Friday, May 20, 2011

Redmond Barry - Don't hate the player, hate the game.

Barry Lyndon, Kubrick's follow-up to Clockwork Orange, has sometimes been called a "moving painting".  It's hard not to see it, especially with compositions such as this one where the painting becomes the next painting and so on (Cinema as Painting perhaps), but it almost does a disservice to how great everything else in the film is.  For a director who had a reputation for someone who made 'cold' films emotionally, there's a lot of super-charged vibes going on here.  Sometimes it is under the surface, being held inside and not able to come out due to it being 18th century European style.  But that makes it all the more palpable;  the link I'll post just below this is one of the most staggeringly beautiful human interactions in the medium.

It's also glorious storytelling that unfolds just like reading a sprawling epic about a man who shouldn't be too likable - in the second half he's a scad who mistreats his wife and tries to become a Lord to no end (albeit he's still a prince compared to his shit step-son Lord Bullington who has the biggest Oedipus complex since Rex) - yet is not without some sympathy through all the problems he's gone through and the early mistakes he's made.  He is fallible and a liar and a gambler in the worst ways, but he's good-hearted and we want to see him do well... which, our dutifully morose British Masterpiece Theater narrator lets us know a few reels in advance won't be the case.

Body language, cutting, the specific uses and re-uses of pieces of music (sometimes the same tune will be chipper and bright, and then dark as a gravestone), and that wonderful candle-lighting via the 50mm Zeiss lens provided by NASA.  Oh, and those sets, those perfectly chosen and composed Irish landscapes, and how seamless Kubrick cuts from masters to close-ups.  Seeing it on a big screen made me appreciate it all the more-so (such as, by the way, such a OMG style theater like this: is a little paradise, only slightly marred by the echo of the audio) made me appreciate it all the more-so.

If it weren't for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Jaws, which are two of the best films ever made, this would be the top of the pops of 1975, which is saying a lot for that year in film (Nashville, Holy Grail, The Mirror, Dog Day Afternoon are others from that year).