It's a tour de force, with the director pushing the limits of film technology to realise his singular vision, developing new camera lenses to tell this 18th Century cautionary tale with only natural, available light.
You can't tear your eyes from it. Loosely held together by Michael Hordern's drolly ironic narration, it might not catch very much of Thackeray's tone but it creates a world that is sumptuously, even shockingly, vivid.
Stanley Kubrick's magisterial Thackeray adaptation now stands as one of his greatest and most savagely ironic films, not to mention one of the few period pieces on celluloid so transporting that it seems to predate the invention of cameras.
Ryan O'Neal's excellent performance captures the shallow opportunism endemic to the title character who is brought down as much by his own flaws as by the mores of the ordered social structure of 18th-century England.
All of Stanley Kubrick's features look better now than when they were first released, but Barry Lyndon, which fared poorly at the box office in 1975, remains his most underrated. It may also be his greatest.
Barry Lyndon isn't a great success, and it's not a great entertainment, but it's a great example of directorial vision: Kubrick saying he's going to make this material function as an illustration of the way he sees the world.