Drama in the House: Barry Lyndon

Auteur filmmaker Stanley Kubrick (Spartacus, Lolita, Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey) is a throwback to Hollywood’s golden age, as much of a cinematic perfectionist as Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford or Cecil B. DeMille. But his movies are always a bit chilly in their clinical dissection. Using Thackeray’s classic rogue’s tale Barry Lyndon (1975), a sort of Pilgrim’s Progress of the amoral, Kubrick turns the whole of 18th-century English society into ice. It’s handsome but distant, much like star Ryan O’Neal, who fills out Milena Canonero’s museum-quality costumes with a rake’s glamor but whose eyes, even under the mesmerizing natural light of ace cinematographer John Alcott, remain lifeless. He’s not here. That’s probably Kubrick’s intent, but it makes for a frustrating movie. There’s no denying the period flavor and accuracy, though. The stately houses almost shimmer in the ambient candlelight and radiate in the sun. The symmetry of the images weighs one down, however, since nothing is out of place, not even the picturesque cows standing in the picturesque fields. Marisa Berenson, who had a spark of a career in the early ’70s, is fairly picturesque, too, but not as much as O’Neal, who has never looked more alluring. Empty but alluring.

Location Info

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6 p.m. Friday and 5 p.m. Sunday. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7300 or visit mfah.org. $9.
Thu., July 31, 6 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 3, 5 p.m., 2014

 
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