Barry Lyndon/B,D+

Warner/1975/172m/WS 1.66

       Director Stanley Kubrick sets out to make a faithful adaptation of the William Makepeace Thackeray novel Barry Lyndon and succeed in capturing the stiffness of another period. The movie follows the fortunes of young Redmond Barry from his Irish home to his adventures in Eastern Europe, through the years of his courtship for a title of nobility. Spiced with its own unique humor, Barry Lyndon is a picaresque movie with lush settings, glorious tableaus and an enduring coldness that fails to give the viewer any sympathy for even one character that inhabits this world. 


A Barry Lyndon tableau. ©Warner

     Barry Lyndon is a self-consciously a visual film. Compositions are meticulously rendered. The perfectionism of director Stanley Kubrick is legendary, but there is also something very anal about his uncompromising visions. How many times can you frame a scene in close-up and pull back with a slow zoom to open a large tableau. Kubrick does it so many times in Barry Lyndon it calls attention to itself. 
     The much-maligned Ryan OíNeal acquits himself quite well in the role of Redmond Barry, who later takes on the name of Barry Lyndon and all the pretense nobility but without title. OíNealís often simplistic acting captures the period and adds its own level of humor to the cold doings. Marisa Berenson is tranquilly beautiful as Lady Lyndon and Patrick Magee lends The Chevalier an air of refined decadence. 
     The music is at once magnificent, adapted from the work of the great classical composers and at the same time hypnotic.  The even tempos, visually and orally, that Kubrick strives for in Barry Lyndon are maintained and even emphasized by the music. Ken Adamís sets are acutely detailed.

     This is not a pretty DVD. The splendor of Barry Lyndon requires elements in pristine condition and the various lighting and the grainy filming needs extra special attention in the transfer bay. Edge enhancement rather rudely asserts itself in most every scene. This exacerbates grains and adds unwelcome jitter. There are enough problems native to the NTSC system; it can do without extra enhancement.  Some scenes do look quite wonderful. Could the photography be so inconsistent? I doubt that the Oscar winning photography of John Alcott is the culprit in this case. Color is nicely saturated throughout the DVD, though some slight color bleeding occurs from time to time in high transition areas. More problematic is that the many interior scenes that are shot with bright light streaming through the windows wreak havoc with power supplies. My system did not do so well and blue bloom and blue washout of peripheral blacks occurred far too often for my viewing pleasure.  There are plenty of transfers that have similar lighting conditions without the blue washing. Too bad. Itís similar to the problems encountered on Excalibur. The sound is presented in mono, as was the production. The music is just fine and the varied accents are easy to understand.





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