Monday, August 31, 2009

"Barry Lyndon" (1975) - Movie Review

Stanley Kubrick’s “Barry Lyndon” is a film about the rise and fall of an 18th century adventurer which is empty of emotions and an overzealous obsession for the details on the image. The stillness and the liking for the minutiae in “2001: A Space Odyssey” is a required trait for a film like that but for running through the life story of a man taken in to the path of his choices, “Barry Lyndon” should have been more personal than methodical and clinical.

Ryan O’Neal is Redmond Barry, a young man whose mind work in single line. Stanley Kubrick invites to view his narrow minded thoughts channeled well into opportunities and fiascos. His life is nothing but a sputter small successes in sword fights, gamble and the usage of his good looks. Beyond that he is a nobody. What makes him special to invest a three hour film baffles any one but well that is the specialty of Kubrick. The film takes this 18th century period to its advantage and feeds the technical aspect of the material a good chunk of splendid pictures. The camera work of John Alcott goes through the candle lit rooms, the blooming nature, the palaces that never end into the wide frames.

Young Redmond Barry being fled from the law of his Irish homeland falls upon the paths his life takes him through. He is looted, recruited, fled again, seduced, gambled and culminating his known trade of seducing a rich Countess Lady Lyndon (Marissa Berenson) for wealth and prosperity. It is the decline like no other as the film itself. The movie’s major emotional provider is the narrator (Michael Hordern), who follows up a no sense behaviour trying to make some sense which is unfathomable. It is his cold and hard voice which has some form of reform in a story much needed a face and expression.

It is of course the visual and style of Kubrick most of them rely upon. Such are finesse directors. Paul Thomas Anderson does that for me while many admire the greatness of Coen Brothers which I can see but not embrace as much as their fans do. Nevertheless they tell their obsession for details in any of their films and so is Stanley Kubrick. All his films I have seen so far despite not appealing to the personal taste of mine, have always managed to gain the respect. “Barry Lyndon” fails to be in that category. It becomes a painful exercise putting me through sleep two times in a row. The classical music does not help either.

In a biographical film, the story telling depends on how much we like or hate the character in person. Either way it brings upon a reaction from its audience. Indifference is rarely the case. Here Redmond Barry is a youth tumbling into the ordinary life in a no effort zone. What is his goal apart from money? Does he feed himself of the grandeur nature or what makes him angry, sad or happy? In most of the film, he either begs, cries or shamelessly dominates and machinates to acquire wealth. Even in those wrongdoings there seems to be no passion or a zest to get those. He is situated as this doll in the fancy decorations and glowing candle lights. For so much about a story of a person, we never get to know Barry Lyndon.

The actors in the film can take no responsibility for the failure as Stanley Kubrick is the orchestrator and the puppet master of this entire show. He makes them uptight and inaccessible. We dislike almost all the characters and yet there is not an evident of their motivation and needs. Redmond Barry follows the wealth for obvious reasons with nonchalant face while his step son Lord Bullingdon (Leon Vitali) hates Barry for reasons of the same stature but what is surprising is that their behaviour and emotions does not reveal any kind of happiness in doing such or even the anger is stale and tasteless.

“Barry Lyndon” is hailed as this underrated classic and I do not know what is there to appreciate on a story about a man whose sole purpose is following a line drawn upon with disinterest. What is it there to detest or admire this man of his qualities or charm or cruelty? The only thing which are alive enough are the palaces, nature and the horses running around. There is nothing to know about Barry Lyndon other than he is a failed person in a time where war, money, gambling and power were the prime entertainments.

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