on June 9, 2004
When director Stanley Kubrick lensed a film based on William Makepeace Thackeray's novel "Barry Lyndon," many fans wondered why. Why would a man who made the science fiction classic "2001: A Space Odyssey," a film set in the future about man's move into outer space, go so far into the past to film a story about a guy social climbing his way through the nineteenth century English aristocracy? Good question. Fortunately, the answer, if there is one, isn't nearly as important as the fact that Kubrick made the film. "Barry Lyndon" may well rank as the finest piece of cinematic art made in the last thirty years. I personally love watching period piece films, and this movie ranks at the very apogee of the pictures from the genre that are often made but rarely successful. The only other film I have seen that matches Kubrick's eye for detail and flair for style is Eric Rohmer's "The Marquise of O," another film lifted from the pages of an early nineteenth century writer. Both of these men, but especially Kubrick, seemed to realize that the only way we can understand the distant past is to look closely at the things they left behind. Therefore, "Barry Lyndon" borrows heavily from paintings, letters, and accounts of the era. It's very difficult to spot an anachronism in this film. The movie has a timeless, ageless feel most other period pictures fail to capture.
The story follows the trials and travails of an Irishman named Redmond Barry (Ryan O'Neal). Born into poverty on a small farm, Barry first runs into trouble during his teens when he falls in love with his cousin. The family seeks to remove young Redmond from the picture because an English officer, a Captain Quinn, has taken a shine to the girl. If they allow the cousins to marry, the family will not take part in the officer's considerable wealth. Barry refuses to play along, challenging the Englishman to a duel whereupon he promptly puts a bullet through the officer's chest. Whisked away from the scene by family members concerned about the duel, our hero joins the English army as a way to escape from his bleak future. Then comes war, with England fighting nearly everyone else on the continent. Barry, unimpressed with the idea of dying for his king, deserts but soon falls into the hands of the enemy. Faced with the threat of execution, Redmond agrees to join the Prussian Army, which turns out to be worse than his stint with the English. Fortune smiles when the Irishman saves the life of an officer, an officer with connections to the ministry of information. A plot is hatched whereby Redmond Barry will act as a confidante of the Chevalier de Balibari (Patrick Magee), a French diplomat suspected of espionage.
De Balibari is actually an Irishman living in exile, a fact that causes Redmond Barry to confess his true identity to the man. The Chevalier, impressed with such honesty, promptly takes his fellow countryman into his confidence. The two form a plan that allows them both to sneak out of the country, whereupon they take up lives as confidence men and swindlers on the continent. It is during his tenure as a card shark that Barry meets Lady Lyndon (Marisa Berenson), a beautiful and extremely wealthy woman married to the ancient, crotchety Sir Charles Lyndon (Frank Middlemass). Redmond ingratiates himself into Lady Lyndon's graces to the point that when her husband dies, the good lady marries our hero. Redmond Barry disappears, replaced by Barry Lyndon, a wealthy man with property, money, and connections. Lyndon knows his success depends on his wife, so he spends enormous sums to curry favor with the court. He hopes to acquire his own title, which would translate into his own property and money deeded him by the Crown. Life isn't all roses, as Barry Lyndon must cope with Lord Bullingdon (Leon Vitali), Lady Lyndon's sullen and hateful son as well as his wife's suspicious assistant Reverend Samuel Runt. Lyndon thinks he's got it made when his wife gives birth to a child, Bryan, who carries the precious noble blood. What goes up must invariably come down, however, as a series of massive tragedies rock the Lyndon household.
"Barry Lyndon" is an intriguing film. One wonders why Kubrick made it. Perhaps the director liked the idea of an underclass individual scheming his way into the rigid upper classes of the time. Perhaps the movie is a morality tale about a ruthless scalawag eventually getting what he deserves. If the answer is the latter, I don't think it works. If Barry Lyndon were truly ruthless, he would have seen to it that Lord Bullingdon pulled a disappearing act. Doing so would have assured his child's role as heir of the Lyndon title. Whatever the reasons behind this film, you don't have to worry about it too much to enjoy Kubrick's work. The set pieces and costumes are phenomenal, the acting wonderful, the photography breathtaking. Especially developed for this film was a special camera lens that could work by candlelight. The musical score consists of Mozart, Vivaldi, Bach, Schubert, and Handel.
