Tuesday, March 15, 2011


JER: Greetings Gals and Pals…I am going to dive into this one head-first! Nominated for 7 Academy Awards in 1975 including Best Picture and Best Director, winner of 4: Best Art Direction/ Set Decoration, Cinematography, Costume Design and Adapted Scoring…I proudly bring forth this week’s film recommendation in the form of Stanley Kubrick’s BARRY LYNDON.

A luxurious piece of real filmmaking filled with wonderful and lush sets and costumes which also includes a knitted classical soundtrack including the works of Mozart, Schubert and Vivaldi, BARRY LYNDON, based on the novel by William Makepeace Thackeray, tells the story of a poor Irish boy (Ryan O’Neil) and his clever and sly manipulation through 18th Century’s English aerostatic lifestyles to find his way to English nobility…but with a price!
The original trailer for Staney Kubrick's BARRY LYNDON

I will be the first to admit that, clocking in at 3 hours and 3 minutes, the movie is a bit heavy and possibly tedious for some viewers…but, BARRY LYNDON has many layers that can be peeled back to continue revealing one more beautifully shot moment after another. Details were not spared to specific period costumes specially made for the film as well as authentic set decorations and tapestries to dress up the various inns, homes and manors presented throughout the story’s telling.

Arthur O'Sullivan as Capt. Feeney
A film has to offer various angles to be pieced together and enjoyed. In this case, we have very memorable characters like Captain Feeny, a polite older highwayman who will ask you kindly to give up your horse and money…but may allow you to keep your boots! Lord Bullingdon, Lyndon’s stepson who loathes and despises Barry’s conniving ways into his newly widowed mother’s life only to place himself comfortably in society and the card-playing grifter…simply known as The Chevalier. Locations used throughout the film included Ireland, Germany and the U.K., Kubrick insisted in using as many authentic interiors and exteriors to add to the realistic period pieces he set out to capture. One of the greatest stories told in filmmaking history has to do with the particular cameras Kubrick tricked the studios into using for principal photography.

Director Kubrick with the Mitchell BNC
As the story goes, Kubrick was aware of a couple of specially and very expensively made rear- projection cameras called the Mitchell BNC. He had once had the opportunity to use these highly- developed cameras as a young man, but no one had ever used them for any kind of filmmaking. As Kubrick scouted Panavision’s offerings of various supplies, he came across them again. He informed the studios that he was interested in purchasing one or two of the Mitchell BNCs, for his personal intends. Since they had not been used since its arrival, due to the costly equipment production and the current use of front-projection cameras, the studio gladly granted Kubrick his purchased wishes. It was later understood that the CEO of Panavision chastised the individuals responsible for the sales of the BNCs, stating that the cameras are one the most highly advanced pieces of machinery every created. Kubrick went to a specialist to attach a prototype NASA-created Zeiss lens that was placed on the newly purchased BNCs to create a camera that could capture natural light for its principal photography. BARRY LYNDON is surrounded by candlelit interiors as well as dewy and somber exterior sequences…all captured by Kubrick’s newly-created cameras!
Hear from the men who tell the tale of the BNC cameras and Kubrick

All in all, the film was not a box- office success, but Kubrick stood behind the accomplishments achieved on the technical aspect of his work. Because of its failure, Kubrick would carefully choose his next project to be directed for Warner Brothers…the next film in question would be THE SHINING.

JOHNNY CHAZZ: This 1975 “period” film by Stanley Kubrick is what could easily be referred to as a magnificent whilst meaningful work of film art. Perhaps the same could be said for the other films of Kubrick (Clockwork and 2001 immediately come to mind).
This one however, is witty and charming – but quite dark under the microscope. And as you mentioned Jer, although the film is lengthy and is often viewed as "tedious" - there are indeed new and creative layers of details used by Kubrick and his team that can be peeled back every single time the film is viewed.

The opening scene from BARRY LYNDON
From the opening shot, the film IS framed in beauty - breathtaking 18th-century sets and landscapes. Thus, I absolutely love, Jer, how you have described this film as one that is filmed in "luxury". The attention to detail in the film is equally spectacular. The narration also sets the proper tone for the audience which guides us through this wonderful journey of Barry Lyndon (Ryan O’Neal) which has the feel of a story that has been told time and time again (in a wonderful way of course) – in essence, a tale from the past.

