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BARRY LYNDON
1975 - Stanley Kubrick
United Kingdom
43
Opening Shot

The 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).

The Film

2001 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!!

The Filmmaker

Stanley 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.

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