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Barry Lyndon (1975)


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#1 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 28 August 2010 - 01:58 PM

Links to our threads on The Killing (1956), Paths of Glory (1957), Spartacus (1960), Lolita (1962), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), A Clockwork Orange (1971), The Shining (1980) and Eyes Wide Shut (1999). We don't seem to have any threads on Fear and Desire (1953), Killer's Kiss (1955), Dr. Strangelove (1964) or Full Metal Jacket (1987).

Jonathan Rosenbaum has re-posted his review of this film from 1976 -- and boy, does it make me want to see this movie again. E.g.:

If we accept the premise that the past is as mysterious as the future, both WINSTANLEY and BARRY LYNDON can be regarded equally as science fiction plunges into the unknown that can never hope to “explain” everything, and remain poised throughout on a point of fascinated interrogation. Consider all the things we don’t see in both films: nearly all the crucial events take place in public and are usually seen from a distance; we never catch a real glimpse of the insides of the huts in WINSTANLEY, nor a direct look into the hero’s mind in BARRY LYNDON (which a retention of Thackeray’s first person narrative would have permitted). The sense of vast empty spaces on a gray hill in Surrey or in a lush eighteenthcentury drawing room effectively bears witness to the many lacunae, and there is no way that we or they — spectators, characters, directors — can hope to fill them, although the essential pathos in all three situations is that everyone tries. In BARRY LYNDON, it is an emptiness that is as essential to the first shot as it is to the last.


Edited by Peter T Chattaway, 26 May 2011 - 02:18 PM.


#2 Ryan H.

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Posted 28 August 2010 - 02:30 PM

I'm a self-professed, unashamed Kubrick fanboy. Beyond FEAR AND DESIRE and KILLER'S KISS, there's not a film he's made that I dislike (though I'll say that FULL METAL JACKET is right on the edge). But of all his many achievements, BARRY LYNDON and 2001 strike me as being the two "top-drawer" efforts. Sadly, BARRY LYNDON doesn't have the widespread affection that so many of Kubrick's films seem to engender, perhaps because it does not easily reveal its themes and takes a very different approach to storytelling than most viewers expect, or have even experienced (I'm astonished that Kubrick thought BARRY LYNDON would be a smash success).

Michel Ciment's KUBRICK--almost certainly the best book on Kubrick's films available--reprints an interview with Kubrick regarding BARRY LYNDON. In it, Kubrick makes a comment as to why the film appealed to him: "Description is not one of the things that novels do best but it is something that movies do effortlessly." To love BARRY LYNDON, you have to love Kubrick's careful attention to detail, to the pageantry. To quote Ciment, "BARRY LYNDON in its entirety may be seen as the portrait of a play-acting society: festivities and banquets, ceremonies and mere encounters all seem to obey strictly formalized rules and rituals. War itself becomes the expression of choreographed violence: the troops advance and retreat like so many automata in accordance with a strategy whose meaning now escapes us."

Ciment further muses on the role of games in the film (and Kubrick's films in general, since games, while a strong feature of BARRY LYNDON, appear in the majority of Kubrick's features): "Competitive games (including sport) constitute an autonomous world on the fringe of reality but also reflecting it, whose strict codes and precise, universally respected rules offer a startling contrast to the anarchy and confusion of the world. In a sense, games represent the ideal of every society, the fulfillment of a civilization, towards which man has always tended. As closed, disciplined systems, eliminating chance from life, they are the embodiment of the eighteenth century - even if, as BARRY LYNDON shows, that period never quite succeeded in concealing the submerged violence which it claimed to have suppressed."

And one last comment from Ciment: " . . . what governs the visual style of Kubrick's films is rather the disruption of symmetry by violence - violence caused by resentment, revenge, or sheer instinctive aggression. A smooth, symmetrical, well-composed shot is suddenly upset, thrown off balance by the movement of a hand-held camera. In BARRY LYNDON, the orderliness of military life and the boxing match which interrupts it; or the concert at Hackton Castle and the blustering entrance of Bullingdon, who wrestles on the floor with his stepfather."

