With its meticulous historical accuracy and its astonishing visual beauty, Kubrick’s most underrated work is also probably his greatest. Deriving its story and characters (but not its tonal delicacy) from Thackeray’s comic novel about an 18th-century rake, the film deploys a stately pace to chart the rise and fall of Redmond Barry (O’Neal) as he flees Ireland, travels Europe and eventually seduces his way into the English aristocracy. Expertly combining caricature with actorly restraint while creating immaculate painterly tableaux with natural light or candles, Kubrick creates a world that feels ineffably strange yet utterly real. As he quietly castigates not the conniving protagonist but the hypocritical, complacent society he determines to join, the mood steadily shifts from irony to melancholy and, finally, tragedy.
Adventure | Drama | History
Dir. Stanley Kubrick, UK/US/Ireland, 1975, 184 min
Cast: Ryan O’Neal, Marisa Berenson, Patrick Magee