Barry Lyndon may well be the best-looking movie Stanley Kubrick ever made. From the armies of vividly-uniformed soldiers to the elegant, candle-lit interiors, every other shot is a masterpiece of color, composition, depth, and detail. (Cinematographer John Alcott won the Academy Award in 1975.)
Ryan O’Neill stars as the title character from the novel by William Thackeray. The film observes Barry from when he’s a young man, when, after a duel with an army officer, he is banished from his little village. Like Candide (or Forrest Gump), once he leaves his village, he sees the world. The movie is made of little vignettes in the hero’s life. Each new episode brings adventure, fame, fortune, or ruin.
The tense, unhurried duel at the end of the film deserves consideration as one of the Best Scenes In Any Movie, and in its own odd way, it sums up the movie’s take on life.
Some have found Barry Lyndon too slow-moving, so I won’t recommend it to everyone, but on the whole, this is a great movie.
A NOTE ON DVD: I just watched the disc from the Kubrick box set, and it was the worst transfer I have yet to see on any DVD. I’m sure the picture quality was still superior to VHS, but some of the video noise was ugly and unforgivable. Perhaps we could convince Criterion to release a version done properly.