After a long delay due to work, personal matters, and wanting the right time to properly watch Barry Lyndon
, I've finally resumed my Stanley Kubrick marathon.
It’s been many years since my first and only viewing of Barry Lyndon
, and since that time, it had remained the only Kubrick film I didn’t like. I didn't like it perhaps out of impatience for the film’s storytelling or perhaps because of how radically different the film’s setting varies from Kubrick’s normal fare. Or perhaps I wasn’t mature enough as a film viewer to fully appreciate what Kubrick presented in the film. Whatever the reason, my opinion has now changed, for the better.
A sweeping epic of an Irish adventurer and duelist (guns, swords, fists, take your pick) who is forced to flee his home because of youthful love and a short temper, Redmond Barry quickly finds himself first in the British army and later in the Prussian army. He soon becomes involved in gambling around Europe before finally achieving his goal of becoming a gentleman by marrying a recently widowed young lady with a great fortune, thus gaining the style and title of Barry Lyndon. The story has a tragic turn to it, but I find it hard to be sympathetic because Redmond is an asshole and much that happens to him is his own fault.
While the film is a British period piece that feels like a great literary novel playing out on a screen (like Glengarry Glen Ross
felt like a play on screen), it is also a quiet farce. Ranging from Lord Bullingdon vomiting during the climatic duel and Part 2’s description “Containing an Account of the Misfortunes and Disasters Which Befell Barry Lyndon” when a great deal of misfortunes and disasters had already occurred in Part 1 to Capt. Quinn’s caricature performance and the endless narration, most notably after two very long and drawn out dialogue-less scenes leading up to Redmond’s successful courtship of Lady Lyndon, the narrator states “To make a long story short…”
In addition to Ryan O’Neal’s superb performance as Barry Lyndon (although at times, he reminded me of a strange mix of Matthew Modine and Paul Rudd being sad and dreary), the film boasts an excellent cast that includes famous German actor Hardy Krüger, Marisa Berenson, Patrick Magee and frequent Kubrick collaborator Leon Vitali.
However, what makes this film truly breathtaking is Kubrick’s use of vibrant and sharp primary colors throughout the film. One of the main reasons why I love this film now is because, as a matured photographer, I see Kubrick’s photographic expertise throughout the film. Most notably is Kubrick’s use of super-fast lenses with a huge aperture (.7!) used to capture low-light scenes involving only candle light.
Many other Kubrick motifs are found throughout the film, including Kubrick’s classic panning away from a subject and a subject slowly moving closer to a far away camera, Kubrick’s use of classical music (although here it the music is right at home), and moments that feel similar to other Kubrick films such as Capt. Feeney asking Redmond if he wants food and drink being reminiscent to Mr. Alexander insisting Alex to try the wine in A Clockwork Orange
Next up: The Shining
. In addition to this film, I will be also watching the recently released documentary Room 237