|Although I love many movies, my all time favorite is "Barry Lyndon."
Stanley Kubrick adapted this 1975 film from an 1844 tale about an Irish farm boy who rises from poverty to become a member of the upper crust of English society and eventually to a most unfortunate end.
For many reasons, it is the best film I have ever seen.
Although quite long at 184 minutes, every time I watch it I am glued to the screen.
Redmond Barry, played by Ryan O’Neal, is a simple boy who falls deeply in love with his cousin. Although she leads him on, she eventually leaves him for an English Army captain. When Redmond learns that they are to marry, he challenges the officer to a duel and kills him.
While escaping to Dublin while things cool over, he is robbed and is forced to join the English Army, which he later deserts by stealing a horse and an officer’s uniform. His luck does not change, as a Prussian officer catches him in a lie and in turn Redmond joins the Prussians, a service that is much worse than the English.
Redmond escapes his service with the aid of a wealthy gambler, also Irish, who takes a liking to the boy and teaches him to steal from the wealthy European clients. One night, Redmond catches the eye of the Countess of Lyndon.
The two fall in love and marry after the countess’s husband dies. Redmond takes her name and becomes Barry Lyndon, and the two have a child.
All is well for a short period of time but his luck doesn’t last. I’ll leave the rest for to you to find out.
Other than the incredible acting, wonderful screenplay, and fascinating story, I have to say Kubrick outdid himself on this film.
The Oscar-winning cinematography is mind blowing.
All of the establishing shots look exactly like period landscape paintings, like those of Thomas Gainsborough. You could take screen shots of the views and hang them in any art museum.
The facts behind the gorgeous looks of the film are quintessentially Kubrick.
He was an obsessive director to the point that during his life he was called everything from a genius, to a control freak, to a psychopath.
For "Barry Lyndon," he wanted to be able to use real candlelight to light the scenes. He was able to achieve his goal by calling a friend at a rival studio and obtaining a special set of films and lenses.
These lenses were developed by the Zeiss Company for use by NASA in the Apollo moon landings.
When the camera department of the studio realized what Kubrick had done, the rival studio became furious because the type of craftsmanship and technology developed for the lenses was so incredibly well made that even today their precision couldn’t be matched or even reproduced.
Kubrick had tricked his buddy into giving him the best camera equipment ever made.
The effect is amazing.
Although they did use artificial light in the film, most of the lighting is made up of hundreds of candles. They hang on walls, in gigantic chandeliers, and sitting simply on tables.
In addition to winning the Oscar for cinematography, the film also won three more for best art direction, best costume design and best music.
Kubrick himself was nominated in three more categories for best picture, best screenplay and best director but did not win any of them. Many of his films received him the same three nominations, which I consider to be the most important categories in the Academy Awards.
Throughout his career, he was nominated for 14 Oscars and won just one for best special effects for his work on "2001: A Space Odyssey."
A man who was constantly misunderstood and vilified because he wanted every single one of his movies to be perfect, Kubrick has left an incredible legacy behind and his movies stand the test of time and continue to amaze us.
Like another one of my favorite directors, Martin Scorcese, I think "Barry Lyndon" is by far his greatest film.
"Dr. Strangelove," "The Shining" and "Full Metal Jacket" follow respectively, but at a bit of distance.