Top critical review
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Epic form, modest content
on September 7, 1999
Don't listen to anyone who says the film is too slow. The slow pace of the film captures the leisurely feel of 18th-century settings just as the slowness of 2001 captures the eeriness of space and prehistory. Don't listen to anyone who says the film is too cold. Great passion lies just beneath that icy surface, and it sometimes breaks out with great drama. Don't listen to anyone who says that the film is highly regarded only because of the director's name. The film contains real brilliance. The final duelling scene deserves to be a cinematic classic, the choice of music and its synchronicity with the action is sometimes almost unbelievable -- not to mention perfect acting and stunning visuals. The characters are richly drawn. Near the end of the film I am drawn into identifying with both Barry and his estranged stepson. This makes the final duelling scene all the more tragic. Well, then is there anything wrong with this film? Unfortunately, there is. Barry Lyndon is painted on a canvas of epic scale, but the subject matter is the rather dreary life of an Irishman who made it big despite modest origins only to fall into obscurity. In other words, the epic proportions of the film do not fit the modest subject matter. If only Kubrick had stayed with his original intention of making a film about Napoleon -- then we might have had here the greatest film ever made! At the very least, we would have had another epic to place alongside Spartacus and 2001. Nonetheless, the brilliance in this film is real, and it is well worth repeated viewing.
** The above is what I wrote about this film several years ago. I have a higher opinion of it now. The film operates at a very subtle level, and it requires the viewer to rise up to that level to appreciate it right. But I won't change the number of stars, because Amazon's silly star system means nothing anyway. For a very interesting review of this film, see [...]