Barry Lyndon (Criterion)
- Street Date:
- October 17th, 2017
- Reviewed by:
- Bryan Kluger
- Review Date: 1
- October 10th, 2017
- Movie Release Year:
- 185 Minutes
- MPAA Rating:
- Rated PG
- Release Country
- United States
Portions of this review appear in our coverage of the standard Blu-ray release written by Bryan Kluger. Specifically, Bryan wrote about the Movie Itself previously, but the Vital Disc Stats, Video, Audio, Supplements, and Final Thoughts sections are all brand new, just like this Criterion release.
The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
After A Clockwork Orange and before The Shining, Stanley Kubrick made an epic, 187-minute period drama. It's among the least talked about films of Kubrick's resume, but should, in fact, be one of the most discussed for its sheer beauty and brilliance. Kubrick decided to adapt the 1844 fictional book called 'The Luck of Barry Lyndon' by William Makepeace Thackeray and the results were astounding. Not only did Kubrick's vision win critic and audience's praises, but it also won four Oscars and might be Kubrick's best-looking film in his entire canon, which is quite the feat considering every single one of his films is visually stunning.
Hell, many critics and outlets have deemed Barry Lyndon one of the greatest films ever made, and they wouldn't be far off the mark with that statement. But why does this film get the shaft from debates and film geeks like ourselves? Maybe it's perhaps the film's long runtime and slow-burn pacing. Or maybe it's the fact that our main protagonist, Barry, isn't such a great man from start to finish, thus disconnecting us from Barry's journey.
Kubrick not only wanted to make a film that was similar to walking into one of the greatest art galleries in the world and spending hours looking at the gorgeous paintings, but also show us an objective look at a man's life and how he conducted himself in his own selfish ways. This leads Kubrick to hypnotize us for a couple of hours before smacking us in the face. It's quite a brilliant move on Kubrick's part. Told in two acts, Barry Lyndon starts out with Barry's father being killed in a duel in Ireland. At this time he's known as Redmond Barry (Ryan O'Neil). After the death of this father, Barry falls in love with his cousin and makes several advances towards her, although she never reciprocates because she loves an English Captain.
Furious, the bratty and rude Barry is forced to flee his home and, with no money and nowhere to go, enlists in the British Army where he is shipped off to the Seven Years' War. You'd think Barry would mature or think things through, but he doesn't and flees his post and ends up forced to join the Prussian army. After the war, but still-very-much-a-jerk, Barry ends up becoming a cheating gambler to make money and, when his opponents give him grief or don't pay, Barry duels. Not exactly the best life.
Over living a poor life of gambling, cheating, and stealing, Barry marries a very wealthy Countess (Marisa Berenson) to live off her money and take her last name, Lyndon. But it's not too long before the Countess realizes what kind of debaucherous, selfish person Barry really is; he openly cheats, steals, and only uses his wife for her money. The only person who seems to want to speak up, or do something about Barry, is the Countess' son from her first marriage.
It seems Barry has come full circle. He tried so hard to climb the social ladder and keep his pockets full of money, but suddenly it all come crashing down thanks to his stupidity and childish actions. The second half of the film focuses on Barry trying to confront his demons.
Kubrick's vision for Barry Lyndon is one of the most beautiful pieces of art and cinema out there. Each frame of the film could be paused, printed, and hung up on your wall. It's that amazing. The use of natural light and classical music fully immerses you into this old world, and with award-winning performances by everyone in the film, it's no doubt Kubrick has concocted yet another masterpiece for himself and for us to enjoy and talk about.
Like most Kubrick movies, it's one of those films where, if it's on television, you can't help but watch the whole thing all the way through. It's one of those films where you shouldn't want to watch a horrible man be horrible to so many people, but you can't help but be riveted. It's one of those films where you'll notice something different each time and take away something new with each viewing, which is which is something you don't get from enough movies.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Barry Lyndon comes with a two 50GB Blu-ray Discs from Criterion and both are Region A Locked. Disc #1 contains the film and Disc #2 contains all the bonus features. There is a Criterion booklet that is fully illustrated, which includes cast and crew information, tech specs, an essay by Geoffrey O'Brien, an interview with John Alcott, and another essay by Ed DiGiulio. This comes with Spine #897. The discs and booklet are housed in a hard, clear plastic case.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
Criterion's Barry Lyndon comes with a 1080p HD transfer based on a new 4K digital restoration and is presented in 1.66:1 aspect ratio, which should satisfy Kubrick fans. According to the Criterion Booklet, this new digital transfer was created in 16-bit 4K resolution from the original 35mm camera negative. Kubrick's personal assistant served as the color reference for this new transfer. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed too. The result is the way we were meant to see this amazing looking film, as if it were just released in theaters on film stock.
Colors are deeper and richer and detail is more vivid and sharper in every lighting instance. The red colored military uniforms look amazing in their full-bodied color and never go murky when in candlelit scenes. In fact, they stand out proud and bold. The luscious green fields and perfect blue skies are all brighter and more realistic with no haziness to it. Textures and fine stitching in the uniforms also show great detail while the soldiers are marching and running around. Even the scuff marks on their hats and leather straps can be seen easily here too. It's really like an oil canvas come to life on screen.
