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BARRY LYNDON

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Ryan O’Neal, Marisa Berenson, Patrick Magee, Hardy Kruger, Diana Koerner, Leon Vitali
Director:  Stanley Kubrick
Audio:  Dolby Digital Mono
Video:  Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Warner Bros.
Features:  Theatrical Trailer
Length:  185 Minutes
Release Date:  October 23, 2007

"Come, sir...I'm a man who would rather be known as a cuckold than a fool."

Film ****

Stanley Kubrick’s lone period drama, Barry Lyndon, based on the novel by William Makepeace Thackeray, represents to me the way the genre should always be.  It’s beautifully photographed, with richly designed costumes and sets, with strong acting, but with a terrific story at its core to anchor the movie.  It unfolds at a deliberate pace, but never feels slow, and never becomes uninteresting.  I remember seeing this movie as a child, before I knew who Stanley Kubrick was, and being mesmerized and entertained by this historical epic.

Like his previous effort A Clockwork Orange, Kubrick shows the ability to use what should be an unlikable leading character, and making him the center of the story and the object of our sympathy.  Redmund Barry (O’Neal) is a hotheaded youth, very self centered, and seems to think he is destined for greater things.  The film follows many years of his life, from a boy on the run from the law, to a soldier in the British (and later, Prussian) army, as he climbs the social ladder towards wealth and success.  But, as the narrator points out, those who have the skill it takes to gain a fortune usually don’t have the skill to keep it, and it seems the rough Barry simply wasn’t meant to be part of that society he so longed for in the end.

It’s difficult to summarize the plot without offering too many spoilers.  This is a movie journey best taken on faith.  Sit back and follow the film where it takes you.  Lose yourself in the marvelous world Stanley Kubrick has created for you.  You won’t be sorry you made the trip.

This film is a landmark of cinematography...Kubrick needed special cameras and lenses developed for his project, because he was adamant on using all natural lighting for the picture.  Sunlit scenes had to be carefully filmed as to not be overly bright and washed out, and candlelit scenes required extra sensitivity to pick up all necessary features and images.  Reports have stated that the lenses were so sensitive that the subjects could not move the slightest bit forward or backwards without throwing the focus horribly off!

But the film is more than a technical marvel.  Credit must go, in my opinion, to the two lead stars.  Ryan O'Neal offers the performance of his career in the title role, and his leading lady, Marisa Berensen, communicates volumes, often in complete silence.

The ultimate credit, however, remains with Stanley Kubrick, who had the boldness to try something completely different than anything he had done before (or would again).  His refusal to assign himself to a single genre helped make each of his pictures something special, and Barry Lyndon stands a crowning jewel in the genre of the period film as a result.

Video ****

Warner's first offering was a poor attempt to capture the quality of Kubrick's visuals, but this new remastered version is a triumph.  The lower lit scenes are breathtakingly beautiful, and perhaps for the first time on home video, look correct.  Colors are rich and vibrant throughout.  Gone are the grain, the edge enhancement, and generally poor condition of the print.  Watching Barry Lyndon remastered is like seeing the film for the first time...a beautiful, remarkable experience.

Audio ***1/2

The original mono soundtrack was not bad...in fact, I thought it served the classical score very nicely.  The 5.1 remix, however, is considerably better.  It not only gives the music more fullness and range, it adds some nice surround touches during key battle scenes and other livelier moments.

Features *

Only a trailer.

Summary:

Barry Lyndon is one of those rare and best period films that allows the look of the picture to enhance, rather than take the place of, a good solid story.  It’s beautiful to look at and highly entertaining.  My only complaint...how about offering us an anamorphic special edition to go along with the other Kubrick re-releases?

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