In 1975 the world was at Stanley Kubrick's feet. His films Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and A Clockwork Orange, released in the previous dozen years, had provoked rapture and consternation--not merely in the fil... more »m community, but in the culture at large. On the basis of that smashing hat trick, Kubrick was almost certainly the most famous film director of his generation, and absolutely the one most likely to rewire the collective mind of the movie audience. And what did this radical, at-least-20-years-ahead-of-his-time filmmaker give the world in 1975? A stately, three-hour costume drama based on an obscure Thackeray novel from 1844. A picaresque story about an Irish lad (Ryan O'Neal, then a major star) who climbs his way into high society, Barry Lyndon bewildered some critics (Pauline Kael called it "an ice-pack of a movie") and did only middling business with patient audiences. The film was clearly a technical advance, with its unique camerawork (incorporating the use of prototype Zeiss lenses capable of filming by actual candlelight) and sumptuous production design. But its hero is a distinctly underwhelming, even unsympathetic fellow, and Kubrick does not try to engage the audience's emotions in anything like the usual way. Why, then, is Barry Lyndon a masterpiece? Because it uncannily captures the shape and rhythm of a human life in a way few other films have; because Kubrick's command of design and landscape is never decorative but always apiece with his hero's journey; and because every last detail counts. Even the film's chilly style is thawed by the warm narration of the great English actor Michael Hordern and the Irish songs of the Chieftains. Poor Barry's life doesn't matter much in the end, yet the care Kubrick brings to the telling of it is perhaps the director's most compassionate gesture toward that most peculiar species of animal called man. And the final, wry title card provides the perfect Kubrickian sendoff--a sentiment that is even more poignant since Kubrick's premature death. --Robert Horton« less
Michael M. from STATEN ISLAND, NY Reviewed on 3/18/2010...
One of Kubrick's best.
1 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
This release is NOT 16x9 enhanced!
bunkaroo | Chicago West Suburbs, IL United States | 10/24/2007
(1 out of 5 stars)
"I just received this exact DVD from Amazon. Although the package art now carries a 2007 date, the disc inside is the same as the 2001 release. It is NOT anamorphically enhanced. In fact, the files on the DVD are dated 2001, so it literally is the exact DVD release in 2001 - the menu is the same as well. The only difference is this comes in a keep case rather than a snapper case. Such a shame that WB won't do better by this overlooked masterpiece."
Underrated Kubrick Masterpiece
David Baldwin | Philadelphia,PA USA | 08/07/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am an unabashed Kubrick fan. I was initiated into his work with "A Clockwork Orange" when I was 16 and went from there. Why is it that "Barry Lyndon" has in my mind surpassed other more revered works. You can cite the magnificent technical attributes of the film(cinematography,art direction, costume design,music), however, a technically proficient movie is not necessarily a moving experience. I would have to say that what elevates this movie is the screenplay and the acting. Kubrick does a great job moving the story from Redmond Barry's youth to his downfall among the English aristocracy. Kubrick has also gathered a great cast of actors here in supporting roles(Parick Magee, Leonard Rossiter, Marie Kean, Godfrey Quigley, Steven Berkof, etc.). What cannot be overlooked is the performance of Ryan O'Neal. If some find him wooden or off-putting should consider that he is essentially playing an unsympathetic rogue. It is a daring performance and O'Neal is utterly convincing whether playing a headstrong teenager or a cold manipulator. One gripe about the DVDs in the Kubrick Collection: with the exception of "The Shining", the only extras on these discs are trailers."
Lavish, engrossing, picaresque
Dennis Littrell | SoCal | 02/06/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Stanley Kubrick's beautifully opulent production takes many liberties with William Makepeace Thackeray's picaresque romance, The Memoirs of Barry Lyndon, Esq (1843), narrated in the first person depicting events from the eighteenth century. In particular, Redmond Barry who becomes Barry Lyndon, is something of an admirable rake, whereas in Thackeray's novel he is a braggart, a bully and a scoundrel. No matter. Kubrick, in keeping with a long-standing filmland tradition, certainly has license, and Thackeray won't mind.Ryan O'Neal is the unlikely star, and he does a good job, rising from humble Irish origins to the decadence of titled wealth, employing a two-fisted competence in the manly arts, including some soldiering, some thievery at cards and a presumed consummate skill in the bedroom. Marisa Berenson plays Lady Lyndon, whom Barry has managed to seduce; and when her elderly husband dies, she marries Barry thus elevating his social and economic station in life. But Barry is rather clumsy at playing at peerage, and bit by bit manages to squander most of the Lyndon fortune until his stepson, Lord Bullingdon (Leon Vitali) grows old enough to do something about it.This really is a gorgeous movie thanks to the exquisite sets and costumes and especially to John Alcott's dreamy cinematography and a fine score by Leonard Rosenman. The 184 minutes go by almost without notice as we are engrossed in the rise and fall of Barry's fortunes. There is fine acting support from Patrick Magee as the Chevalier de Balibari and Leonard Rossiter as Captain Quinn, and a number of lesser players, who through Kubrick's direction bring to life Europe around the time of the Seven Years War (1754-1763) when decadence and aristocratic privilege were still in full flower.The script features two dueling scenes, the first showing the combatants firing at one another simultaneously at the drop of a white kerchief, the second has Barry and his stepson face each other ten paces apart, but due to the flip of a coin, the stepson fires first. Both scenes are engrossing as we see the loading of the pistols with powder, ball and ramrod, and we are able to note how heavy the pistols are and how difficult it must be to hit a silhouette at even a short distance. It is this kind of careful attention to directional detail that absorbs us in the action and makes veracious the story. Notice too the way the British soldiers march directly en mass toward the French guns. They actually used to fight battles that way! Also note the incredible pile of hair atop Lady Lyndon's head. Surely this is some kind of cinematic record. Bottom line: one of Kubrick's best, certainly his most beautiful film."
