Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 39, No. 1, March 1, 1976
— Town Films
— Town Films
It is not often on the commercial circuit that New Zealand audiences get to see a film of the calibre of "Barry Lyndon". While there may not be such a thing as a perfect film, Kubrick's latest offering excels in all departments of the film art.
This time around, Kubrick takes a fairly lacklustre 19th century Thackeray novel and gives it his 'treatment'. His previous films delved into the futuristic and surrealistic. Not so "Barry Lyndon" which highlights not only his consistency but also his diversity.
The plot of "Barry Lyndon" is not over-strong and consists basically of the adventures of Redmond Barry, an Irish village boy who leaves home after killing (supposedly) an English army officer in a duel. The film traces the small historical accidents that shape the course of Barry's life - his first love, recruitment into the army, his aborted attempt to enter high society. Kubrick highlights that our experiences form our life, and many of these experiences are outside our control and purely accidental.
The character of the film changes constantly. It is full of comical situation, pathetic scenes and ironic incidents. All are handled with the same crafts man like technique and the film rarely becomes boring, despite its great length.
Visually, the film is a marvel, Kubrick uses the beauty of the Irish countryside and the splendor of English and Euopean architecture to build a superb photographic composition. All the tricks of camera art are employed without ever seeming overdone or gimmicky (in contrast to his earlier films). Each shot seemed meticulously planned. Good use of light effects and effective cutting make "Barry Lyndon" a cellulose tapestry.
The acting in the film was generally good. Ryan O'Neal as Barry turns in a competent performance (if you can overcome memories of "Peyton Place" and "Love Story"), even if his accent is suspect at times.
As always, Stanley Kubrick tops off his visuals with effective music. The standard of the music is such that I'm sure that it would be good enough to stand by itself. It not only fitted the film well, but accentuated the impact of the visuals.
On thing is certain. "Barry Lyndon" is Kubrick's trip. It is as if he wanted a weak plot to make the film seem more amazing. The film was too long - the first half alone lasting 105 minutes - taking much of the effect out of the later parts.
In total, one could forget the characters and the plot, but not the sheer sensory brilliance of this classic production.
"JAWS" - Film Review.
Now in it's 3rd record month screening in Wellington and having the same incredible success elsewhere, one wonders just what sets JAWS apart from most other ceiling busters.
It is expensive ($8 million), elaborate, and technically intricate, and yet though Peter Berchley's novel was in itself a proven commodity, the well-over budget and schedule screenplay might have just as easily flopped.
Part of a stream of high adventure films, like "Earthquake', JAWS is a fantasy relying on the immediacy of illusion, taking a panic-producing disaster and showing how a representative cross-section of humanity responds to it. On the screen the menace comes horrifyingly close putting everyone it seems, into imminent danger.
Yet the audience revels in its own terror, subconsciously aware that fear alone is what it's all about. There is security in the knowledge that, like the heroes, they will return alive.
Having previously enjoyed the novel the film-goer is immediately aware of a lack of similar padding in the way of sub-plots; the exploring around with age-old phenomena such as the uneasy marriage, the adulterous wife, the clever seducer, is eliminated.
Police Chief Brody (Roy Schrieder) must still fight the town's mayor, who is fearful that closing the beaches after the first shark attacks will ruin his resort's economy. He still joins forces with Quint the professional shark killer (Robert Shaw, who tends to play the part of excess) and a youthful ichthyologist named Hooper. Richard Dreyfus in this part perfects a cheeky charm which humourizes the picture without altogether overshadowing the ever-essential symbol of evil.
At sea in Quint's leaky craft, the three are confident of destroying this great white horror which gradually shows itself to be far more cunning, far larger and stronger than even Quint could have believed. Throughout the whole film are the classic sequences of suspense; always present is the unknowable. Steven Spielberg as director works us up with false alarms, giving us the real thing with heart-stopping suddenness. The end is explosive.
The shark-attack scenes at the beginning were handled in the never-failing Hitchcock manner, sure to cause audience reaction; what's to be expected when an audience has knowledge of lurking danger and yet is unable to shout effective warning to obvious victims?
But realism at times tended to border on the ridiculous whereby, after initial horror the spell was inevitably broken. For instance, I found the appearance of a severed head through the bottom of a sunken craft, while being a grotesque reminder of the evil effectiveness of an as yet unknown quantity, too much to bear.
Finally the appearance of "Jaws", played by a 24foot mechanical monster, and ultimately Quint's fateful end destroyed the illusions I had previously had. I found myself comparing the film rather unfavourably with the novel which was thankfully forced to leave much more to the imagination.
The soundtrack, on its own a success due to its appeal to the more morbid is indeed one of the film's great assets.
On the whole the film is over rated and yet as such will continue to attract audiences who are bound to be gripped, with only the more detached being critical enough to notice any short comings at the time.