June 28, 2007

Pompadours and Circumstance in Barry Lyndon

Last night I watched the first half of Stanley Kubrick's luxuriously epic (it's over three hours long and contains an official "intermission") adaptation of Thackeray's Barry Lyndon after reading about it on The Nibbler. Ryan O'Neal plays the title character, a mischievous Irishman who flaneurs his way around 18th century Europe breaking hearts and taking names as he hobnobs with everyone from aristocrats to lowlifes.

The character of Barry Lyndon is an intriguing mix of niavete and roguishness and though the narrator relates the incidents in Barry's life almost as pure circumstance, one is left to determine for oneself how much more likely they are the result of Barry's many personality defects.

Breathtakingly gorgeous with an incredible score, the film flopped at the box office but went on to win four Academy Awards including Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design. The sets are deliciously decadent and I can't wait to watch the second half. --Kim

Trivia from IMDB:
"Production was moved from Ireland to England after Stanley Kubrick received word that his name was on an IRA hit list for directing a film featuring English soldiers in Ireland."
"According to Stanley Kubrick's biographer, Robert Redford was the original choice for the role of Barry Lyndon but turned it down."
More trivia.


  1. "Barry Lyndon" is, in my view, Kubrick's unacknowledged masterpiece. Did you know that he used a special NASA camera lens (and rigged up cameras) so that he could shoot his scenes using nothing BUT candlelight? Pauline Kael declared the film nothing more than a picture postcard show. But the key to appreciating "Barry Lyndon" is understanding how Kubrick's extremely dry wit leads to a kind of unexpected pathos for those who feel that they are entitled to a specific life. He knew exactly what he was doing hiring the doe-eyed Ryan O'Neal in the lead. (For that matter, Redford would have worked too.)

  2. The candlelight scenes are absolutely incredible. I agree--one can't help but be sympathetic to a creature so undeniably pretty, youthful, and cocksure.