Wait For The High-Def 16x9 Release
M. Hickey | California, USA | 10/25/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"In 1975, a European reviewer wrote: "One collapses in one's seat and is propelled in a state of drunken euphoria." That's just how I felt about it, going back to experience "Barry Lyndon" over and over again at LA's Cinerama Dome in '75-76. So I give the movie 5 stars. But for this disc, only 3 -- because it's not 16x9 and it's not High-Definition. Having recently watched the 16x9 Hi-Def Blu-Ray discs of "Eyes Wide Shut" and "A Clockwork Orange" (and having watched the old DVDs a number of times), I can say that Hi-Def makes an important difference with Kubrick's movies -- not just because they are gorgeously photographed, but because the richness of the images conveys so much essential, visceral meaning that a degraded image (i.e., standard DVD) actually impairs the work's emotional fullness, clarity and expressiveness. Short of a new 35mm print, a 16x9 Blu-Ray displayed on a big 1080 set in the dark, uninterrupted, is the way to watch all of Kubrick, and perhaps especially "Barry Lyndon." Tragically, Warners Brothers Home Video seems uninterested in a Blu-Ray release of this masterpiece. It has been more than 2 years since they remastered and released their other Kubrick films in High-Definition, and still no "Barry Lyndon," and no announced plans (as of January 2010). I have written to Criterion Collection suggesting they take this neglected classic under their wing. Their email address is on their website ("Contact us")."
Kubrick's greatest masterpiece
B. W. Fairbanks | Lakewood, OH United States | 08/27/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Jack Warner is said to have once told an underling not to bring him any movies about people who write with feather pens. The mogul believed that costume epics were dull and plodding, guaranteed to test the patience of most audiences.
When Stanley Kubrick delivered his film "Barry Lyndon" to Warner Bros. in 1975, the studio's namesake was long gone, and that was probably for the best since he may have chosen not to release what is the ultimate feather pen movie and also Kubrick's greatest masterpiece. If asked to do the impossible and name the best film ever made, I wouldn't hesitate to give my vote to "Barry Lyndon."
Plodding? Yes. Dull? To those who demand rapid fire editing, it may be the dullest movie ever. For those who appreciate fine literature and fine art, "Barry Lyndon" is an absolute feast, visually, aurally, and dramatically. Based on an obscure novel by William Thackeray, it's the story of an Irish lad climbing the ranks of English society, alienating everyone in his path.
As Redmond Barry, Ryan O' Neal's Irish brogue comes and goes, but despite that inconsistency, he acquits himself well. Also worth noting is Michael Hordern's narrator, often seeming to express disapproval for the main character as he perceptively surveys his exploits.
The real star of the film is Kubrick and his production team who recreate the 17th century in a way that makes the viewer truly appreciate what life must have been like at the time. Watching the women, most notably the beautiful Marisa Berenson, sashaying about in glamourous dresses, one wonders how they could endure the apparent discomfort of such cumbersome clothing. It's no wonder they took so many baths. And watching Barry rise in society, one is aware that the society is ultimately every bit as superficial and uncouth as the rogue "hero" himself.
The movie is slow, very slow, but so was life in the era depicted, and the achievement of "Barry Lyndon" is that it transports the viewer to an earlier but far from simpler time in a way that no other film has done. The cinematography and art direction are peerless, as is Leonard Rosenman's score which adapts the work of some of the greatest classical composers.
Most movies, even the good ones, are as light as popcorn, easily forgotten when the lights come back on. The patient viewer who gives "Barry Lyndon" a chance to work its magic will be rewarded with a true cinematic experience.