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Author Topic: Barry Lyndon (1975)  (Read 17285 times)
dave jenkins
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« Reply #45 on: July 28, 2009, 12:45:35 PM »

The second half of the movie, however, is pretty much unbearable. It's like staring at a painting for seventy minutes and about as satisfying; the great music and visual splendor wears itself out before too long simply because there's nothing of interest going on. There's no emotional connection to the characters, no narrative drive, no interesting story (rather a treacly, insipid soap opera), none of the early parts' humor, no themes worth consideration (the aristocracy of Georgian England weren't nice people? Shocker), no reason at all to give a damn about what's going on onscreen really. Presumably we're supposed to be enraptured by the gorgeous art direction but this only works up to a point. Not to mention, I find the narrator insufferable in the later passages. I will grant I enjoy his snarky commentary on the early segments of the film, but as Barry's life falls apart it just seems cruel and mean-spirited to the extreme. This part of the film is perhaps the strongest argument for Kubrick as anti-humanist cynic. And even that wouldn't bother me that much (who says a filmmaker has to love the characters he portrays?) if something worthwhile were going on! But nothing is! It's redeemed a bit by the wonderful Barry-Bullingdon duel but it ends on as empty and uninteresting a note as it's been chugging along under for the past hour and a half or so.
As you might expect, my take is entirely different. The irony that has been sitting lightly on the surface in Part 1 suddenly goes viral and heads straight into the bone. Barry, the somewhat charming adventurer in the first half, is revealed as an entirely callow and depraved individual. I remember the first time I saw the scene where he blows smoke in Lady Lyndon's face--I was shocked. We'd seen that he was something of an opportunist, but now he was shown to be an utter shit. He actually loves the child he has with his despised wife, however, so Barry is greatly affected when he loses him. Such a tragedy is often the occasion for redemption, and there is finally a sense that Barry and Lady Lyndon could reconcile. But by that time it is too late: Lord Bullingdon must have his revenge. The film does a good job of presenting a simple thesis: in 18th Century European society, vice is rewarded, virtue punished. Barry's rise is possible because of his emotional estrangement from those around him. His fall, on the other hand, is precipitated by his rediscovery of powerful feelings (culminating in his forgiveness of Bullingdon: by discharging his pistol harmlessly, he gives his enemy the means by which he is destroyed). No good deed shall go unpunished, so redemption is denied Barry, as it is for all the characters in the film. At the end we understand that Lady Lyndon, in spite of everything, had loved Barry, had squandered her emotions on an unworthy object. Ironies compound until the final epigraph renders Kubrick's final, extremely jaundiced, assessment. As a view of the world it is incredibly bleak and it's hard to believe that Kubrick felt that way about his characters (otherwise, why bother to make films?), or about the people in his life (otherwise, why bother to live?). But it is a very human response to the world, one that people have expressed from time to time and one the film communicates powerfully. I left the theater in 1976 devastated, and there are only a few other films that have engaged me so deeply since.

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« Reply #46 on: July 28, 2009, 06:09:28 PM »

Barry seems to be a callous asshole at the very beginning of Act II - presumably, as the narration states, still smarting over the rejection of his cousin Nora, and thus transferring his misogynist fury onto an innocent target in Lady Lydon. However, after Lady Lyndon and his son catch him philandering, he seems to reform to an extent and reconciles with her. This is a key point which I think is largely missing from your otherwise interesting analysis; he reforms fairly quickly, just in time to see the world fall apart around him.

I think the story is interesting, whether or not that was clear. I just think it's poorly done, with Kubrick putting more emphasis on art than narrative. I hope I have time to read the novel the whole way through at some point in the future.

I will note that the epigraph comes from the source novel. It's not original to Kubrick.