#3 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 28 August 2010 - 02:54 PM

Ryan H. wrote:
: And one last comment from Ciment: " . . . what governs the visual style of Kubrick's films is rather the disruption of symmetry by violence - violence caused by resentment, revenge, or sheer instinctive aggression. A smooth, symmetrical, well-composed shot is suddenly upset, thrown off balance by the movement of a hand-held camera. In BARRY LYNDON, the orderliness of military life and the boxing match which interrupts it; or the concert at Hackton Castle and the blustering entrance of Bullingdon, who wrestles on the floor with his stepfather."

Yes, yes, definitely.

I have often used that concert scene in the lectures I have given on film grammar. Note how formal, how stately, the compositions are, even when Bullingdon declares all the reasons for his hatred of Barry; even the declaration of those hatreds has a certain socially acceptable formality to it. But then Barry -- who has been trying to impress the upper classes -- does the unthinkable: he jumps up and physically attacks Bullingdon. And not just attacks him, but hits him IN THE BACK. And then pushes him into a couple of seated women. Everything Barry does here is a VIOLATION of the accepted social framework, and so -- as all hell breaks loose and Barry ruins forever any chance he may have had of joining the upper class permanently -- the cinematography suddenly loses its footing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYnclATZTZU

With regard to the film in general, I love the narration, too, and the way it distances us from the events depicted in the film -- the way it objectifies those events -- which is a striking contrast to the narration in Kubrick's previous film, A Clockwork Orange, which was subjective in the extreme.

#4 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 26 May 2011 - 09:53 AM

A controversy is brewing over the film's aspect ratio on Blu-Ray. See, e.g., Glenn Kenny here and here (the latter link includes some quotes from Leon Vitali, who co-starred in the film and has been a member of Kubrick's inner circle ever since), and Jeffrey Wells here, here and here.

#5 Persona

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Posted 26 May 2011 - 10:59 AM

Link to Paths of Glory (1957).

Edited by Persona, 26 May 2011 - 10:59 AM.


#6 Ryan H.

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Posted 26 May 2011 - 11:45 AM

A controversy is brewing over the film's aspect ratio on Blu-Ray. See, e.g., Glenn Kenny here and here (the latter link includes some quotes from Leon Vitali, who co-starred in the film and has been a member of Kubrick's inner circle ever since), and Jeffrey Wells here, here and here.

I've only clicked on one of the links. Do we actually know what the aspect ratio of the Blu-Ray release is?

#7 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 26 May 2011 - 02:14 PM

Ryan H. wrote:
: I've only clicked on one of the links. Do we actually know what the aspect ratio of the Blu-Ray release is?

The box says 1.85:1. Others say it's actually 1.78:1. Wells insists that it ought to be 1.66:1 at most.

#8 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 26 May 2011 - 06:42 PM

Bilge Ebiri reports that the laserdisc, produced with input from Kubrick himself, followed a 1.66:1 ratio, just like the DVD that came out shortly after Kubrick's death. Of course, it's *possible* that the current 1.78:1 Blu-Ray is consistent with the *theatrical* presentation that Kubrick planned for back in the day.

So now, I guess, we're back to that question that has afflicted the video releases of Kubrick's last three films (i.e. The Shining, Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut): if he "intended" them for the 1.33:1 ratio that was standard in home video at that time, but he also produced them in a way that would suit the 1.85:1 ratio that has been standard in North American theatres for years (as well as the 1.66:1 ratio that has been standard in European theatres), then what, exactly, would be his preferred aspect ratio in this age of high-def TVs (which follow a 1.78:1 ratio)?

#9 Ryan H.

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Posted 26 May 2011 - 07:39 PM

I prefer the look of widescreen to so-called fullscreen, so I'm glad to have a release of BARRY LYNDON in that format.

Edited by Ryan H., 26 May 2011 - 07:40 PM.


#10 Christian

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Posted 28 May 2011 - 09:10 AM

Earlier this week, before reading about the aspect-ratio controversy on the Criterion DVD, I had picked up a copy of the Warner Brothers DVD at the library. It's the beginning of summer for us -- no more broadcast TV, just DVDs for the summer -- and I decided to give this film, along with The Man Who Fell to Earth, a shot. We watched Barry Lyndon over two nights.