Underrated actor Ryan O'Neil
One of the more resounding comments by the narrator is when he states that one should "Never fall from the rank of a gentleman” which is, in all actuality, the motivation and quest for Barry Lyndon throughout the film. This is what is precisely so enthralling about the performance of Ryan O’Neil, who gives such a sympathetic, genuine and convincing performance of a character who is really the complete opposite – shallow and greedy. Nonetheless, we empathize with Barry Lyndon since he remains strong-willed, determined, and above all – a hopeless romantic. In sum, this is a man who makes the journey from “poor man” to a “soldier” to a “husband” and then lands in the status of the elite.

The absolutely entrancing score by Handel is utterly inspiring throughout the film. The music complements the characters, the costumes, the sets (purely authentic as you mentioned, Jer) and of course – the story line.
Handel's music as the theme to BARRY LYNDON

When I think of the film, the one scene in particular that stands out is the beginning of the 7-year war appropriately and sarcastically introduced by our narrator. We learn that Barry’s first taste of battle is against a small army of Frenchmen with Revolutionary sounds and imagery twirling in the background.

Barry Lyndon’s rise to the “elite” status is somewhat ironical, yet highly justified and satisfying for the audience. On the other hand, it is actually quite shameful and he lands there without remorse. Still, it is a story of fortune and mis-fortune to say the very least and perhaps one of the most magnificent “period” films ever made. It is the story of a likeable liar and cheat – it is that simple really.

There are so many memorable scenes that paint this film, but allow me to highlight one more as it is a necessity. The candle-lit scene set to Schubert’s E-Flat Sonata may very well be my favorite in the film. Here, Barry Lyndon is seen entranced and distracted by the awe-inspiring and breathtaking and future “Lady Lyndon” (Marisa Berenson) across the gambling table. Lady Lyndon is graciously and lovingly followed by the camera to the balcony under the moonlight (terrific lighting in this scene I must add). Here is where I can completely agree with you, Jer, in respect to your commentary on "candlelit interiors and somber exteriors". Barry Lyndon is then seen approaching the lady, offering his hand and from a slight distance they kiss one another in a frame that sets another picturesque masterpiece. Set design, make-up and costume design are first-rate – and this particular scene is simply grandiose in all categories.

Just the fact that Kubrick attempted to create a film such as this during a decade when films “such as this” were not generally accepted or appreciated is purely remarkable within itself. It was a high-risk venture with a virtually guaranteed low payoff in return.

I guess, Jer, that what I really like about Barry Lyndon is the fact that it is so “novel”-like. The script writing is sincere, eloquent but is in now way mushy. In fact, this may very well be the best written of all of the Kubrick films even though the script is adapted from the novel “The Luck of Barry Lyndon” in 1844 by William Thackeray.

Barry Lyndon is a film that I have always been high on and I must commend my associate, Jer, here for recommending it to our members this week. You may hear some people tell you that this film is a masterpiece while others will inform you how much of a box-office flop it was. It’s a cliché, but the more you watch this film, the more appreciation you will gain for it. So do yourself a favor and either re-visit the film, or watch it for the first time and formulate your own opinion. ***PICTURE POINTS: 8/10

JER: Well, JC, it would seem as if we agree to another classic work of filmmaking by an outstanding director, Mr. Stanley Kubrick…. Having said that, we need to enter a level of controversy, otherwise we won’t be living up to our blog’s name of “counterpoint!”

Tune in next week when it will be Johnny Chazz’ turn to submit God-knows-what…I remain posed and ready for anything. Thank you for checking in and we will SEE YOU NEXT WEDNESDAY!

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  1. thank youfor the recomendation of Barry Lyndon. I watched it yesterday because of you recomendations and I really enjoyed it. - Carla from Stockton, CA

  2. Hi Carla, I am really glad you enjoyed it! JC and I want to open people up to movies they may not have seen before...there are soooo many great films out there, they are either forgotten or never given a fighting chance! Thanks again and I hope you keep checking in on us weekly!

  3. Hi Movie guys: It is hard to find some of the movies you guys are recommending in my local video store. suggestions if any? thanks. - Phil (Oak Park, CA)

  4. Good movie site - like your recommednations from both of you. CHRIS, Portland, Oregon

  5. Hi Phil, we realize that some of our films are hard to find and is basically because most stores carry the "safe" films! The ones you have seen over and over again and not carry some of the really good films no one talks about! Our recommendation is join a club like Netflix, where you find a lot of great films all around...if you are a 'blind' buyer, than I would point you towards either Amazon or E-bay...I hope this was helpful!
    Hi Chris from Portland...thanks so much...which ones have you enjoyed so far? Please share!

  6. Hi Jer and John:

    I liked Traffic when I seen it a long time ago and some of the academy sawards movies you both recommended and liked this year. Thanks.

    CHRIS, Portland, Oregon