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Blu-ray Reviews

Barry Lyndon Blu-ray



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#1 of 20 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted May 25 2011 - 02:51 PM

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Barry Lyndon
Release Date: May 31, 2011
Studio: Warner Home Video
Packaging/Materials: Blu-ray "ECO-BOX"
Year: 1975
Rating: PG
Running Time: 3:05:03
MSRP: $19.98

  THE FEATURE SPECIAL FEATURES
Video 1080p high definition 1.85:1 Standard definition
Audio DTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: French 5.1, German 5.1, Italian 5.1, Castellano 5.1, Spanish 5.1, Portuguese 5.1 Stereo
Subtitles English SDH, French, German SDH, Italian SDH, Castellano, Dutch, Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Portuguese (Brazil), Swedish None


The Feature: 4.5/5

Stanley Kubrick's "Barry Lyndon," based on the William Makepeace Thackery novel "The Luck of Barry Lyndon," details the rise and fall of Irishman Redmond Barry (Ryan O'Neal) as he develops from a naive, idealistic boy into a roguish, self-serving opportunist. It's not a transformation that happens quickly, coming after years of hardship - running from the law for killing a wealthy officer in a duel, and serving almost a decade in military service, first with the English and then the Prussian Army, despite his best efforts to flee the horrors of the Seven Years' War. When he finally catches a break it's thanks to a duplicitous chevalier (Patrick Magee), who takes him under his wing and ultimately aids him in escaping from his Prussian masters. But rather than live an honest life in response to his new found freedom, Barry spends it with his new mentor, bilking Europe's aristocracy through games of chance and, on occasion, collecting debts through the use of force. By the time he meets and seemingly falls in love with the Lady Lyndon (Marisa Berenson), his moral compass is set. Marrying her is his ticket to long term wealth, and perhaps even respect, though he'll find that holding on to those things is ultimately more difficult than their acquisition.

Coming four years after the controversy of "A Clockwork Orange," Kubrick does nothing in "Barry Lyndon" to repeat the experience, though that doesn't mean he plays it safe. Always working on the cutting edge of cinematography, Kubrick and Cinematographer John Alcott used specially designed cameras and optics to tell their 18th Century period piece with a true-to-the-era aesthetic that used or replicated natural light and purely candle powered illumination. Juxtaposed with the decidedly modern zoom lens, the cinematography has a notable, anachronistic quality, but one that ultimately suits the film's wry and subtly dark subcurrent of humor. Indeed, there are times - particularly in Part One (AKA Barry's rise) - where I was half expecting members of the Monty Python troupe to make an appearance. Of course the skewering of 18th Century European values never uses such broad strokes, but its sly approach proves just as effective. The details of Barry's life amount to a tragedy, however - one of his own making, but ultimately exacerbated by the society in which he lived. In that respect, the film is easily viewed as a cautionary tale, but leave it to Kubrick to leave a seed of doubt on that point. Thanks to the closing title card, viewers of at least two philosophical stripes should leave the viewing with plenty to discuss.   

Video Quality: 4.5/5

Presented in 1080p with the AVC codec, the transfer approximates the 1.85:1 aspect ratio by filling the entire 16:9 frame. The film may have been composed for a 1.66:1 presentation, but based on Robert Harris's evaluation, that seems unlikely, and I noticed no instances of awkward framing. The image itself is gorgeous and clean, presenting Atoll's sometimes envelope-pushing cinematography in all its glory. Yes, the candelit scenes look soft, but that has everything to do with the intentional lighting conditions and the optics used to capture it. Fine detail is excellent, more so perhaps in close ups than wide shots, but sharpness holds up throughout. Colors, black level and contrast are likewise strong and well-rendered, with no artifacts from excessive digital processing. 

Audio Quality: 4/5
Dialogue in the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is consistently clear, intelligible and detailed. Surround activity is limited, with effects consisting of the occasional environmental effect or support for the orchestral score. Though the front sound stage dominates the presentation it's reasonably expansive, with some localization of voices in the wider framings. The track also exhibits good depth and fullness, though LFE is non-existent.