It's not unusual for me to not know what to think on first viewing of a film considered a masterpiece by many. I was startled by the look of the film -- I had tried twice before to watch this film, but not in the last 15 years -- and couldn't remember what about it made the film distinctive. I have a memory that the film used natural light, or maybe that it recreated famous paintings (?). A quick review of some reference books indicates that a special zoom lens was developed for this film, or that this was the first film that used that lens. I noticed several "zoom"-like shots -- this was overused, IMHO -- although one book of mine said this was a "telephoto zoom" technique -- two techniques I thought were mutually exclusive. Guess I need to brush up on my Film 101 knowledge! I had thought Kubrick's The Shining was the first film to use Steadicam, but now I'm thinking I may have confused the two films. What are the chances that two back-to-back Kubrick films, within four or five years of each other, pioneered a separate camera technique?

On first viewing, I found Barry a cipher. Reading about his character's motives was helpful in explaining what the film failed to explain. Was it just me? I had little idea of what motivated Barry, or why. This made me think of other Kubrick protagonists. None stand out very well to me. Sure, scenes stand out, and certain performances stand out, and yes, many of his films are excellent. But the actual characters? Only Dr. Strangelove does that, and maybe The Shining.

If I have to eat my words after watching this film a second time, so be it. I have little concern about not fully grasping a three-hour-plus film on first viewing. But nor am I sure I didn't fully grasp it. I certainly enjoyed the look of the film, and much of the music. Oddly, my wife, who likes Classical music, found the early part of the movie's soundtrack highly annoying.

But do I see myself returning to the film for subsequent viewings? Doubtful. Of course I won't rule it out, but I'm having trouble seeing what I need to learn from this film, or how it might draw me back in. I love some of Kubrick's other films, but I'm not surprised that this one doesn't come up more often in conversations about the director. The Blu-ray release has kindled some conversation about the film, and I see above that its fans are champing at the bit to discuss it. Maybe it needs no "reassessment," although it seems to me to be much less an object of fascination, even among Kubrick fans, than the director's other work, rightly or wrongly.

I'm glad I saw it. I wish I had more to contribute to the discussion.

Edited by Christian, 28 May 2011 - 09:12 AM.


#11 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 28 May 2011 - 09:44 AM

FWIW, I first saw Barry Lyndon as part of a Kubrick retrospective back in the mid- to late '90s, and, at the time, it seemed like one of Kubrick's weakest films to me: it was so slow, etc. (I believe the cinematheque was also projecting a 16mm print, which couldn't have helped.) But subsequent viewings raised the film in my esteem, and I find it's been a handy film to use in lectures etc.

Christian wrote:
: I had thought Kubrick's The Shining was the first film to use Steadicam . . .

I could have sworn that my introductory-film-class textbook had a photo of someone using a Steadicam on A Clockwork Orange, but it seems I'm wrong: Wikipedia says: "The Steadicam was introduced to the industry in 1976 by inventor and cameraman Garrett Brown, who originally named the invention the 'Brown Stabilizer'. . . . The Steadicam was first used in the biopic Bound for Glory, but its breakthrough movies are considered to be Avildsen's Rocky in 1976, and Kubrick's 1980 film The Shining."

#12 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 28 May 2011 - 09:58 AM

FWIW, some comments I posted to the OnFilm discussion list (one of A&F's precursors) back in 2002:

Then, a few days later, I watched _Barry Lyndon_ (1975). I had seen it once before, as part of the Cinematheque's Kubrick series in 1995, and IIRC, they showed a 16mm print, which is definitely *not* the way to see this fantastically photographed film. Kubrick may or may not have cheated in some scenes, but I believe he shot the entire film in natural light -- either outdoors or by candlelight -- and the result reminds me of the silence he imposed on the space scenes in _2001_; the technique is true to the science of the era depicted in the film, yet it is somewhat striking to us because we are so used to seeing films that make the past and the future seem more familiar through more conventional techniques.

