Thursday, March 19, 2015

Barry Lyndon, 1975

Directed by
Written by (from the Thackeray novel)
Starring  and

This is the first in a series of posts about Stanley Kubrick's movies, as I've been conducting an informal retrospective of his works over the past number of months. I'm writing about this movie first, because it has made the strongest impression on me so far, along with The Killing. I'm not finished yet, so we'll see what else strikes me.

Simply put, I was floored by this movie.While the acting is fine, but not stunning, everything else is outrageously good. And to say that the acting is not as good as everything else is paramount to saying that it was the worst part of one of the best movies I've ever seen, so it was still far better than the acting in most movies. I don't think of Ryan O'Neal or Marisa Berenson as fantastic actors, but they do very good work. Kubrick holds the camera on them -- and everyone else -- for extended shots, so that we can see every flicker of an emotion that passes across their faces for a long time. They're able to sustain their presence through those extended periods.

And that brings us to the cinematography. This is one of the most beautiful movies I've ever seen. Kubrick used NASA lenses so that he could shoot in natural light and create a naturalistic eighteenth century feeling -- and the results are amazing.

Because of the clarity and beauty of the shots, Kubrick is able to sustain the static or languid camera use. When he shows us a field in summer, we can practically feel the moisture in the air. It's really stunning.

The story, while not original and somewhat episodic, is captivating. Barry is not sympathetic, but he is fascinating. The narration and title cards make clear where the story is going, so there is a sense of fatalism that pervades the story. In that sense, this almost feels as it were a cautionary tale, but Kubrick never says that and is never heavy-handed about it.

The music is also phenomenal.

Reverend Runt,
one of the most authentic-lookning characters,
in one of the many perfect shots














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