Plot: What’s it about?
I always have trouble when I try to explain the storyline of Barry Lyndon, as it is such a visual effort, it’s hard to summarize. So if this synopsis seems thin or whatever, just take my word that the film is much more complex, just quite difficult to put into words. This is the story of Barry Lyndon (Ryan O’Neal), a young man who has some rambunctious character traits, but also has the elements of a gentleman, which makes for a unique combination. As he passes through various locales, he has certain adventures and experiences, all in a scheme to alter his lifestyle, at least in his own eyes and mind, that is. Lyndon wants to live the nobleman’s life and that means he must overcome himself at times, which entails certain activities. He travels across all sorts of lands and when needed, he gambles, gets into fights, and of course, romances the lovelies, all of which seems to enhance his lifestyle, to himself and others. But will Lyndon ever truly become the nobleman he wishes to be, or are his efforts all for nothing in the end?
I was very displeased with the original release of Barry Lyndon, as a beautiful film was given a poor treatment, to be sure. This is a visually driven picture and when the transfer is bad, it throws off the entire movie, which is not good. Now however, Warner Bros. has restored and remastered this epic flick and reissued it, which should delight fans. The lack of anamorphic enhancement will enrage some, but I am so pleased to see the film in such fine form, I won’t dwell on the negatives. If you’re a fan of Barry Lyndon, then this is the release to own, no two ways about it. The film is a treat for the senses, as Kubrick uses color, light, and composition to perfect ends, creating a memorable and often unforgettable chain of visuals. I think the visuals sometimes direct the focus away from the storyline, but I don’t think to an extreme extent. I suppose it all seems a little clinical at times, but I still find Barry Lyndon to be a riveting film at times and if nothing else, it is a masterpiece of visuals, to be sure. I give this release a very high recommendation and if you own the previous edition, you’ll want to make the upgrade, without a doubt.
This time around, director Stanley Kubrick tackles an epic costume drama and of course, he makes sure his fingerprints are all over it. I happen to love Barry Lyndon, but even some Kubrick devotees dislike it, for a plethora of reasons. Some feel it lacks emotion and is too distant, but I think that’s part of the point here, so to speak. Kubrick paints this lush portrait from a distance and in the process, alters our reaction to an extent, which is just what I assume he wanted. But whether you like it or hate it, Barry Lyndon is gorgeous and dynamic, with some of Kubrick’s finest visual work, if you ask me. I don’t hold this as his best picture or my personal favorite, but I do think it is a terrific movie, thanks in large part to Kubrick’s masterful direction. Other films directed by Kubrick include Paths of Glory, A Clockwork Orange, Spartacus, The Shining, Eyes Wide Shut, Full Metal Jacket, and Killer’s Kiss. The cast here includes Ryan O’Neal (Love Story, Paper Moon), Patrick Magee (Chariots of Fire, The Masque of the Red Death), and Marisa Berenson (The Cherry Orchard, Sex on the Run).
Video: How does it look?
Barry Lyndon is presented in a 1.66:1 widescreen transfer, which is not enhanced for widescreen televisions. This film is heavily reliant upon visuals and as such, this new remastered edition is quite welcome, since the previous disc was weak, to say the least. The first thing I noticed was how rich the colors were, but they never bleed, as they did in the prior edition. The hues are more bold as well, which add impact to each scene and in a visual feast like Barry Lyndon, that makes a lot of difference. The contrast is solid also, much sharper than before and also richer, which results in a much better experience. The image here often looks quite soft, but that is intentional and as such, it nothing to be bothered with.
Audio: How does it sound?
As with the other remastered Kubrick releases, this one features a new Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, but don’t expect a reference level experience. I think the music benefits the most here, as it expands across the additional channels, much more immersive than before, to be sure. The other elements sound fuller, but lack the dynamic depth we’ve come to expect, though I am pleased it retains a natural, unforced overall sound. The dialogue is always crisp and never hard to decipher, thanks to consistent volume levels. I am sad to see the absence of the original mono, but since this is a nice track, I won’t complain much. This disc also includes subtitles in Spanish, French, and English, just in case you’ll need them.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes a list of awards the film was given, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer, which is always a welcome feature.