Arguably the best element of the film is the way Kubrick places his characters in a way that resemble paintings of the period. Pay attention to the scenes that take place in the garden where Barry meets Lady Lyndon or the confrontation between Bullingdon and Barry at the gentleman's club. You can literally see characters move into position and pose as though for a portrait. And that final duel! I could watch that scene a million times-and probably have. A wonderful film, "Barry Lyndon" on DVD contains only a trailer as an extra. I'm not complaining too much, though. The movie is more than enough reason to buy the DVD. Watch it and wonder.
on April 3, 2009
I first watched this movie years ago, when I was 25 years old. When I first saw it, I was shocked at the sheer epic monumental beauty of the images. I knew that this was no ordinary movie.
This is an arthouse Felliniesque depiction of the 17th Century. The movie is based on the William Makepeace Thackeray, writer of The Book of Snobs, novel Barry Lyndon.
The film starts with gritty picaresque beginnings at a squalid upcountry house. Then the movie simultaneously escalates the viewer and main character Barry Lyndon, into the houses of the extremely rich.
Mean sticks of furniture are replaced with Baroque roccoco finery and seventeenth Century chamber music.
Replete with the famous epic Kubrickian pullaway camera shots that he liked, Barry Lyndon is The Hundred Years War meets Hollywood.
Barry meets his Faustian demise as the denouement of the movie takes us down to a resolution point of poverty and a loathesome and debauched life of penury and destitution.
.....worth a watch!
on March 28, 2004
"Barry Lyndon" is Stanley Kubrick's forgotten "masterpiece". Sandwiched chronologically between "A Clockwork Orange" (1971) and "The Shining" (1980), it has received less adulation from the press and public than some of Kubrick's other triumphs ("Dr. Strangelove"; "2001: A Space Odyssey") and did poorly at the box office upon its initial release in 1975.
Based on the 1844 William Makepeace Thackeray novel "The Luck of Barry Lyndon" (with some of the usual artistic liberties that Kubrick often took with his adaptations of books) this film follows the travails of Redmond Barry, an 18th century, hot-headed, charmingly unscrupulous Irish rapscallion who will stop at nothing to join the ranks of the British aristocracy.
Through a series of mishaps and misadventures, we follow Barry from his native Ireland through the Seven Years' War (1756-63), through the grand gambling palaces of Europe where he eventually woos and marries the beautiful and wealthy Lady Lyndon and adopts her name, much to the chagrin of her son Lord Bullingdon, who vows never to let Barry achieve his dream of joining the gentry.
Kubrick's ace-in-the-hole is his D.P. John Alcott who deservedly won an Oscar for Best Cinematography. Shot in Ireland, Germany and England, the viewer constantly gets the feeling of viewing a classic 18th century painting. It never gets dull watching the absolute beauty of this film, and I personally marvelled at all the hard work that must have gone into making it.
The music is also wonderful, as Kubrick once again shows excellent taste in which music fits a particular scene. The film's opening scenes have gorgeous Irish folk music from The Chieftains, and its later passages are eloquently followed by the works of J.S. Bach and Vivaldi...and are repeated so often it's impossible for their concertos not to get stuck in your head!
