Kubrick’s Underrated Masterpiece: Barry Lyndon
One of the most underrated films of cinematic legend Stanley Kubrick is the film that followed A Clockwork Orange and preceded The Shining: 1975’s brilliant Barry Lyndon. Full of a delightful mixture of humour, thrills, and striking imagery, it is one of Kubrick’s more personal films, and a manifestation of sorts of his burning desire to create a Napoleon biopic.
The epic is also his longest film, at a full 184 minutes. It tells of Irish rogue Redmond Barry (Ryan O’Neal), who flees toward Dublin and gets caught up in a battle of war and aristocracy. He takes the path from a nobody to a king as he usurps the position of the royal Lady Lyndon’s husband, thus becoming Barry Lyndon. The second half of the film settles down into a stony tale of married life and unhappiness. Tension rises between Barry and his stepson, Lord Bullington, resulting in a full-out assault in front of many people in a memorable scene. It all leads up to a brilliant anti-climax: an extremely slow-paced, strangely funny duel between father and stepson.
The film looks beautiful and is framed in a lovely manner, as we would expect from Kubrick. Every shot is a delight, and it seems the cinematography and ingenious lighting is the star of the film. This is a movie Kubrick was born to make, with all the trademarks and styles that made the man a genius.
Every image is immaculate, in a manner that both borrowed from Ingmar Bergman (how much you wanna bet Kubrick saw Cries and Whispers while he was making Barry Lyndon) and possibly influenced Bergman (some shots in Fanny and Alexander are reminiscent of this film). We see into a rich world of 18th century royalty, whether it be the thrilling shots of war battle, the sweeping camera, the rotating camera, the zooming camera, Kubrick captures each scene absolutely 100% perfect, in a painstaking manner that put him at the top of his game.
And O’Neal, himself, as an actor manages to carry the movie away with a brilliant performance that more than makes up for the sappy, lifeless garbage that was Love Story. The performance is at times chilling, but always mesmerising.
I can’t understand why so few people remember this when they remember Kubrick. It’s one of his greatest, it’s one of his more emotional and it’s a truly beautiful, stunningly attractive painting, that the magic man that is SK breathed life into.
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Seen Barry Lyndon? What did you think of it? Leave a comment below.