05 February 2009

Two More Broken Rules

Two movie rules were broken tonight thanks to Barry Lyndon:

1. No period dramas.
2. No Kubrick films.

Actually, the second rule was relaxed in about 2005 when Trinitah College had their free Kubrick season, coinciding with the time I decided to start educating myself cinematically and stuff, and so went to see Lolita (which I loathed, having read the book and seen the Jeremy Irons version), A Clockwork Orange (great film to watch late at night and then slip back home along dark, deserted streets, even in Nowheresville) and The Shining. Eyes Wide Shut was on Sky once back when I still thought Tom Cruise was hot so I saw that and S convinced me to watch Dr Strangelove once but I think I would enjoy it more the second time, if only because I seem to remember being resistant to the idea of watching it. 

Anyway, Barry Lyndon is long. Really long. Like, three hours and ten minutes long. As ever, around the 15-minute mark, my eyes went into, "I think it's bedtime so I'm going to sleep now," mode, although luckily it only took ten minutes to persuade myself it wasn't sleepytime. It felt even longer--not in a bad way; I wasn't bored--even though there was plenty of action. Barry Lyndon (né Redmond Barry--incidentally, if I were called Barry and were changing my name, I wouldn't keep the Barry part) is a social-climbing arriviste who cheats, lies, dodges and charms his way to the top (first half), marries a rich heiress, following which ensues his inevitable tragic downfall (second half). 

The film is so long, there was an intermission card shown for about 20 seconds this evening. The latecomers who missed the announcement that there was no intermission jumped right up and dashed for the loo/the bar only to realise they had to come back. I do like a cinema that punishes latecomers! And one where grumpy old men in the row behind me can ask me quite loudly if I can ask the very tall person sitting in front of me whether he'd just sit himself down more (the guy heard perfectly, of course, and slunk down in long-legged shame).

Barry isn't very likable--none of the characters are, really, from the damaged, vengeful stepson to the wife who just sits there looking miserable and sad, without speaking, for 90% of her screen time but she is played by a former model who probably had plenty of practice; her wigs and outfits were enough to rival Keira, even if she couldn't quite manage to achieve the same wooden performance of The Duchess--but at least during the first half, he manages to pull off the "lovable rogue" angle. In the second half, he's just selfish, irritating and cruel, ignoring his chequebook wife (who doesn't even get a name, though she signs her cheques "H. Lyndon" -- women's lib--c'est quoi?) and lavishing all his attention on his son (perhaps his one redeeming quality). Also, Ryan O'Neal's Irish accent is quite funny, especially when he's an American playing an Irishman playing a German, and so on; quite a change from Oliver Barrett IV, anyway.

It felt like the film lasted so long solely because Kubrick intended it to be. Almost every scene opened with an establishing shot that would focus on a close-up object--a table or a woman standing in a doorway--and then zoom...out...very...very...slowly to reveal the wider scene. It's very arty, I'm sure, but it mainly made me feel seasick, especially when at the beginning of every scene, I started bracing myself for the zoom-out, which didn't always happen. Yes, a very clever little detail, but I prefer to be impressed by dialogue and acting than by technical details, though the film as a whole was a big romp over one beautiful canvas after another, spanning right across Europe and back again. The music was good too, although the reprise of the main theme seemed a bit clichéd as I could tell at which moments it would start playing.

But I enjoyed it. I might have given it a higher IMDb rating if it hadn't been so long--a three-hour film has to do more to earn its rating than a two-hour film, as though to justify my time expended watching it; sunk costs or none, I don't just give away 8/10. I still need to see 2001 and there are a couple of others I would watch but really, then, I've done all the Kubrick I want to--which is plenty, really...

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