The acting itself is above average, but somewhat mixed. Ryan O'Neal is adequate as Barry Lyndon, although his attempts at an Irish accent are so-so at best. He frequently fades into his SoCal drawl during the film. He manages to hold the film together, but he is not its strongest performer. Marisa Berenson (Lady Lyndon) isn't given much to do here, but she makes the most of her isolation and melancholy. The true stars are Leon Vitali (disgustingly weasely and sadly sympathetic as the adult Lord Bullingdon) and Murray Melvin (the cold, restrained Reverand Runt). Both actors steal every scene which features them. I got the feeling that Kubrick focused so much on the photography of "Barry Lyndon" that the film's acting suffered as a result. Maybe Kubrick wanted to illustrate the coldness of the British upper classes. If so, then mission accomplished.
Much has been noted of this film's "coldness" and much of it is deserved. Michael Hordern's narration helps explain the historical context to the viewer and gives a human perspective to things, but sometimes takes away from some of the film's drama. Despite the valid accusations of coldness, it should be noted that there is restrained passion here in certain scenes (especially between the young Redmond Barry and his first love, his cousin Nora Brady) and that you'll be hard-pressed to find ANY Kubrick film with large amounts of emotional warmth.
Another thing that merits mentioning is the film's pacing and length. It clocks in at 3 hours and 4 minutes, and the final climax between Barry Lyndon and Lord Bullingdon is UNBELIEVEABLY slow. I highly recommend taking a snack break or a quick walk during the film's intermission. If you're looking for fast-paced action, this is not the place to find it. However, if you are willing to be challenged and allow yourself to slowly follow the 18th century aristocratic pace of life, you will enjoy this film.
Perhaps ironically for such an ornate film, the DVD itself does not come with many frills aside from a theatrical trailer. No commentaries, no behind-the-scenes documentaries, no cast biographies.
Overall, "Barry Lyndon" is definitely quality viewing for the Stanley Kubrick enthusiast. This movie is decidedly NOT mainstream Hollywood fare, and is a challenging and beautiful examination of the mores and prejudices of 18th century European high society.
on April 12, 2012
If you are searching for a complete Blu ray of this movie, here it is! There is 7 languages tracks + 20 subtitles tracks. If you don't find your language here, you are very unlucky!
The sound is ok, not complains here.
The image is actually not perfect. It's sometimes grainy and some scenes are little blurry. I don't know if it's the best Blu Ray of this film available, but the movie is old and maybe they could not do better, I don't know.
But it's ok overall and this should not stop you from buying this movie apart if you are searching for the absolute clear quality. But is it even possible with a movie 37 years old??
on June 30, 2004
Barry Lyndon is traditionally seen as Stanley Kubrick's weakest film. Yet a certain number of newer reviewers - and Martin Scorsese - are only now beginning to see that this film has been terribly underrated.
When I first saw this movie I sided very much with those who believed the film to be pointless eye candy. I couldn't see any point to this movie, which seemed to consist of more or less random events with no real beginning or end, and nothing worth remarking on in between.
Of course, years later I began having flashbacks of this movie, and was sorely tempted to buy the DVD, a purchase I finally made (the DVD is very good).
"Barry Lyndon" is as much a Greek tragedy as Godfather Part II or the second half of Gone with the Wind. Here Barry Lyndon is trapped by fate, after a series of events set off by aspects of his own character. His very attempts to make himself still richer, towards the end of the film results in an awful mess that is suspiciously reminiscent of Gone with the Wind. I think Margaret Mitchell may possibly have read the novel.(*spoiler!* Hmm, where have I seen a child falling off a horse before?)
Barry Lyndon, as a nouveau riche social climber desperately trying to find what we would call "the American Dream" is strangely modern as a figure. The story of his rise and fall is like that of any modern, money-hungry social climber, and is quite relevant to our present world.
At any rate, the film is also a masterpiece of atmosphere and style. The care with which the film was made was clearly excruciating, with scenes as carefully plotted out and filmed as any oil painting. Despite Kubrick's reputation as a rather emotionless director, there are plenty of funny scenes. My favourite scenes in this regard are the scenes showing the Chevalier de Balibari playiong cards - the innocent look on his face as he cheats his opponents gets funnier every time you see it.
