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Barry Lyndon

Review Written by: Chris Burns
Film: A+
What the MPAA Rating should be: PG-13 (for violence and sexual imagery)

Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
Written by: Stanley Kubrick
Based on the book by: William Thackeray
Produced by: Stanley Kubrick
Starring: Ryan O'Neal, Marisa Berenson, Patrick Magee, Hardy Kruger
Studio: Warner Brothers Pictures

Stanley Kubrick for many is considered the finest director to have ever graced the Earth. Famous for managing to capture so much detail in one frame of delight, even in the darkest and deadliest moments of his films he retains a naturally deliberate comedic affect. I've always been a great fan of "Kubrick cinema" as he's managed to tell devastatingly bleak tales of life and death with such ease and rhythm. Fact is Kubrick knows how you should tell a story through film.

Barry Lyndon is a film that has an extensive range on offer to its viewers and with grand visual openness. From the narrative opening showing a fire-armed duel in a gloomy Irish setting and a long-haul shot of the two men standing across from one-an-other, you automatically know you are in for a cinematic treat. The film follows the Irish rouge Barry Lyndon's life; he's not from a wealthy background and strives to become a wealthy British aristocrat during the annoyances of the 18th century Seven Year European War.

Barry Lyndon stands out as a true cinematic delight, a masterpiece if you will and a genuine epic classic that has stood the test of time and remains one of the best films ever made. Barry Lyndon came out in the pinnacle of the 70's and managed to receive many awards and praise from critics. I've always adored Barry Lyndon, but it wasn't until a repeat viewing that I finally decided it's my favourite film. Some have called Barry Lyndon "repetitive" or as "flawed beauty", I see those as foolish opinions because to appreciate the film you have to be able to understand it by looking deeper than what's obvious to the viewer. The film is not remotely "dull" or "repetitive" because it's a film that grasps you throughout the stretch and pulls you into one man's compelling quest through life.

Barry Lyndon has become somewhat of an uncommonly mentioned film that has been forgotten by many and yet remains loved and hailed by others. It's a story that is structured precisely to the minute details and adapted with outstanding delicate appreciation to William Makepeace Thackeray's novel. Like most Kubrick films it has subtle humorous undertones and devastating moments of dramatic parallels that help make the film have the glorious variety throughout the three hour running time. The story is structured so delicately that there is not a single moment where you're not enthralled or captivated from one of the film's examples of overwhelming excellence. The pacing never falters, nor does it lose any of the originality it holds. There's so much on offer in one frame that you'll want to replay a single still-shot over and over.

Kubrick is a perfectionist and he's famous for having that personality trait, his arrogant and compulsive attitudes have managed to bring some of his actors to the verge of breakdown. Werner Herzog is another artistic genius who has some insane traits surrounding his work, but don't they say "even the greatest artists are a little mad". The cinematography is some of the most luxurious your eyes will ever have the absolute pleasure of meeting. Even in the most shattering, sorrowful and heart-wrenching moments of the film there's a suppressing beauty withering its way onto the screen. The wonderfully impressive shots of the British countryside setting the scenes for the overwhelming clouds with pouring sunlight squeezing its way through show the comprehensive beauty the world has on offer. The fact the film was shot in natural light, it shown through the wide and ambitious landscape surrounding Barry Lyndon. It shows how there is such a great deal of life surrounding us all and yet we seem blissfully unaware of this.

Generally the film's technical aspects cannot be described by anything less than perfect. The mesmerising classical score the film holds helps to create the cold and anti-humanist idea the film is portraying. Another prime feature of Barry Lyndon is that Kubrick found his motivation through some of the 18th century's painters who have obviously helped Kubrick decide what costumes would be able to illustrate the period in time. Easily some of the most impressive and detailed items of clothing ever put on screen, deserving of its Oscar for Best Costume Design. The set pieces are also a fantastic part of the film and the realism is stunning. The use of British heritage to set the scenes for some of the housing, the sweeping fields of hills, the winding roads and the ruined half-castles provide the needed pragmatism.

Some films that revolve around one character's travels can fail to capture the audience, but Barry Lyndon manages to expertly lead you through the shoes of Mr. Lyndon's life. You'll notice how his character changes as the film progresses, some of his characteristics, habits and usual emotions change. The film studies the arrogance, lying charm and sly individualism surrounding the anti-hero. Ryan O'Neal shows off his outlandish and shy acting style perfectly with what is one of the untouchable performances of the 70s. The film remains a film buff's dream, a director's ambition and a historian's paradise. My all-time favourite film and one that remains one of the greatest achievements cinema has on offer, I beg you to watch this.

Ryan O'Neal in the masterful Kubrick film Barry Lyndon.
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