Barry Lyndon Unearthed from the Kubrick Time Vault

DATELINE: Movie Mashup Revisited

Ye Olde Fops

Ye Olde Fops in Barry Lyndon

Nearly 40 years ago Stanley Kubrick made a movie based on a work of literature by William Makepeace Thackeray.

It was not science fiction, but a period drama. For that audiences avoided the movie like it was a betrayal of all Kubrick’s movie genres.

Its length of three hours could have had something to do with the box office poison. We often disparage overlong movies as wasting precious time in our ever-important lives. So, when endless feet of snow outside our TV room reached the window sill, or three feet, we decided three hours is not so long to spend with a classic movie.

The other big criticism for Barry Lyndon was Ryan O’Neal. He was pretty to look at, but hardly a good actor (shades of Tom Cruise and Sterling Hayden). To hold our interest, O’Neal did have a codpiece or something grandiose stuffed into his pants for every scene. This alone would win a stocking stuffer award in the NFL.

O’Neal seems to have an accent vaguely distant from the rest of the Irish and British cast, as if his shanty Irish demeanor was stolen from lace curtains.

Yet, the cinematography of this film is like staring at Turner paintings, and we don’t mean the cable network named Turner.

Kubrick’s film actually uses music and images as if we are in a reverse Clockwork Orange, or speeding uncontrollably backward to 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Though fans wanted to see an obelisk in the middle of a redcoat battlefield, Kubrick stayed true to himself. His costume drama looks like a Shining example of his idiosyncratic vision.

Slow, methodical, filled with gay jokes, the movie is, of course, so far in the past that it is now ahead of its time.