Of course, there is the famous Schubert Trio scene, where Redmond Barry seduces Lady Lyndon in an incredibly long, slow, but well-timed scene. The movements of eighteenth century aristocrats through their ritualised world is truly as absorbing to watch, as the incredibly slow space pod scenes in Space Odyssey.
Of course, there is no Star Gate here; no profundity of theme or mysticism; no deep truths. Barry Lyndon does not try to be as deep as Clockwork Orange, in the same way that Scorsese's Age of Innocence did not aspire to the depth of Taxi Driver. That is not the point. The film could be said to be more style than substance; but in that case it could be said to join Citizen Kane and Blade Runner. It's still damn fine filmmaking.
The original novel frankly bears little resemblance to the finished film. (I am reading it now). The novel Barry Lyndon is truly a picaresque novel with a rascally, lively narrator far removed from Ryan O'Neal's very understated portrayal; and in fact the general atmosphere of the book reminded me much more of Oliver Twist or Gulliver's travels than the stately and classy environment of the film. In this respect Kubrick has taken the skeleton of plot from the novel, and laced it with copious amounts of Kubrickian flesh.
on June 2, 2004
_Barry Lyndon_ is absolutely stunning to watch. Kubrick's masterful hand at orchestrating sweeping views of naturally lit countryside transports the audience into the 18th century and alongside our characters. Some complain that Kubrick, while commanding the visual aspects of the film, allows the acting to fall by the wayside. Ryan O'Neill does not do an adequate job as Lyndon, it is claimed, failing to capture the character's motivation and nature. I disagree most strongly on this point. Kubrick and O'Neill have managed to capture a human being, one who defies the trend of most Hollywood films and popular fiction. Lyndon is not the loveable character-his rise to power is not paved with nobility and honor, nor is his downfall laced with a deep sense of tragedy. Yet, I still feel for Lyndon's character in the declining stages of his life. Just as he is not completely approachable, he is not repulsive either. By allowing this level of subtlety to emerge from the character, Kubrick and O'Neill have managed to create a tragedy more along the lines of Shakespeare's _Coriolanus_ than some sentimental special on the Hallmark channel.
_Barry Lyndon_ clocks in at just over three hours, breaking once in the middle for an intermission. For its visual appeal, it is worthy every penny, though it may leave some members of the audience wishing for quicker pacing and a plotline that is easier to digest. If you have the time and are a fan of Kubrick's masterpieces, I could not recommend this film more highly-just make some popcorn during the intermission and stretch your legs.
on March 6, 2004
I'm presently fascinated by the harsh critical evaluation of this movie. Typically the criticism is focused on the "Pace" or boring lack of forward motion exhibited by the director. I agree, if after 30 minutes (right about the duel scene) you aren't 100% enthralled, you need to bag-out and turn off. By that critical moment if the pace is disturbing you, the remaining 3 hours will bring you to complete distraction.
However, if after this first 30 or so minutes you are still tuned in, you are fully prepped for an engrossing and completely artistic experience of absolute joy. Really, that's the breaking point 30 minutes. Kubrick takes his time to make his points. God bless the man. You either get it or you don't have the time. As my film critic friend put it, "Hey, at that point, go watch Bad boys or Scream 5". The point being, it's not pop culture, it's a piece of work (art work) and it required some development.
It's Okay if you have other things to do, simply go do them. This movie however should not be judged by Quick edit points and chop/chop depictions of every moment. All things are given their proper width and space.
Perhaps if you've ever read a book, this is a similar experience. It takes time. Characters are developed and moments unfold as though reality had a place in the thing. If you choose to review this film in a critical manner, do so on it's faults, not it's pace. I will leave the faults for you to discover, frankly they are few.