Special Features: 1/5


Theatrical Trailer (2:09, SD)


Recap

The Feature: 4.5/5
Video Quality: 4.5/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 1/5
Overall Score (not an average): 4.5/5


Warner Home Video turns in an excellent presentation of Kubrick's wry and subtly dark 18th Century period piece. Though the sole extra is the theatrical trailer in standard definition, it doesn't diminish the availability of this beautiful piece of fillmmaking in high definition. The individual title is currently an Amazon exclusive, but is included in the "Stanley Kubrick Limited Edition Collection" Blu-ray boxed set, also coming out on May 31, 2011. This collection of nine Kubrick films is available through other retailers, in addition to Amazon.

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#2 of 20 OFFLINE   Scott Merryfield

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Posted May 26 2011 - 12:40 AM

Thanks for the review, Cameron. This is the only Kubrick film from Paths of Glory onward that I have never seen. It's on pre-order, and I'm really looking forward to watching this for the first time.



#3 of 20 OFFLINE   Eric Peterson

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Posted May 26 2011 - 01:13 AM



Originally Posted by Scott Merryfield 

Thanks for the review, Cameron. This is the only Kubrick film from Paths of Glory onward that I have never seen. It's on pre-order, and I'm really looking forward to watching this for the first time.



That's the exact same boat that I'm in.  I'll be watching it in the coming weeks.



#4 of 20 OFFLINE   ShowsOn

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Posted May 26 2011 - 02:58 AM

I just finished watching this disc (it was released in Australia last week). I think it looks fantastic. In HD it is now pretty clear that most of the candle lit scenes are actually almost completely out of focus. But it really looks superb, and I only have an entry level 50" Samsung plasma. I did some basic comparisons with the DVD which now looks surprisingly fuzzy and flat, whereas the Blu-ray has that great sense of depth that all good HD transfers get.



#5 of 20 OFFLINE   Bryan Tuck

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Posted May 26 2011 - 08:02 AM

Thanks for the review, Cameron! I've never been a big fan of this movie (it used to be my least favorite Kubrick film until I finally saw Fear & Desire), but maybe I should give it another chance in HD.


And thanks to Warner for making it available separately!



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#6 of 20 OFFLINE   Josh Steinberg

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Posted May 26 2011 - 09:45 AM



Originally Posted by ShowsOn 

 In HD it is now pretty clear that most of the candle lit scenes are actually almost completely out of focus.


I don't think it's that it's out of focus - it's that with the lenses used and the film stock available at the time, the depth of field was extremely shallow.  There might have literally been only an inch or two of space within the depth of the show where it could be focused.  (For most filming situations, you end up having at least a couple feet if not much more for where people can move backwards and forwards and still be in focus.)  For this film, it was basically only the exact spot where the actors were standing that could be in focus.  Everything else behind that mark or in front of it would be out of focus, but that's not an accident.  What is in focus (or out of it) is what Kubrick intended; I'm sure the Blu-ray makes the extremely shallow depth of field more apparent than any home release has before - really looking forward to this disc!




#7 of 20 OFFLINE   Vincent_P

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Posted May 26 2011 - 10:06 AM

Also worth noting is that most lenses are soft when you shoot with them wide-open.  You have to stop down a few stops to get the sharpest image.  Given that the lens used by Kubrick for the candlelit scenes had an incredible f .7 aperture, shooting wide open would lead to even the in-focus part of the image to be pretty soft.


Vincent



#8 of 20 OFFLINE   Josh Steinberg

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Posted May 26 2011 - 10:24 AM

Weren't the lenses either designed by or later used by NASA for deep space photography?  Only Kubrick...


With how technically precise he was for everything, if he was alive today and had chosen to make an IMAX 3-D film, that would be an experience to behold.



