Dir. Stanley Kubrick, Staring Ryan O’Neal
True to my word, I added a couple of Kubrick films to my Netflix list, and this was the first to arrive. It charts the rise and fall in English society of an unscrupulous 18th century Irish adventurer named Barry Lyndon. Based on a book by William Makepeace Thackeray, it is considered one of Kubrick’s finest, though more obscure films. I didn’t much care for the story, although there was something about it’s predictability that drew me unrelentingly through it’s entire 3 hours. I was interested more in the music and the cinematography.
It is exquisitely shot, each frame glowing with color and light in a way that immediately struck me as unlike anything I had seen before. I later found out that it is one of the few films shot almost entirely with natural light, aided by super fast lenses that were made by Zeiss for use by NASA in the Apollo moon landings. Each frame seems almost like a painting, crafted with characteristic Kubrick care. (He is well known for filming take after take after take, searching for perfection.) Tim Robey, in a Telegraph Review article said, “…the film is consciously a museum piece, its characters pinned to the frame like butterflies.” Quite true.
The music was a wonderful mix of classical – Bach, Vivaldi, Schubert, Mozart – and The Chieftains. I recongnized a good three quarters of the music, and was delighted at how perfectly it was made to fit. The title piece – George Frideric Handel’s Sarabande from the Suite in D minor HWV 437 – was particularly lovely.
I am tempted to read the book as a follow-up. It was published in serial form in 1844, and is generally considered to by the first “novel without a hero” (according the Wikipedia article). Apparently the novel is more humerous, whereas Kubrick’s take is pretty tragic, although not lacking in subtle jabs at 18th century society. Interesting film overall. In the end I guess I’m not sorry I spent part of four different evenings trying to get through it!