The first thing that strikes me about this film, after the cinematography, is the narration. In _Clockwork_, Malcolm McDowell's narration has the effect of pulling us into the mind of his rather deranged character. But in _Barry Lyndon_, the narration, which is provided by an actor who does not play any of the film's characters, has the effect of pushing us away from them. I don't think any of Kubrick's other films used narration, except for maybe a brief prologue in _Spartacus_ (which was just a director-for-hire job anyway) and perhaps to smoothe over the segues in _The Killing_ (and even that, I'm not sure about), so it's quite striking to compare his use of it in these two back-to-back films from the 1970s. The film is named for the main character, but it does not force us to identify with him; we find ourselves observing him from a detached distance, as he tries to climb the social ladder of 18th-century England, and this studied neutrality reaches its climax in the final title card, which tells us that all the characters -- whether beautiful or ugly, rich or poor -- are "all equal now". That is, they are all dead now.

I like this film's neutrality. It is so common for Hollywood movies to portray the rich as snobs and the poor as noble and virtuous -- just think of _Titanic_ -- but _Barry Lyndon_ doesn't exploit the usual prejudices this way. Barry is a poor Irish lad who, about halfway through the film, marries the widow of an English nobleman and becomes a de facto guardian to her son, but he knows there will come a time when his wife will die and his stepson, who hates him, will assume control of the family wealth; so Barry tries to secure a title for himself, so that he and his own son will not be without some sort of security. The striking thing here is that Barry is, indeed, guilty of the sins which his stepson holds against him, and when the stepson sneers that Barry is a "common opportunist", he is absolutely right; and yet, throughout Barry's life, we see how the upper classes grind his nose in the fact that he is a no-good commoner (even during the ceremony in which Barry is decorated for his bravery in battle, the colonel disses him and tells him he will come to nothing), and we sense that he *is* the victim of systemic oppression. Everyone in this film is acting out of base, selfish motives ... and yet, I think Kubrick has a strange compassion for these people, nonetheless. (Not all of them, I'm sure, but certainly some of them, at least.) Anyone who thinks Kubrick was an unemotional filmmaker needs to see the scene where Barry kisses one of his fatally wounded benefactors on the battlefield, or the scene where Barry and his wife cry bitterly on opposite sides of their son's deathbed, or the look of panic and terror on the faces of the men who face Barry in duels at the beginning and end of the film.

Which brings us to one of the film's recurring motifs, namely, ritualized violence. People settle their disputes through socially accepted forms of violence -- pistols at dawn, swordfights, fist-fights -- and Barry rises as high in the ranks as he does because he is particularly adept at these forms of "civilized" violence. Barry also spends much of the early part of his life as a soldier -- he even tells his son bedtime stories about himself and his fellow soldiers cutting off the heads of enemy troops, IIRC -- and he also beats his stepson repeatedly, in private, with a cane, ostensibly to discipline him, but also to get revenge for those moments when his stepson shames him in public or spanks his son in private. (It is typical of this film's ambivalence that we can share the stepson's pain, trapped as he is in a house with a wicked stepfather, yet also see the stepson for the vindictive, immature, snobbish brat that he is.) Barry's downfall begins when he impulsively attacks his stepson through a socially *unaccepted* form of violence, in the presence of guests at a recital he is hosting; the rare use of hand-held cameras in this scene conveys the chaos of this attack and the breach of social norms which it represents. _2001_ and _Clockwork Orange_ both hinted at how violence lies behind much of our technological superiority and social stability, and _Barry Lyndon_ explores this theme at greater, subtler length.

I haven't got much else to say about this film at the moment, except that I really, really like the music and the severity with which some of it is played; I've been playing Schubert's Piano Trio in E Flat a fair bit lately, and it's become a favorite. At first, it kind of annoyed me that we heard that Chieftains love theme so often in the film's early scenes, but then, the whole point of the music is to show how persistent first love can be, to the point where it *does* become rather annoying.



#13 Anders

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Posted 28 May 2011 - 01:32 PM

I just re-watched BARRY LYNDON for the first time in probably close to 10 years last night. I'll have to get back with some more comments when I have some time, but suffice to say, I was even more impressed and am bumping it up on my list of favourite Kubrick films.

