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.

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

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
D.L. Groover has contributed to countless reputable publications including the Houston Press since 2003. His theater criticism has earned him a national award from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN) as well as three statewide Lone Star Press Awards for the same. He's co-author of the irreverent appreciation, Skeletons from the Opera Closet (St. Martin's Press), now in its fourth printing.
Contact: D. L. Groover