Release year: 1975
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Screenwriter: Stanley Kubrick, William Makepeace Thackeray (based on the novel by)
Starring: Ryan O’Neal, Marisa Berenson, Patrick Magee, Hardy Krüger, Steven Berkoff, Marie Kean, Philip Stone, Leon Vitali, Gay Hamilton
Ratings: 4 Oscars: Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Original Score. 3 Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay. 2 Golden Globes nominations: Best Picture Drama, Best Director.
Moviegeek Sunday Classic #237, week 1 2019
We follow the ups and downs of Irish rogue Barry (O’Neal) as he is forced to leave his home in Ireland, through his time in the army and through his life with Lady Lyndon (Berenson).
Though not one of his most known movies, Barry Lyndon is by many seen as one of his greatest achievements. Based on the 1844 novel ‘The Luck of Barry Lyndon’, the movie runs over a little over three hours, only surpassed in being his longest movie by Spartacus from 1960. O’Neal (Love Story, 1970) stars in perhaps his greatest role as the reckless opportunist trying to climb the social ladder. The movie is well known for its excellent cinematography and with good reason so. The camera often zooms out making scenes picture perfect frames resembling exquisite oil paintings and there several scenes shot entirely by candlelight. The beauty of the scenes truly help in enduring the three hour long film, that at times feels tedious, because the movie is undoubtedly beautiful, but the unsympathetic main character on the other hand doesn’t help. Barry is self centered, careless, reckless and the list goes on and on. All very real emotions and adds to making Barry a full embodied character. However, it is hard to stay engaged in the story of someone you don’t like and that is perhaps the biggest problem of Barry Lyndon. O’Neal does a good job convincing both as young and older Barry and Berenson (Cabaret, 1972) perfect as the aloof aristocratic woman. As is often seen in Kubrick’s work, the emotions are restrained which makes the story appear cold at times. While it works well with the period, it is another thing that becomes rather straining in such a long running time. But all in all, it is a beautiful shot movie and a good period movie perfectly capturing the time it is set in.
There was no electronic lighting was used for the candle-lit scenes. A lens built by the Carl Zeiss; Co. for NASA, a 50mm Zeiss lens modified with the Kollmorgen adaptor used in still cameras, was used to shoot scenes lit only by candle.
A myth grew that the Academy Award-winning costumes used in the film were genuine antique clothes, but this is only partly correct. Some of the costumes were genuine antiques bought at auction by costume designer Milena Canonero, while others were custom-made specifically for the film and were based on clothing of the period and costumes seen in period paintings.
Despite the stunning visual effects and technical achievement, the film was not the financial success Stanley Kubrick and Warner Bros had been hoping for. The lack of financial success at the time factored into Stanley Kubrick’s decision to make The Shining.
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Picture copyrights: Warner Home Video