Some great thoughts, Peter.

#14 Christian

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Posted 28 May 2011 - 02:05 PM

Anyone who thinks Kubrick was an unemotional filmmaker needs to see the scene where ... Barry and his wife cry bitterly on opposite sides of their son's deathbed


That scene exposed the limitations of Ryan O'Neal as an actor, IMHO. I didn't buy it. It took me out of the film completely. As for the actress, I've been wondering who she is, what else she did. (Yes, I can look it up on IMDB, and will.) I was thinking about that last night -- how Kubrick, but also other great directors, sometimes make a great film with actors who didn't do much before those films, and who quickly disappeared after those films. But that's a subject for a separate thread.

or the look of panic and terror on the faces of the men who face Barry in duels at the beginning and end of the film.


Now that you mention 'em, these strike me as the best scenes in the film, the ones with the most palpable emotion. I'm OK with having some distance from the protagonist -- and you're right that the voiceover works in that way, and that this movie is a good example of the use of voiceover -- but making viewers remain at a remove for three-plus hours is a tough sell.

Which brings us to one of the film's recurring motifs, namely, ritualized violence.



Is that it? Maybe that's enough for some people. I'm not familiar with the novel, or whether it, too, shares that theme. Kubrick's been known to take source material in his own direction. It's been said many times that "man's inhumanity to man" is an overarching Kubrick theme, and I can see how this would fit into that. I never penetrated beneath the surface of the film. Don't get me wrong -- I like surface! Oftentimes it's more than enough to stimulate thoughts about meaning and deeper content. That didn't happen with Barry Lyndon, and I'm not convinced I'm the one at fault. :)

Edited by Christian, 28 May 2011 - 02:09 PM.


#15 Ryan H.

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Posted 28 May 2011 - 03:20 PM

I have a memory that the film used natural light, or maybe that it recreated famous paintings (?).

Both are true. Though the recreation of paintings isn't painstaking, but it is strongly influenced by them. And the "zoom" effect, which you find overused, suggests to me either focusing on a detail in a painting and moving out, or looking at the full painting and moving in to look at the detail. I think of the experience of BARRY LYNDON as something like a walk through a gallery of moving paintings that tell a narrative.

What are the chances that two back-to-back Kubrick films, within four or five years of each other, pioneered a separate camera technique?

Very good, and they did. THE SHINING demanded new technology for all the shots following the kid on the trike; BARRY LYNDON pioneered new lighting techniques.

On first viewing, I found Barry a cipher.

I don't know that he's a cipher, but he is certainly, in a way, closed off to us. Here, at least, Kubrick is not interested in intimacy.

But the actual characters? Only Dr. Strangelove does that, and maybe The Shining.

What of PATHS OF GLORY?

I love some of Kubrick's other films, but I'm not surprised that this one doesn't come up more often in conversations about the director.

Oh, it comes up in conversations about the director all the time, at least if you're dealing in critical circles. It didn't connect with the public the way that Kubrick's other films did, true. Kubrick was one of the rare directors who was able to make daring art films on big budgets that were commercial successes, and BARRY LYNDON was a misfire in that way. But it is beloved by many. Incidentally, 2001 and BARRY LYNDON are the only two Kubrick films to make the 2002 Sight and Sound Critic's list.

Everyone in this film is acting out of base, selfish motives ... and yet, I think Kubrick has a strange compassion for these people, nonetheless. (Not all of them, I'm sure, but certainly some of them, at least.) Anyone who thinks Kubrick was an unemotional filmmaker needs to see the scene where Barry kisses one of his fatally wounded benefactors on the battlefield, or the scene where Barry and his wife cry bitterly on opposite sides of their son's deathbed, or the look of panic and terror on the faces of the men who face Barry in duels at the beginning and end of the film.

Yes, I think this is true. Kubrick's films are not necessarily character pieces, but BARRY LYNDON is nevertheless a fairly tender film.

