s love for film inspired in him a passion for astronomy as well, and he eventually became a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. Unfortunately, his first cinematic contribution to the field disappeared, never to be seen again. Two years before he shot the footage above from the ground in North Carolina on May 28, 1900, on a venture funded by the British Astronomical Association, Maskelyne traveled to India to document a similar event. The film cannister was stolen on his return trip home

But he had learned what he needed to, having designed “a special telescopic adapter for a movie camera,” just as he and his father had earlier improved upon the film projector by building their own. Maskelyne had his spectacle. He showed the film in his theater, and the Royal Astronomical Society ensured that we could see it almost 120 years later by archiving a minute of the footage. Thanks to a partnership between the British Film Institute and the RAS, the film has been restored, digitized in 4K resolution, and made freely available online as part of a trove of Victorian-era films” just released by the BFI.

While thousands, maybe millions, of different moving images of 2017's solar eclipse exist on social media accounts, of this event 120 years ago there has existed only one. Now that brief moment in time can reach millions of people in an instant, and exist in an infinite number of perfect copies, a phenomenon that might have seemed in 1900 like an advanced form of magic.

via Smithsonian

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Watch the First Trailer for Martin Scorsese’s New Film, Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story 

Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story "captures the troubled spirit of America in 1975, and the joyous music that Bob Dylan performed that fall [during the Rolling Thunder Revue tour]. Master filmmaker Martin Scorsese creates a one-of-a-kind movie experience: part documentary, part concert film, part fever dream. Featuring Joan Baez, Rubin Hurricane Carter, Sam Shepard, Allen Ginsberg, and Bob Dylan giving his first on-camera interview in over a decade. The film goes beyond mere reclamation of Dylan’s extraordinary music—it’s a roadmap into the wild country of artistic self-reinvention."

Watch the brand new trailer above, and mark June 12th on your calendar when the film arrives on Netflix.

Relatedly, June 7th is when Dylan will release The Rolling Thunder Revue: The 1975 Live Recordings, a 14CD box set that features all five sets from the Rolling Thunder Revue tour that were professionally recorded.

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Elton John Takes Us Through the Creative Process of His Early Hit “Tiny Dancer” (1970)

We all have our favorites from Elton John’s vast catalog, and I’ll admit that 1970’s "Tiny Dancer" has never been one of mine.

Call me crass, but I tend to get it confused with 1973's "Candle in the Wind," which John retooled so swiftly for Princess Diana’s 1997 funeral.

But then Sir Elton—or “Reg” as close friends and long-time lyricist Bernie Taupin call the artist formerly known as Reginald Kenneth Dwight—has always had a knack for working quickly, as Taupin explains above.

I’d never been curious enough to investigate, but assumed, correctly, that the lyric “seamstress for the band” referred to an actual person.

John actually seems a bit blasé, explaining that it’s about Taupin’s then girlfriend and eventual first wife, Maxine Feibelman, whom I must thank for inadvertently supplying the title of my favorite track, "The Bitch is Back," which was her code phrase for “Elton’s in a mood.”

As per Sir Elton, "Tiny Dancer"’s lyrics informed the sound, which is more ballerina than pirate smile.

And while the original liner notes’ dedication suggests that "Tiny Dancer" is indeed a tribute to Feibelman, three wives later, Taupin revised things a bit, telling author Gavin Edwards:

We came to California in the fall of 1970, and sunshine radiated from the populace. I was trying to capture the spirit of that time, encapsulated by the women we met—especially at the clothes stores up and down the Strip in L.A. They were free spirits, sexy in hiphuggers and lacy blouses, and very ethereal, the way they moved. So different from what I'd been used to in England. And they all wanted to sew patches on your jeans. They'd mother you and sleep with you—it was the perfect Oedipal complex.

Writer-director Cameron Crowe must’ve absorbed that message, to go by his memorable use of the song in Almost Famous’ tour bus scene,

Those communal good vibes permeate director Max Weiland’s winning entry in a recent John-sponsored contest on The Cut, which, like the opening scene of La La Land, gets a lot of mileage from LA’s reputation for traffic jams.

Can ticket buyers expect to find the song featured prominently in the just released John biopic, Rocketman?

No.

(Just kidding. Why else would John and his Rocketman doppelgänger, actor Taron Egerton choose that one for a duet at John’s annual Oscar party?)

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in New York City this June for the next installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Paris, New York & Havana Come to Life in Colorized Films Shot Between 1890 and 1931

Cities have long provided a rich environment for photography, at least to photographers not interested exclusively in nature. But only with the advent of the motion picture camera did the subject of cities find a photographic form that truly suited it. Hence the popularity in the 1920s of "city symphony" films, each of which sought to capture and present the real life of a different bustling industrial metropolis. But while city symphonies certainly hold up as works of art, they do make modern-day viewers wonder: what would all these capitals look like if I could gaze backward in time, looking not through the jittery, colorless medium of early motion-picture film, but with my own eyes?

Youtuber Ignacio López-Francos offers a step closer to the answer in the form of these four videos, each of which takes historical footage of a city, then corrects its speed and adds color to make it more lifelike.

At the top of the post we have "a collection of high quality remastered prints from the dawn of film taken in Belle Époque-era Paris, France from 1896-1900." Shot by the Lumière company (which was founded by Auguste and Louis Lumière, inventors of the projected motion picture), the sights captured by the film include the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Tuileries Garden, the then-new Eiffel Tower, and the now-soon-to-be-rehabilitated but then-intact Notre Dame cathedral.

The Paris footage was colorized using DeOldify, "a deep learning-based project for colorizing and restoring old images." So was the footage just above, which shows New York City in 1911 as shot by the Swedish company Svenska Biografteatern and released publicly by the Museum of Modern Art. "Produced only three years before the outbreak of World War I, the everyday life of the city recorded here — street traffic, people going about their business — has a casual, almost pastoral quality that differs from the modernist perspective of later city-symphony films," say the accompanying notes. "Take note of the surprising and remarkably timeless expression of boredom exhibited by a young girl filmed as she was chauffeured along Broadway in the front seat of a convertible limousine."

Shot twenty years later, these clips of New York's Theater District have also undergone the DeOldify treatment, which gets the bright lights (and numerous ballyhooing signs) of the big city a little closer to the stunning quality they must have had on a new arrival in the 1930s. The streets of Havana were seemingly quieter during that same decade, at least if the colorized footage below is to be believed. But then, the history of tourism in Cuba remembers the 1930s as something of a dull stretch after the high-living 1920s that came before, during the United States' days of Prohibition — let alone the even more daiquiri- and mojito-soaked 1950s that would come later, speaking of eras one dreams of seeing for oneself.

via Twisted Sifter

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

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