What once-controversial film is still considered edgy?
What once-controversial film still surprises you with its edginess today? —T.J.
I’m intrigued by your question because the culture keeps raising the bar on what qualifies as extreme. Think of a controversial movie, and its shock value and general aura of scandal has probably all but evaporated with the years. A few examples: Bonnie and Clyde, the movie that busted open the door to the New Hollywood in 1967, was considered extraordinarily violent in its time, but its blood-spattering spectacle exerted so much influence on the cinema that followed that it would be hard to imagine anyone being honestly outraged by it today. Ditto for Taxi Driver or The Wild Bunch.
Sexual controversey, too, almost always loses its threshold of danger with the years. Last Tango in Paris, In the Realm of the Senses, even the dream-porn rhapsodies of Blue Velvet — they remain soul-stirring as art but not, alas, as shock. I can think of one film, however, that is singular and timeless in its scary-surreal brutality: Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. It has to do not just with the acts being shown but with the way that Kubrick, throughout the movie, mirrors the gleeful, amoral, lip-smacking tone of his sociopathic antihero, Alex, inviting us to share in a queasy complicity with things that appall us. That was always the real source of Clockwork’s controversey — the fact that you couldn’t quite tell where Kubrick stood — and today, 35 years later, his point of view remains just as grippingly, edgily off balance.
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