Today, I viewed another Kubrick entry into the Best Picture nominated family, this one from 1975...
(based on the novel by William Makepeace Thackeray)
Ryan O'Neail, Marisa Berenson, Patrick Magee, Hardy Kruger, Leon Vitali
4 wins, including Best Cinematography
Redmond Barry (O'Neal) is an 18th century Irishman with a crush on his own cousin who, despite her initial reciprocation, shuns him for a well-to-do English Captain. After a pistol duel, Barry is forced to flee his small village in search of a noble life. He winds up in Europe, fighting in the British Army during the Seven Years War. Not thinking much of that game, he deserts but is caught by a Prussian Army Captain (Kruger), who soon puts him to work on an espionage mission with a crooked gambler (Magee). Barry's dreams of nobility lead him to wed Lady Lyndon (Berenson), making an enemy of his new stepson (Vitali).
Barry Lyndon (the film, not the character) is certainly in no rush. It begins very earnestly with dramatic pauses, lingering looks and sweeping landscapes. Each line is so desperately important, it almost feels like a period soap opera. But this sincerity grabs hold of you and you find yourself swept away into another world. A world with plenty of rules, and just as many schemers willing to break them.
Ironically, despite the film's crawling pace, there are several segments which seem oddly rushed. A scene will last several minutes, involving lengthy pauses, only to be followed by a scene that takes place weeks or months later. This is particularly evident in the film's relationships. On more than one occasion, Barry meets a new character in an intense and prolonged scene and, one scene later, thanks to some convenient narration, they have a fully developed relationship. And since it's a Stanley Kubrick film, you can expect that some of those characters will be at least mildly enigmatic. (A particular favourite of mine is Captain Feeney, a highwayman with a deadly gaze and a polite tongue.)
When watching Barry Lyndon, your eyes are certainly treated to an extravaganza of design. Oscars for Cinematography, Art Direction and Costume Design were understandably lavished upon the film, not to mention the stunning locations. The film's other Oscar was for Leonard Rosenman's arrangement of compositions by Handel, Bach, Vivaldi, Schubert and Mozart, amongst others, back when the Academy presented an award for a score adaptation. (Rosenman made it two for two the following year when he won again for adapting the songs of Woody Guthrie for Bound for Glory.)
Barry Lyndon's other three nominations went to Kubrick himself, for writing, directing and producing the film. Sadly, he won none of them. In fact, despite numerous nominations in each of those categories, the only Oscar he ever won was for Visual Effects for 2001: A Space Odyssey.