I just re-watched BARRY LYNDON for the first time in probably close to 10 years last night. I'll have to get back with some more comments when I have some time, but suffice to say, I was even more impressed and am bumping it up on my list of favourite Kubrick films.

Cheers.

I was thinking about that last night -- how Kubrick, but also other great directors, sometimes make a great film with actors who didn't do much before those films, and who quickly disappeared after those films. But that's a subject for a separate thread.

Well, it's not always about choosing great actors. It's about choosing the right actors. Many a mediocre talent has done well in a part that wouldn't have benefited from a stronger presence.

Kubrick's been known to take source material in his own direction.

He does that here. The book is much more overtly humorous than Kubrick's adaptation. It's narrated by Lyndon, who is terribly unreliable, complete with editorial comments that seek to underline where Lyndon is lying. But Kubrick did not wish to make a comedy out of BARRY LYNDON, and approached it instead as a tragedy.

#16 Ryan H.

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Posted 28 May 2011 - 04:14 PM

Here are some comments on BARRY LYNDON from STANLEY KUBRICK, DIRECTOR: A VISUAL ANALYSIS by Alexander Walker, Sybil Taylor, and Ulrich Ruchti, which I just purchased:

"The film deals with "history" in terms of behavior. It is a sumptuous exercise in mass observation, depicting life-styles at all levels of society. We see society not just in civilian dress but society in uniform and at war."

"Kubrick's narrator interprets for us what happens on-screen as we see it. Even more crucially, he anticipates what will happen before we see it. We are compelled to be observers, not participants. As a result, Barry Lyndon's structure goes against the grain of most screen drama and all popular entertainment--it is composed in anticlimaxes."

"There is a kind of magnificent extravagance in casting a star of O'Neal's magnitude only to use him as a pawn, a character whose responses to his life are forever being usurped by an omniscient narrator. O'Neal's performance is structured around the passive principle, an almost affectless on-screen presence which violates every notion of what a Hollywood leading man expects from a star role . . . In Barry Lyndon, O'Neal gets no "big moments," no scenes a star can seize upon to etch his personality in the character or into the way he affects events. All are taken away from O'Neal in advance. Frequently, he is called upon to stand quietly and do nothing. To be sure, O'Neal does it very well; probably no other youngish American star of the time could have done nothing so effectively, with such picturesque result, so little self-determination. But it may have been a disconcerting experience, the more so since Kubrick's marvelously detailed fidelity to historical accuracy--to lighting, dressing, and architectural authenticity--must have require long stretches of waiting around doing . . . nothing. Even so, what O'Neal could bring to the film was his own glamour: expensive stuff. Kubrick uses it the way an arbiter of fashion uses only the best--not exactly wastefully, certainly not disdainfully, but not letting it rule his day."

"Here, Kubrick's favorite camera movement is a slow and sensuous pulling back from a single detail to reveal a panorama, a zoom shot in calculated reverse. It is the action of a man marveling at the world as it was two hundred years ago, enchanted, yet scrupulous in the scholarly attention his eye gives to pictorial composition and period detail. This withdrawal, or "opening out," imposes a classical sense of perspective and order on a world filled with turbulence. Again and again, landscape or architecture frames events, detaching us from them, imposing a meditative distance. Dramatic close-ups are rare to nonexistent; we are being taken on a guided tour with the guide's polite but firm instructions, "Don't go too near the pictures." The opening shot, showing Barry's father killed in a duel, reduces the figures to dots on the Irish horizon, investing this tragic start to Our Hero's misfortunes with the look of a pastoral, not a family tragedy. Why should Nature care about the tragedies enacted on her territory? Composition in this film is character." And later, "Kubrick shows the vanity of human life by physically diminishing those about to lose theirs."

"From the very first image, Barry Lyndon's moral is "Know your place." The plot of the film, of course, is "Enhance your fortune." And it is the tension between these two that leads to tragedy. A code of honor, which demands lip service at the least, is of course poor preparation for the harsher world Barry seeks to enter. The so-called Age of Enlightenment is continually revealed to be an age of egotism."

"The "machine-made" nature of the military strategy befits the times. Its use of men as killing machines anticipates Full Metal Jacket twelve years later. The age of chivalry is a murderous one; wars change weaponry, but not the will to use it."

