opening shot quickly lets us know that this film is one of the
most beautifully photographed in the history of filmmaking.
A perfectly composed long shot that looks like a painting we
witness a shooting dual between two men facing opposite each
other (three others stand in the middle of them).
may very well be Stanley Kubrick's greatest film but I wanted
to instead choose Barry Lyndon becuase it is his most forgotten
or overlooked film of the brilliant Stanley Kubrick's many masterworks.
To me, this film rates among his very best, and perhpas his
most perfectly made film. It's pretty obvious where the strength
of master Barry Lyndon lies; in the breathtaking cinematography
(provided by John Alcott) and overall visual imagery. In fact,
I'd say Barry Lyndon is easily among the most beautifully eye
pleasing cinematography in cinema history. Kubrick perfectly
recreates the details, look and mood of the 18th Century like
few films ever have. Every frame of Barry Lyndon is like a painting:
full of spectacular details. Through a heavy use of slow zoom-outs,
Kubrick calmly glances upon a variety of palaces, woods, streams,
gardens, pools, building, and rooms. At just over three hours
long, the film is very slow paced, but it never becomes to boring,
and builds in suspense to an unforgettable duel. Adding to the
emotional atmosphere is the use of beautiful classical music
(including Bach and Mozart) which is quintessential Kubrick.
It's a rare experience, and like most Kubrick films unsuited
for a particular genre. The stunning imagery of the film is
truly unique from anything else I've seen in a film (as Kubrick
had a special customized lens used for most of the film). To
me Barry Lyndon rates among Kubrick's finest films, which remains
a truly breathtaking accomplishment of filmmaking and also one
of the masters most personal films. There are many dark human
depths to be found within the beauty of the films imagery from
the opening frame to its conclusion (including the perfect Epilogue
title card that closes the film!). Barry Lyndon is a cinematic
work of art from a filmmaker who has mastered the combination
of images and sound. To see this film is to experience it. The
finest and most emotionally involving moments may come in those
without dialogue, as Kubrick captures the essence of silent
cinema through visuals and music to absolute perfection. Much
like an art gallery, Barry Lyndon will certainly absorb the
viewer into it's 18th Century world of remarkable visual beauty.
An absolute masterpiece!!
Kubrick is one of the most controversial and perhaps misunderstood,
and ultimately important filmmakers in the history of cinema.
His controlling and perfectionist approach to filmmaking is
legendary. The images of his films are among the most profound,
beautiful, and memorable ever made. Kubrick is quite simply
a genius and among the very greatest filmmakers to ever live.
As a youth, Kubrick was an avid movie viewer and chess player
(he grew up playing for money in New York). He was very intelligent
but did not have good grades in school and was not accepted
into college. Kubrick made an early living as a freelance photographer
and eventually was hired by Look Magazine. His photography work
showed early signs of his brilliant visual composition. Kubrick
felt as though he preferred moving images and film. After directing
a couple short subject documentaries, Kubrick began making feature
films with Fear and Desire in 1953. His filmmaking career would
last 48 years until his death in 1999. Over that span, Kubrick
directed 13 feature films, many of which stand among the most
important in the history of cinema. I believe just about all
his films to be masterpieces. Despite just 13 feature films
to his credit, Kubrick has earned wide acclaim and fans who
consider him among the greatest artists of cinema. Though every
film he made (since The Killing) was taken from a novel (even
if they often rarely ever resemble the original source), Kubrick's
perfectionist style and themes would emerge with every film.
All his films share common themes of dehumanization, as well
as dark and cold examinations of human nature, suffering, and
failure. He challenges the nature of dramatic narrative through
a cinematic style that is trademark (Slow zoom-in and zoom outs,
a technique that reached it's breathtaking peak in Barry Lyndon;
Narration, many times at the opening of the film); Close-up
of the human face; His "signature" shot is commonly
called "the glare": an extreme close-up with the characters
head tilted downward and eyes are pointed upward; Use of previously
written music, generally classical; Uses color as visual meanings
or references, particularly blue, and especially red; Known
for excessive number of takes; Expressive vivid and detailed
visual compositions). Perfectionist is a word that often gets
overused, but Kubrick truly was a perfectionist. One who would
control every detail of his film from pre to post production
(he was also his own producer, which gave him more freedom and
a lot more time). Among the most obvious connection of all of
his films is the irony of well-mannered civilization. Kubrick
examines that the problems of social evils come from human nature.
Within a society, humans kill each other under controlled "purposes"
(like justice, defense, patriotism, or power). Where as otherwise
without a society, humanity would kill each other in chaos (as
in the early sequence of 2001 when the ape discovered the use
of "tools/weapons"). What makes Kubrick a true master
is the way he is able to find the perfect tone to develop these
cynically ironic themes (it is also what makes his films so
controversial and him misunderstood as an artist). He distances
us from the character in a way that the audience can analyze
their behavior. Kubrick does this all with the most beautiful
and expressive visual touch, and a pitch-perfect tone (which
can often be haunting, humorous, and grand in the same moment).
I consider all of Kubrick's 13 feature films to be masterpieces
(or at least near masterpieces), but to me it is four films
that stand among the very greatest achievements in American
film: 2001 A Space Odyssey (his most artistic and quintessential);
Barry Lyndon (his most absorbingly breathtaking); Dr Strangelove
(his most endlessly watchable); and Eyes Wide Shut (his most
complex and challenging). I could probably go back and forth
as to which of the four is my favorite but above all they are
films that define one of the greatest artists in the history
of filmmaking. Expanding upon his earliest influences and innovators
(such as DW Griffith, Jean Renoir, and Orson Welles), Kubrick
has challenged the traditional dramatics and expression of film
language, and ultimately has explored into a deeper subconscious
layer of representation and understanding. He is the truest
form of a cinematic master in the history of American film.
With his masterwork from 1968, 2001 A Space Odyssey, he changed
the forever the nature of how we view films and established
a new way of dramatic progression and interpretation (most expressively
captured in the single cut from a bone at the 'Dawn of Man'
to the evolution of a shuttle in space). In his final film (1999's
Eyes Wide Shut), Kubrick has again challenged the very essence
of film interpretation by studying how dreams work and expressing
how they present themselves to the deeper subconscious. Kubrick's
films challenge and absorb complex thought as well as interpretation.
What may be most beautiful about the films of Stanley Kubrick
is that they transcend examination. Just about every film he
has made is a work of art, which is left for the viewers to
interpret and analyze. However, like the work of the greatest
master filmmakers (or all films for that matter), any amount
of intellectual film study does not justify the feeling and
emotional impact of the images and sounds within Kubrick's work.
His films connect and reach within the viewer to a point that
transcends any description... Thus is the power of cinema, and
the beauty of Kubrick's genius!! He is undoubtedly one of the
world's greatest filmmakers to ever live.