The recent re-release of Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon, in a new print from the BFI, has been a triumph.
When Barry Lyndon first came out in 1975 it went off like a damp squib. Kubrick’s previous films – Paths of Glory, Spartacus, Lolita, Dr. Strangelove, 2001, A Clockwork Orange – covered a range of themes and a variety of moods, but each in its own way kept the story moving along at a brisk canter. When it was known that Kubrick was working on a screenplay of Thackeray’s novel set in the eighteenth century, one obvious point of reference was Tom Jones, Tony Richardson’s bawdy celebration of life and lust starring young Albert Finney. Of course, Kubrick was a very different filmmaker – but even so, the eighteenth century was all about frock-coats, oaths and wenches, wasn’t it?