Monday, January 24

Malcolm McDowell remembers when Franco let us see ‘The Mechanical Orange’ the year of his death


The actor presents at the Seminci the documentary that reconstructs the 1975 premiere of Stanley Kubrick’s film four years after its worldwide release

Malcolm McDowell at Seminci on s
Malcolm McDowell at Seminci on Saturday during the presentation of ‘The Forbidden Orange’.GALICIAN NACHOEFE

To be good, he taught us Anthony Burgess, it can be horrible. Who knows if one of the most famous lines of A Clockwork Orange does not hide in its clarity the complicated story of the premiere of its film adaptation. Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 film that marks 50 years this year he had to suffer the unspeakable for his savage and transparent goodness. And that is why it was withdrawn in the United Kingdom for allegedly inciting violence, condemned to the category of film X in the United States and, since we are, defenestrated in an defenestrated Spain. And so until 1975, six months after the death of dictator Franco and when four years of world legend had already been completed, it was finally seen. On April 24, 1975, a queue of insomniac Valladolid enthusiasts, including, among others, the writer Gustavo Martn Garzo spent the night awake to get the ticket that would allow him to see the forbidden. And there, in the edition of the most glorious Seminar, what more than a prophecy was a curse was fulfilled: to be good, without a doubt, a condemnation.

Malcolm McDowell, the actor and legendary protagonist in the skin of Alex DeLarge of the tape, he does not remember anything of what happened in the Castilian city then. What’s more, I had no idea. It is a surprise to discover that after all this time there are still stories to be told about the Kubrick tape, says the interpreter from the height and distance that his 78 years old give him and his one and a half million interviews recalling every detail of the film that, it undoubtedly marked his life. And everyone’s. McDowell appears in Valladolid in the 66th edition of the Seminci as a double protagonist. It was then and it is now as the voice and narrator of the documentary The forbidden orange, from Pedro Gonzlez Bermdez; a film that recalls precisely what was (within its beauty had a lot of terrible) the eventful premiere of the film in front of the dying Franco. And so on.

I was very young and when they told me my name was Stanley, I thought it was another Stanley. Then he himself let me know that he had seen me in If…, by Lindsay Anderson, and that she wanted me for her new movie. I only knew that he was the director of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the science fiction film that revolutionized the genre, and that when I asked him for information about my character in The Orange … his reply was that it was my job, comments by way of prologue and presentation.

Malcolm McDowell in a scene from 'The Mech Orange
Malcolm McDowell in a scene from ‘A Clockwork Orange’, 1971.

To situate ourselves, in Gonzlez Bermdez’s documentary, he is only the voice. It is about a surprised, almost stupefied voice that narrates how in times of dictatorship and censorship, in a country unknown to him, a group of fans who are not necessarily fanatics insisted on releasing the unspeakable. The regime loosened its hand and with the complicity of the Warner distributor wanted to prove himself. The film will be seen at what was once a religious film festival before being released throughout Spain.

In fact, the actor himself reflects, the film was relevant then, since it talks about censorship and freedom, and it is now. The forms of censorship and oppression have changed, but the underlying problem remains intact. In the 1970s, a regime prohibited viewing of a tape to hide the truth; now, the fakes news they make the truth irrelevant. The modes have changed, the underlying problem is the same.

McDowell refers to his dear second of his youth with affection. For me he is like a distant cousin who always goes with me, he says. McDowell recovers intact the painful memory of the scene of the so-called Ludovico method that made him associate Beethoven’s music with violence to the point of nausea. They told me that a doctor anesthetized my eyes and that I would not feel anything. Good thing I later discovered that my eyes recover quickly because they destroyed my skulls. It is not the same that the drops are applied to you on a stretcher than while they hold your eyes with tweezers, remember and laugh. And McDowell feels compelled to tell his about the eternal controversy that haunts the most controversial film. There is a lot of talk about violence, but in reality any movie of Sam Peckinpah It is more obvious and stark than The Orange … In this case the violence is purely psychological. I remember that when they were released, images of the Vietnam War in all its harshness would reach the homes of the world live. They were scenes of real torn bodies. And no one forbade anything or was scandalized by anything. How is it possible? I sincerely believe that Kubrick’s work, realistic but not real, also raises that question: Why does fiction irritate us so much and are we so permissive with what happens to our fellow men?He says, stops and adds: Are we hypocrites?

Malcolm McDowell in a scene from 'The Mech Orange
Malcolm McDowell in a scene from ‘A Clockwork Orange’, 1971.

In the documentary, in addition to those who attended the almost sacred pass, he speaks Vicente Molina Foix, the one who was a translator, close collaborator and unique interviewer of Kubrick. Through him and his testimony, the perfect image of a perfectionist man is drawn even beyond the disease of perfectionism. It is said that just before its screening in Valladolid, the order came to suspend it. Perhaps the conditions of the room, perhaps the slightly blessed past of the contest … The fact is that Warner and the director of the Seminci at that time, Carmelo Romero, had to give the rest (until the deception) so that the event, indeed, it happened.

Kubrick was Kubrick, McDowell points out. He had a reputation for controlling everything and yet, with no other director I have felt more free, he adds contradictory and happy to return to the paradox of the beginning: Being good can be something horrible … What does God want? The good or that one choose the path of good? Perhaps the man who chooses evil is in a way better than the one on whom good is imposed. They are deep and difficult problems …

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