Kubrick followed “A Clockwork Orange” with his second great cinematic masterpiece, “Barry Lyndon” from 1975.
The film is based on the book by Thackeray, a lengthy tome, with some episodes removed for the film.
The story is of the adventures and exploits of Redmond Barry as he seeks success and fortune in life. The two part, three hour plus film records Barry’s rise and fall.
The story of the production of the film is recorded elsewhere and involves bomb threats while filming in Ireland.
This is a film that has to be seen as a film, not a digital transfer, on the large screen with a clean quality print. It’s slow to develop and a visual treat for the eyes. John Alcott’s photography is some of the best ever seen on the big screen.
The musical choices are superb, especially the Handel Sarabande which acts as the theme music. The styles and complexities of the music reflect the story line.
There’s a strong cast, including Leonard Rossiter, Steven Berkoff, André Morell and the wonderful Murray Melvin as the chaplain. Tales of multiple takes seemed excessive at the time, but not compared to later productions such as “The Shining”.
It’s a film to just get comfortable and let it wash over you, as it progresses. If you know paintings by Gainsborough and the like you will recognise the style.
So, what’s not to love? Well, one thing. Ryan O’Neal. Yes, he is, or was a big name, and I believe Warners wanted a headline name. But he’s not very good. He doesn’t have to be a dynamic action hero, of course, but his performance lacks the subtle touch we think it needed. Maybe it was deliberate, maybe Redmond Barry’s problem is that he is slow and rather dim.
While people admired the film when it came out, they didn’t like it. Too slow, Too soulless and distant. It has been re-evaluated in recent years and is still regarded as a true masterpiece. Just not a popcorn film.