Take Me To Your Cinema
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Shutter Island is for Scorsese what Inside Man is for Lee. Discuss.
So a film that is nothing like his others but it's his best?
Interesting thoughts on this. I'm not one of these cinephiles who maintains that film peaked in the '70s and it's been mostly downhill since then. That said, AN is such a one-of-a-kind film that it's hard to think of a good comparison in other decades. We'll probably never get another like it.
I think cinema mostly went uphill from the 70s but AP represents a certain type of big-budget/experimental film-making that will likely never return and surely won't return with the same "everything is done for real" attitude.
Barry Lyndon (1975)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Country: United Kingdom / United States
Length: 187 minutes
Type: Period, Epic, Drama
By some strange coincidence, a lot of the things I loved most as a kid seemed to involve Sir Michael Hordern and his warm and reassuring voice. He was the definitive Gandalf in the 1981 BBC radio version of 'Lord of the Rings', the spy-master in 'Where Eagles Dare', the narrator and voice of the rabbit-god Frith in 1978's 'Watership Down', Badger in the 1980s 'Wind in the Willows', the narrator of 1985's 'Young Sherlock Holmes', the lord in the 1985 Roald Dahl 'Danny the Champion of the World' TV Movie and was the narrator of the original 'Paddington Bear' 1970s TV series. So later in my teens, when I was first getting into Stanley Kubrick (I'm sure like many teenage film-fans beginning to study the essential "curriculum" of film), I was pretty excited to realise that Kubrick had got that same beautiful voice to narrate 'Barry Lyndon'. Hordern's lovely grandfatherly voice, narrating the film gives it the same sort of atmosphere as Peter Falk's voice does in 1987's 'The Princess Bride'. Despite 'Barry Lyndon's tragic content and real-world setting, the narration lends it a nostalgic, fairytale, dreamlike feel. Watching it yet again, it's surprising how little dialogue there is overall, many scenes are silent, apart from the narration and Baroque score, as we slowly observe the melancholic faces of the characters. I also love the way Hordern's script is full of colourful words and phrasing particular to the 18th Century setting e.g. "Thus Barry fell into the very worst of courses and company and was soon very far advanced in the science of every kind of misconduct." so it doesn't sound like a film from 1975, it's like a person of the period is describing recent vents.
I definitely used to consider 'Barry Lyndon' to be my favourite Kubrick film but it's increasingly been surpassed in my estimation by 'Paths of Glory' and perhaps the longer US cut of 'The Shining' might be above it now but it's still a terrific way to spend 3-hours. If I had to nitpick, Ryan O'Neal looks far too old to play the young naive Barry in the early sections and there are a few moments where it feels like material was chopped out to move the story along (for example, Barry's mother just re-appears in a scene late in the story without explanation). I also hadn't appreciated how definitive the intermission break is, it divides the rise, then the fall, before it, Barry is a lovable rogue who we want to win, the first shot afterwards he's blowing smoke in the face of his new wife's face, he's now a cruel brute somewhat deserving of the impending downfall. For want of a little love, or at least outward affection toward his new wealthy bride, his tragedy could be averted. His fortunes are often won, by accident, or design, through unexpected love and fealty to several people on his adventure, it's lack of love and fealty when it should be most expected that dooms him. Barry finally redeems himself in the eyes of the viewer, by an act of charity and magnanimous honour but it's to late to save him.
This was the first time I've rewatched 'Barry Lyndon' since the 2017 documentary 'Filmworker'. Which was about how actor Leon Vitali (who played the central nemesis in the last hour of 'Barry Lyndon') gave up his promising acting career, to quietly become Kubrick's personal assistant for the rest of SK's life. He delivers a brilliant performance, hateful, yet still sympathetic and could surely have done more great roles.