Samuels, Charles Thomas


Samuels, Charles Thomas
(1936–1974)
   “Death by his own hand at the age of thirty-eight,” critic John Simon wrote, was “the only thing that prevented Charles Thomas Samuels from becoming the most important film critic of our time. ” His essay “The Context of A Clockwork Orange”was published in the posthumous collection Mastering the Film, and Other Essays, published by the University of Tennessee Press in 1977 and edited by Lawrence Graver. Samuels discusses STANLEY KUBRICK’s career before tearing into A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. He defends the film’s antihero, Alex, against charges that Alex “is too charming and clever,” a “shortsighted” charge, since “Alex must appeal to us or we won’t care enough about him to comprehend the film’s total situation. A thoroughly repulsive criminal raises no doubts about the proper response: he must simply be eradicated. ” Samuels objects to the violence, however, which “lacks appeal because it is so manifestly unnecessary. ” He adds that Kubrick’s film was “artful for finding cinematic means to display Burgess’s ironic equation between lawlessness and the presumed alternatives. ” Kubrick is “a master visualizer,” but though visualization may be “the essence of cinema,” it is not “the whole of the art. ” Kubrick’s “expertise is undeniable, but it is also narrow and unedifying. ” If he is “the best American filmmaker, this fact merely reminds us of the terribly limited achievement of his native context. ” Samuels was born on February 20, 1936, in Brooklyn, and educated at Syracuse University, Ohio State, and the University of California at Berkeley, where he received his Ph. D. in 1961. From 1970 to 1974 he was film columnist for the American Scholar and was a frequent contributor to the New Republic, the Nation, the Atlantic, Commonweal, and the Hudson Review. During his tenure at Williams College in the late ’60s and early ’70s, he published several books, including John Updike (1969), A Casebook on Film (1970), The Ambiguity of Henry James (1971), and Encountering Directors (1972).
   J. M. W.

The Encyclopedia of Stanley Kubrick. . 2002.

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