#9 of 20 OFFLINE   john a hunter

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Posted May 26 2011 - 10:38 AM



Originally Posted by Josh Steinberg 


With how technically precise he was for everything, if he was alive today and had chosen to make an IMAX 3-D film, that would be an experience to behold.



Hopefully he would have more sense however I am not so sure. After his experience with 65mm and its stunning photography   for 2001, I would have thought he would have used that format again. However when trying in vain to get his Napoleon film off the ground, he wanted to film it in full frame 35 mm with spherical lenses and then crop to 70mm  for exhibition.Not a very good solution when you look at the alternatives to my mind.




#10 of 20 OFFLINE   Josh Steinberg

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Posted May 26 2011 - 12:52 PM

I take this with a grain of salt because it was said by Mr. Vitalli (I believe) after Kubrick's death, but the quote was something to the effect that "Kubrick didn't particularly like 1.85:1 or widescreen" - obviously he chose to shoot "2001" in 70mm widescreen (Spartacus he probably had no say in the matter), but his choice of spherical lenses vs. anamorphic ones might bear that out - Kubrick never shot an anamorphic film.  I think he liked height in the frame more than width, his compositions for the most part seem to fit with that statement.


So, if he were to to do an IMAX film today, I imagine he'd be the kind of guy who would have went for horizontal-70mm dual camera setup that IMAX uses on most of the documentaries - I imagine the results would have been breathtaking if Kubrick would have ever made a film in that format.


Of course, all of this being said, I'm extremely happy with what Kubrick did give us in his lifetime.  I would have been happy with one more movie, more than one more movie, I would have been happy to have a new Kubrick film every few years from now until the end of time - but I still feel blessed with what we were given.  For the most part, every film is so different.  He did make a number of war films (though each was very different), and while I would never want to second-guess his efforts - I would have love to have seen him attempt another sci-fi film.  I would have loved another historical epic (Napoleon would have been grand).  Just, across the board, I would have liked more, as I think most of us would.  I know some people were disappointed with Eyes Wide Shut but I loved it - one of the best things about it was that you never could have seen it coming.  Like the best Kubrick films, nothing that came before could have prepared you to expect what happened in the next one.


I am so excited to see this Barry Lyndon Blu-ray.  I've never had the opportunity to see the film projected in 35mm, and pending a NYC theater doing a Kubrick retrospective, this Blu-ray is going to be the best I've ever seen the film.  It's one of those where I tend to underrate it and then once it's actually on, I realize how stunning it is and become shocked that it had been so long since the last time I had watched it.



#11 of 20 OFFLINE   ShowsOn

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Posted May 26 2011 - 02:32 PM



Originally Posted by Josh Steinberg 




There might have literally been only an inch or two of space within the depth of the show where it could be focused.  (For most filming situations, you end up having at least a couple feet if not much more for where people can move backwards and forwards and still be in focus.)  For this film, it was basically only the exact spot where the actors were standing that could be in focus.


Well that's my point. The depth of field is so shallow that if an actor's cheek is in focus their nose isn't or vice / versa. Where an actor stands over exagerates just how little depth of field they had to play with.




#12 of 20 OFFLINE   ShowsOn

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Posted May 26 2011 - 02:35 PM



Originally Posted by Vincent_P 

Also worth noting is that most lenses are soft when you shoot with them wide-open.  You have to stop down a few stops to get the sharpest image.  Given that the lens used by Kubrick for the candlelit scenes had an incredible f.07 aperture, shooting wide open would lead to even the in-focus part of the image to be pretty soft.


Vincent

I'm pretty sure it says in American Cinematographer that the lenses had to be set wide open in order to get an exposure. And all the candle lit footage was pushed two stops as well.


So they were really working right on the edge of what 1970s lens, film stock and lab processes could achieve.




#13 of 20 OFFLINE   Josh Steinberg

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Posted May 26 2011 - 03:20 PM



Originally Posted by ShowsOn 

Well that's my point. The depth of field is so shallow that if an actor's cheek is in focus their nose isn't or vice / versa. Where an actor stands over exagerates just how little depth of field they had to play with.