"Barry limps away at the end, invalided out of the Lyndon family, a remittance man dependent on their charity. The antithesis of a hero. A Kubrick protagonist defeated this time, as Michael Ciment has pointed out, by society and not the machine. It's a cruel end; but the coda is even more sinister. Like figures in a living waxworks, Lady Lyndon, her chaplain, and her son are shown sitting round a table, signing papers, presumably managing what is left of her estates after "pensioning off" her husband. The camera closes in, revealing the date on a money order. It is 1789, the date of the French Revolution, the year that privilege ended, and the beginning of an unparalleled bloody mass execution of the class that had supported and fueled the ambitions of the Barry Lyndons of the world."



#17 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 22 June 2011 - 11:46 AM

Re: the aspect-ratio commentary, Jay Cocks just sent Glenn Kenny a copy of a letter that Kubrick sent to projectionists back in 1975, in which he states:

"Barry Lyndon" was photographed in 1-1:66 aspect ratio. Please be sure you project it at this ratio, and in no event at less than 1-1:75.

Jeffrey Wells seized upon this to declare "Case Closed", after which he posted some feedback that he got from former Kubrick assistant (and Barry Lyndon co-star) Leon Vitali, who has been advocating the Blu-Ray's 1.78:1 aspect ratio all along, e.g.:

"(7) I asked him what aspect ratio he was shooting Barry Lyndon in and he told me that he was shooting it in 1:1.77 and on my asking why told me that if I looked at a lot of Hogarth's pictures, they had a 'sort of boxy look' about them." [Wells interjection #1: This makes absolutely no sense given Kubrick's declaration in the letter that Lyndon was shot in 1.66 to 1 and the obvious fact that 1.66 to 1 is boxier than 1.77 to 1. Wells interjection #2: 1.77 to 1 aperture plates never existed in Europe, according to film restorer and preservationist Robert Harris. They used 1.66, 1.75 and 1.85.] . . .

"(17) Whenever we were dealing with Barry Lyndon and I was projecting it for him, the first question out of his mouth was 'Did you put the 1.77 aperture plate in, Leon?' Like much else we did, it became a bit of a mantra.

"(18) Whatever work we were doing with Barry Lyndon, he always, always talked of it's correct aperture as being 1:1.77. He never mentioned any other aperture to me ever when we worked with the title and that includes all other formats.

"(19) With all due respect to the doubters, many of them 'doubters' because they do actually care, I know, when one has heard for three decades that resonant Bronx accent saying 1:1.77 in relation to Barry Lyndon one doesn't forget it, nor the circumstances surrounding the words. [Wells interjection #3: Then why did Vitali sign off on 1.66 to 1 versions of Barry Lyndon in 2001 and 2006 DVD releases if he was so slavish and exacting in wanting the true aspect ratio to be seen?] . . .

"(23) Being a pragmatist at heart, Stanley would have had a 'Plan B' which would have been, I paraphrase here, 'If you can't show it in 1.77, show it in 1.66' (a more common format anyway), '... but no wider than 1.75'." [Wells interjection #4: Then why didn't Kubrick say that 1.66 was a Plan B option in the letter? He plainly said that 1.66 was preferred and that 1.75 would be a tolerable Plan B.] . . .



#18 Ryan H.

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Posted 22 October 2011 - 05:46 PM

The House Next Door's ongoing series, The Conversations, has a new entry on BARRY LYNDON.

#19 Ryan H.

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Posted 31 March 2013 - 05:31 PM

From Christopher Frayling's Sergio Leone biography:

Stanley Kubrick admired [Once Upon a Time in the West] as well. So much so, according to Leone, that he selected the music for Barry Lyndon before shooting the film in order to attempt a similar fusion of music and image. While he was preparing the film, he phoned Leone, who later recalled: "Stanley Kubrick said to me, 'I've got all Ennio Morricone's albums. Can you explain to me why I only seem to like the music he composed for your films?' To which I replied, 'Don't worry. I didn't think much of Richard Strauss until I saw 2001!'