Relax, have some tea. But for the sake of us all don't complain that this movie does not fit into your fast food world.
on November 24, 2003
This film is a biography in the most straightforward sense: It simply recounts the events of this historical person's extrordinary life. Kubrick's goal, one supposes, was to bring this character to life, for us to bear witness to his troubled heart. Unfortunately, by focusing his efforts on the period sets and costumes, he misses the mark, and leaves us struggling to truly connect with or understand who Redmond Barry really was or how any of his myriad life-decisions were made. I suppose all those details were lost to the filter of History, and Kubrick does not exert his license to flesh out his historical protagonist with human characteristics. Redmond Barry's life involved many dramatic changes of circumstance and character, perhaps too many for even for a 3-hour movie to pull off convincingly. Also, contrary to other reviewers, I felt that casting all-American pretty boy Ryan O'Neal as the Irish-commoner-turned-English-nobleman was a poor choice. In other words, it's not all Kubrick's fault that we can't relate to the protagonist. Beautifully filmed eye-candy, but missing the emotional hook.
on September 25, 2003
I saw this movie when it come out on the big screen, and I was blown away. I love Stanley Kubrick, but at the time, I really despised Ryan O'Neill so I hesitated to see the movie. Boy, was I glad I did.
I've read Thackeray's novel, and I really think that Kubrick was true to the story, almost to the letter of the book. Even though the movie was long, it was so beautiful to look at, that I found it to be a pleasure, and the 3 plus hours just flew by.
I especially loved the use of all natural light, including filming in candelight, and like other folks who have reviewed this movie, the frames were like pictures that had come to life. Lady Lyndon looked just like one of Gainsborough's peaches & cream wind-blown beauties, it was breathtaking.
The worst part of the movie was Ryan O'Neill, he's a rotten actor, really wooden, and his frat boy looks were not consistent with my mind's picture of Redmond Barry.
But even he did ok under Kubrick's guidance. I wonder how this movie would have turned out if there had been a really good young actor in the lead role.
In any event, Barry Lyndon is a masterpeice, and should not be missed.
on April 17, 2003
I just revisited Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon several years after my first viewing. I can remember not enjoying it so well the first time around, however, the second time I really did like it. It really doesn't feel like a three-hour film. When I first saw it, around the age of 18 or so, I was expecting something closer to the Kubrick films that I knew and loved like 2001, A Clockwork Orange and The Shining. I did not expect a rather straight-forward period costume epic. I thought there would be something out of the ordinary about it. Some bizarre characters, wicked twists, graphic violence, dreamlike scenes. Yet Barry Lyndon contains none of this.
It's an epic drama about the rise and fall of an Irish rogue in the late 18th century. Lavishly photographed, using only natural light, real costumes, good acting (with possible exception of Ryan O'Neal), but somehow lacking the Kubrick feel. It's a pretty conventional film. There's nothing really outlandish about it. However, being written (based on a 19th century novel), produced and directed by the man, it is undeniably a Stanley Kubrick film and deserves attention as such. Perhaps the most Kubrickian (if I may use the term) thing about Barry Lyndon is how un-Kubrick-like it is. Audiences had come to expect the unexpected from Kubrick, and what would be more unpredictable than to follow-up a film like A Clockwork Orange with a costume epic set in the 18th century? That's the way he was. Always taking the divergent path.
Now, regarding the film itself, it's very well made, not surprising considering its creator. The story of Redmond Barry is interesting, particularly in its historical context. Several wonderful scenes alone make the film worth watching. A small battle scene during the Seven Years War, the card-playing scenes, and the duel between Barry and his stepson near the end. There are some sporadic scenes with dazzling camera work and Kubrick manages to sneak in a couple of his tracking shots. The film is leisurely paced, as nearly all Kubrick films, but interest is always maintained.
I don't think that anyone would claim Barry Lyndon Kubrick's greatest achievement, but it is a remarkable achievement nonetheless. Perhaps more accessible to mainstream audiences than his typical work, Barry Lyndon is definitely an enjoyable experience for fans of Kubrick, but perhaps more so for fans of lavish costume epics. So enjoy it for what it is, just don't expect any of the old ultraviolence.