Fair enough, I see what you meant now - I just, personally, wouldn't have characterized the film as being out of focus but now I understand what you were saying.



#14 of 20 OFFLINE   Vincent_P

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Posted May 26 2011 - 06:37 PM



Originally Posted by ShowsOn 



I'm pretty sure it says in American Cinematographer that the lenses had to be set wide open in order to get an exposure. And all the candle lit footage was pushed two stops as well.


So they were really working right on the edge of what 1970s lens, film stock and lab processes could achieve.



I remember reading the same piece but I think they only pushed one stop (which I think is probably about as much as 1970's filmstock could endure without completely falling apart-  Kubrick pushed the EYES WIDE SHUT negative 2-stops as I recall and that was more than two decades later) , but yeah, they really were pushing the photochemical technoogical boundaries obviously.  It's a shame that f .7 lenses aren't commercially available today-  the Voigtlander 25mm f .95 for the micro 4/3rds system (Panasonic GH1 and GH2, etc.) is already something of a legend and almost impossible to find, and it's practically brand new!


Vincent




#15 of 20 OFFLINE   ShowsOn

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Posted May 26 2011 - 10:37 PM

The print of Eyes Wide Shut I saw looked amazing. IT had this amazing grain structure that was unlike anything else I had seen in a cinema around that time. I don't own the Blu-ray but I wonder if it captures the look correctly.



#16 of 20 OFFLINE   Jarod M

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Posted May 27 2011 - 01:02 AM



Originally Posted by ShowsOn 

The print of Eyes Wide Shut I saw looked amazing. IT had this amazing grain structure that was unlike anything else I had seen in a cinema around that time. I don't own the Blu-ray but I wonder if it captures the look correctly.


RE:  Eyes Wide Shut Blu-ray-I haven't read anything from anyone who would know what they are talking about.  RAH has refrained from talking about this one AFAIK.  The print I saw at a multiplex looked unlike anything I had ever seen, and I still remember the "graininess"  of that party scene.




#17 of 20 OFFLINE   Josh Steinberg

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Posted May 27 2011 - 02:54 AM



Originally Posted by ShowsOn 

The print of Eyes Wide Shut I saw looked amazing. IT had this amazing grain structure that was unlike anything else I had seen in a cinema around that time. I don't own the Blu-ray but I wonder if it captures the look correctly.


I recall being disappointed by the Blu-ray because it didn't have that amazing grain the way the 35mm print did.  I think grain was still present to a certain degree, but nowhere near at the level of the theatrical experience.  I'd love to see a print of this again someday, it's still one of the most beautiful looking films I've ever seen.



#18 of 20 OFFLINE   Jay G.

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Posted May 27 2011 - 05:37 AM



Originally Posted by Vincent_P 

I remember reading the same piece but I think they only pushed one stop (which I think is probably about as much as 1970's filmstock could endure without completely falling apart-  Kubrick pushed the EYES WIDE SHUT negative 2-stops as I recall and that was more than two decades later) , but yeah, they really were pushing the photochemical technoogical boundaries obviously.



Here's the article that mentions it being pushed one stop:

http://www.visual-me...c/len/page1.htm



To achieve the amount of light he actually needed in the candlelight scenes, and in order to make the whole movie balance out properly, Kubrick went ahead and push-developed the entire film one stop - outdoor and indoor scenes alike.





#19 of 20 OFFLINE   ManW_TheUncool

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Posted May 30 2011 - 06:31 AM

Thanks for the fine review, Cameron.


I too have never seen this one before, but look forward to getting the BD -- just need to figure out what to pair it w/ for free shipping from Amazon...


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#20 of 20 OFFLINE   Scott Merryfield

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Posted May 30 2011 - 10:11 AM



Originally Posted by ManW_TheUncool 

Thanks for the fine review, Cameron.


I too have never seen this one before, but look forward to getting the BD -- just need to figure out what to pair it w/ for free shipping from Amazon...


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