Sunday, July 19, 2015

CRACKER? Barry Lyndon (1975)

                “Barry Lyndon” was directed by Stanley Kubrick and it came after a string of masterpieces that included “Paths of Glory”, “2001”, ‘’Spartacus”, and “Dr. Strangelove”.  The movie he made right before it was “Clockwork Orange”.  Kubrick wanted to make a movie about Napoleon, but “Waterloo” beat him to it.  Instead he decided to make a film based on William Thackeray’s The Luck of Barry Lyndon which was first published in 1844.  The movie was filmed on location mostly in Ireland.  The film was not a hit and got mixed reviews.  It has gained stature over the years.  It won four Academy Awards:  Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume Design, and Musical Score (Leonard Rosenman).  It was nominated for Best Picture, Director, and Adapted Screenplay.  Ryan O’Neal was tabbed for the lead because Warner Brothers insisted on a Top Ten box office star (this was the last time he was in the Top Ten) and the other choice (Robert Redford) turned the role down.

                Some scholars refer to Barry Lyndon as the first anti-hero.  Others simply consider him one of literature’s great rogues.  The movie starts with the young, lower class Barry fighting a duel over his cousin when she decides to marry a gentleman who has much better prospects.  After this he has to flee and ends up in the British Army during the Seven Years’ War.  He fights in a skirmish which is brief, but accurate other than the French soldiers not reloading.  In a portent of action interruptus yet to come, Barry leaves the battle early.  He then deserts and ends up in the Prussian Army.  Another battle ends prematurely, but Barry saves his commanding officer and is promoted to espionage.  Instead he becomes a gambler.  After some success in this line of work, he sets his sights on the social status that comes with marrying a rich widow.  Barry settles down to spendthrift wastrelry with his dysfunctional family.  He does not live happily ever after.
don't blink or you'll miss any combat involving this dandy
                “Barry Lyndon” has a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an 8.1 on IMDB.  I have to beg to differ.  If there ever was a movie that mesmerized people with shiny baubles, this is it.  Critics love Kubrick and were willing to overlook the plot in favor of the costumery and cinematography.  They gush over the way the movie was filmed.  They are particularly awed by the fact that John Alcott shot the interior scenes without artificial lighting.  As a nonprofessional I would classify that as neat, but not very significant in judging the movie.  I agree that the costumes and music are impressive.  The outdoor scenes are as pretty as a post card.

                My problem with the movie is it is excruciatingly boring.  184 minutes of boring.  The pace is glacial.  At one point the movie jumps eight years and I literally cheered.  To make matters worse, the movie is predictable and the death of one character could not have been telegraphed more if Samuel Morse was the director.   When you do get to an action scene, it is truncated and unfulfilling.  Some refer to it as a satire and even a black comedy, but I did not smile a single time and in fact the movie was depressing to me.  It is also poorly acted.  Ryan O’Neal is wooden and not nearly roguish enough.   Marisa Berenson is basically eye-candy.  It is no surprise her career did not take off after being in it. 
they weren't big on camouflage
in the Seven Years' War

                Movies about the Seven Years’ War are very rare.  Unfortunately, “Barry Lyndon” is not a war movie in my opinion.  You will learn little about the war from it.  It does have some historical value as a period piece.  You learn about what asses the upper class were and how they dressed and behaved.  That is little payoff for three hours of watching molasses flow.  Some will say that I just did not get it and I should rewatch it.  To those people I say:  not a chance in Hell!  First impression will have to be only impression.


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