Location: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036 (323) 857-6000
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Description: 1967/color/103 min./35mm | Scr: Peter Watkins, Norman Bogner; dir: Peter Watkins; w/ Paul Jones, Jean Shrimpton, Mark London
In an England of the near-future, mop-topped heartthrob Steven Shorter returns from a US tour to adoring crowds and a ticker-tape parade. But Shorter is more than a pop star; he is a carefully-managed operative used by the country’s coalition government to distract the nation’s youth from the stresses of their daily lives and keep them “out of politics.” He performs from a steel cage, and he is handcuffed and beaten to keep him compliant, as he serves as the poster boy for three-hundred namesake discotheques and Steven Dream Palaces where customers are encouraged to “Buy British.” With his Mod bangs and fire engine-red Nehru jacket, he may just be what a A Clockwork Orange’s Alex would become after sufficient conditioning via the Ludovico technique.
The biggest-budget film ever made by anti-establishment firebrand Peter Watkins (Punishment Park, Edvard Munch, The War Game), Privilege shares several motifs with Kubrick’s film from four years later: a totalitarian Britain, a restless and wayward adolescent population, the exploitation of a young anti-hero by the state. But unlike Malcolm McDowell’s cold-blooded masochist, Shorter is callow, bordering on virginal. Watkin’s signature vérité style—replete with documentary-style voice-overs and first-person interviews—contrasts with Kubrick’s spellbinding fictions. Inspired in part by Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will, Watkin’s film reaches a chillingly bombastic climax that may explain why it was out-of-circulation for decades after its original release. The film also boasts a jangle-rock score by soon-to-be Garry Glitter co-songwriter Mike Leander and nimbly analytic cinematography by Peter Suschitzky.
Bing Theater | $9 general admission; $6 LACMA members/seniors/students; $4 LACMA Film Club and Academy members. | Tickets: 323 857-6010 or purchase online.
PRIVILEGE precedes A CLOCKWORK ORANGE as part of the “Kubrick and Company” series, pairing Kubrick films with films from other directors.
Start Time: 19:30