« Last Edit: July 29, 2009, 06:50:14 AM by Groggy » Logged


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« Reply #47 on: July 28, 2009, 08:02:03 PM »

I will note that the epigraph comes from the source novel. It's not original to Kubrick.
True, but it is used differently. The novel is told in the first person, the film, as it must be, the third person. That shift in perspective alters the meaning. Kim Newman makes this observation:
Quote
Even the celebrated epilogue is a lift from an early passage in the novel in which Barry smugly assesses the troubled times of ancestors whose errors he is about to repeat. Here, despite his reputed misanthropy, Kubrick is diffident and generous where Thackeray was merciless and unforgiving: "It was in the reign of George III that the aforesaid personages lived and quarrelled; good or bad, handsome or ugly, rich or poor, they are all equal now."
(The whole Newman piece is well worth reading: http://www.bfi.org.uk/sightandsound/feature/49516 ).

I disagree with Newman's final assessment, however. When the sentiment was expressed by Lyndon, it could be dismissed as personal misanthropy. Kubrick's use, making it the objective, concluding epigraph of the whole film, renders it nearly a universal truth.

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« Reply #48 on: July 29, 2009, 12:39:09 PM »

One of the greatest movies ever made.

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« Reply #49 on: January 27, 2010, 07:46:27 PM »

So I'm taking an Irish Film class at Florida International University where so far we've watched "The Quiet Man", "Michael Collins" and "Waking Ned Davine". We're in constant debate (as it is the purpose of the class) about what constitutes an "Irish Film". And beyond the general question about a film's nationality is the notion that an "Irish" film that depicts my professor's definition of "Irishness" is simply a film that delineates some aspect of Irish culture, meaning it doesn't need to be produced by an Irish production company or directed by an Irish filmmaker, since, in fact, it can be just as American as "The Quiet Man", starring John Wayne playing an Irish-American. So my idea of an Irish film based on these standards would be Stanley Kubrick's "Barry Lyndon" and I'm prepared to argue my way into getting it shown in my class. Any thoughts on this? Just curious.

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« Reply #50 on: January 27, 2010, 07:52:01 PM »

Works for me. It does have some Chieftains on the soundtrack.

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« Reply #51 on: January 27, 2010, 08:25:10 PM »

Works for me. It does have some Chieftains on the soundtrack.

Hah, old wolf, those were all the excuses you needed, ha? I guess then every Western ever made is, by inertion, an American movie. Cheesy

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« Reply #52 on: January 27, 2010, 08:49:59 PM »

Lets keep the discussion going on the original BL thread. Afro

http://www.fistful-of-leone.com/forums/index.php?topic=3333.0

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« Reply #53 on: January 28, 2010, 04:13:34 AM »

Go for it Sonny Afro. It will Blow them Away, lol  Afro

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« Reply #54 on: January 28, 2010, 07:07:17 AM »

I'm doubtful. The Groggy Generation can't abide that sort of thing.

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« Reply #55 on: January 28, 2010, 10:51:35 AM »

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Hah, old wolf, those were all the excuses you needed, ha? I guess then every Western ever made is, by inertion, an American movie.
But you know, the pity of it is, I'm on record (in this very thread) as claiming that BL itself is a Western!

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« Reply #56 on: January 28, 2010, 11:00:25 AM »

And nobody ran through a forest at night so that's always good.

Just noticed this line. Made me laugh.

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« Reply #57 on: January 28, 2010, 11:33:40 AM »

I'm doubtful. The Groggy Generation can't abide that sort of thing.

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« Reply #58 on: January 28, 2010, 08:18:33 PM »

I'm sorry to say I think that this movie has a lot of flaws.... including the persuasive use of zoom Undecided Undecided Undecided


What exactly do you mean?

Of course, I'm not saying the film is flawless but it is quite possibly the most physically gorgeous film I've ever seen. All of its shots are perfect photographs. No film director either preceeding or succeeding Kubrick has been able to create such a perfect effect of a style that so closely resembles a moving paining.

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« Reply #59 on: January 28, 2010, 08:31:55 PM »

Wow I just realized how old this thread is.... I'm sure some members have gotten to watch the film again (even if completely against their "better judgment") so I'm curious about whether any opinions have changed or become more radically inclined toward one-dimmensional critique. Not that views I've read here haven't raised interesting ideas, but I'm still not convinced about what makes the film even remotely mediocre in style, meaning, characterization, cinematography, sequence or anything else. But, as always, I'm interested in your ideas.

« Last Edit: January 28, 2010, 08:33:13 PM by Sonny » Logged



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