Facial features, such as scars, wrinkles, moles, facial hairs, and makeup blemishes look good here too in close-ups. Perhaps the coolest thing here is when scenes take place only in candlelight, you'll be able to notice more detail and distinguish more colors than you have in previous releases. Black levels are deep and inky and the skin tones are always natural. The film grain is smooth and never fluctuates between scenes, but rather has a steady filmic look that takes you back to watching movies on celluloid.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
To appease all fans, Criterion has finally listened to its customers and have provided the original LPCM 1.0 mono track as well as the DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix. I couldn't be happier. I'm sure, for those diehard fans, the 1.0 option will be their choice, and it should satisfy you wholly, but this mono track lacks the immersion and heft the 5.1 mix brings to the table. According to the Criterion Booklet, the original monaural soundtrack was remastered from the 35mm magnetic DME track, where clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were all manually removed. The 5.1 mix was made in 2000 from the original soundtrack and supervised by Kubrick's assistant.
Barry Lyndon is mostly a dialogue driven film, but like most all Kubrick films, there is a ton of classical music, and this film is no different. The Bach, Mozart, and Vivaldi pieces are all excellently presented and sound fantastic over the 5.1 speaker system. It just fully immerses you into a dreamlike trance as you follow Barry around, listening to the woodwinds and horns sound off. The battle sequences don't pack a ton of heft like you would see in a Michael Bay movie, but they do still pack a punch. Dialogue is clear and easy to follow, from the smallest whisper to the big yells and is free of all issues. I'm loving that Criterion is adding the audio options here.
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
Making Barry Lyndon (HD, 38 Mins.) - Made in 2017 specifically for this Criterion release, Jan Harlan, Brian Cook, Michael Stevenson, Dominic Savage, and Leon Vitali talk about making the film with production stills and scenes from the movie spliced in. In addition to that, there is audio from Stanley Kubrick himself laid over the video too from a 1976 interview. Adapting the material, shooting with the director, casting, costumes, and set designs are all discussed here and is great to hear everyone talk about the film in present day.
Achieving Perfection (HD, 16 Mins.) - Here we have interviews with gaffer Lou Bogue, focus puller Douglas Milsome, and a 1980 audio interview with cinematographer John Alcott, discussing all of the technology that went into making the period film, how they shot the movie, the use of the different cameras and lenses, and all of it the artistic milestones the film gained during the time. Again, this was made in 2017, specifically for the Criterion release.
Timing and Tension (HD, 14 Mins.) - Made in 2017, specifically for this release, we have editor Tony Lawson talking about editing the film with Kubrick and how they pieced together this long story and film. He discusses how intense it was to edit the film with all of the reaction shots to consider, along with the many takes Kubrick called for. There are even side by side comparisons of each take on screen.
Drama in Detail (HD, 14 Mins.) - This bonus feature talks about production designer Ken Adam with film expert Christopher Frayling discussing how the famous and award-winning designer gave the film it's unique and intimate look, as well as a look into his career. Again, this was made in 2017 for this release.
Balancing Every Sound (HD, 10 Mins.) - Leon Vitali, who was Kubrick's personal assistant and an actor in his films, talks about the sound design in its original monaural mix, along with the 5.1 mix that was made in 2000, which Vitali supervised. Being Kubrick's assistant, I wanted so much more from this interview. This was made in 2017, specifically for this Criterion release.
On the Costumes (SD, 5 Mins.) - This is a short clip from a 1976 French TV show where Ulla-Britt Soderlund designed all the costumes used in the film, as she discusses her work and collaborating with Kubrick and head costume designer Milene Canonero. There is also some vintage footage of the film here. English subtitles are present.
Passion and Reason (HD, 18 Mins.) - Film critic Michel Ciment talks about Kubrick and his time making Barry Lyndon. Ciment talks about his favorite Kubrick movies and personal life a little bit. This was made in 2017, specifically for Criterion.
A Cinematic Canvas (HD, 15 Mins.) - Art curator Adam Eaker talks about the inspirations in the fine art world that transferred over to Barry Lyndon. Eaker talks about what Kubrick took from many paintings and incorporated into his film, with side-by-side comparisons, which is very cool. Again, this was made in 2017, specifically for this Criterion release.
Trailers (HD, 6 Mins.) - There are two trailers for the film.
Criterion Booklet - A fully illustrated 41-page booklet is included here with tech specs, cast and crew information, transfer details, an essay by Geoffrey O'Brien, an interview with John Alcott, and an another essay by Ed DiGiulio.
Finally, we have an ultimate edition to one of Kubrick's best films, Barry Lyndon - all thanks to Criterion. The new video is stunning at every moment and gives new life to the film and it's incredible to have both the 5.1 and 1.0 audio tracks. Let's hope this is the standard on future releases. If you've owned previous releases of Barry Lyndon, you may have been disappointed by the significant lack of bonus features. Criterion has delivered the goods with a treasure trove of amazing bonus features that are all worth watching. It doesn't get better than this. MUST-OWN!
- 50GB Blu-ray Disc #1 (The Movie)
- 50GB Blu-ray Disc #2 (Bonus Features)
- 1080p MPEG-4 AVC
- English LPCM Mono
- Alternate English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- New documentary featuring cast and crew interviews as well as excerpts from a 1976 audio interview with director Stanley Kubrick
- New program about the film’s groundbreaking visuals, featuring focus puller Douglas Milsome and gaffer Lou Bogue, as well as excerpts from a 1980 interview with cinematographer John Alcott
- New program about Academy Award–winning production designer Ken Adam with historian Sir Christopher Frayling
- New interview with editor Anthony Lawson
- French television interview from 1976 with Oscar-winning costume designer Ulla-Britt Söderlund
- New interview with critic Michel Ciment
- New interview with actor Leon Vitali about the 5.1 surround soundtrack, which he cosupervised
- New piece analyzing the fine-art-inspired aesthetics of the film with art curator Adam Eaker
- PLUS: An essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien and two pieces about the film from the March 1976 issue of American Cinematographer
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