Nevertheless, I put off watching BARRY LYNDON for years, as I knew it would be the last time Iíd get to experience watching a Kubrick film for the first time, after his untimely death in 1999. I always hoped that Iíd be able to see BARRY LYNDON on 35mm, but for some reason, my local arthouse in Montreal never includes it in their Kubrick retrospectives.
So, I figured this blu-ray would be a fair compromise, and I settle in for 185 minutes in the life of Barry Lyndon, who, a friend of mine likes to call an amoral, 18th century version of FORREST GUMP. Well, that's oversimplifying the character a bit, as Lyndon's no dummy. He starts off the film as a naive country boy, who, after being spurned by the object of his affections, challenges a rival suitor to a duel, which he wins. From there, he hits the battlefield, which hardens his character and leads to his later, amoral pursuits of power amongst the aristocracy.
Of all Kubrick's works, BARRY LYNDON is probably the most divisive, with some saying it's his finest work, and others saying it's too slow and cold. Granted, the pace of BARRY LYNDON is somewhat deliberate, but it's NEVER anything less than fascinating, and visually one of the most perfect films ever made (more on that in the A/V section of the review).
Lyndon himself is a pretty cold guy, and perhaps that's what keeps some of Kubrick's fans from embracing it. Ryan O'Neal's performance is often pegged as two-dimensional, but frankly, I think he's brilliant as Lyndon. O'Neal's famous for the drama in his personal life, and certainly seems to be a real SOB- but that part of his character is uniquely suited to Lyndon. With a more likable guy in the lead, it would be harder to accept the more unsavory aspects of the character, and to that extent O'Neal is just as good (here) as other Kubrick leading men, like Peter Sellers and Malcolm McDowell in their films with the maestro.