Presumably everyone knows by now that Criterion is coming out with a 4K-mastered Barry Lyndon Bluray on 10.17, or about three months hence. The big thing from HE’s perspective is that they’re going with a totally correct 1.66:1 aspect ratio. This amounts to a stiff rebuke to longtime Kubrick associate and Warner Home Video consultant Leon Vitali, who six years ago persuaded WHV to release a Lyndon Bluray that cropped Stanley Kubrick‘s masterpiece at at 1.78:1.
The problem is that the Bluray table of contents on the Criterion page doesn’t seem to acknowledge the highly significant, historically important Lyndon aspect ratio brouhaha of 2011 — one of the most bitterly fought and not incidentally triumphant a.r. battles in Hollywood Elsewhere history, the other being the Shane a.r. battle of 2013.
A somewhat taller Barry Lyndon image than the 1.66 one that will appear next October via Criterion, but one I nonetheless prefer.
Aspect-ratio-wise, this image is the same one used on the Criterion Barry Lyndon page. The a.r. is roughly 1.78:1.
Glenn Kenny actually provided the coup de grace in the form of a letter confirming Kubrick’s wish to have Lyndon screened at 1.66, but HE felt a surge of pride regardless because I’d insisted all along that 1.66 was the only way to go.
Why doesn’t Criterion’s Peter Becker man up and admit that his company’s decision to go with a 1.66 a.r. on their Lyndon Bluray was at least a partial offshoot of the HE/Kenny-vs.-Vitali debate? Why don’t they just act like men and cop to it instead of pussyfooting around and pretending it never happened?
The ultimate way to go, of course, is for Criterion to present its remastered Barry Lyndon on an actual 4K Bluray, as opposed to a 1080p Bluray using a 4K scan. If they do this I’ll break down and buy a 4K Bluray player.
The Barry Lyndon a.r. debate ranged between 5.23.11 and 6.21.11. I posted three or four argumentative pieces about the Barry Lyndon Bluray in late May, but before 6.21.11, which is when the whole matter was cleared up when Kenny posted that “smoking gun” letter from Jay Cocks and I ran my q & a with Vitali explaining “the confusion.”
The Barry Lyndon aspect-ratio saga began with a posting I made on 4.24.10, or about a year before the Barry Lyndon Bluray came out. I wrote the following:
“Warner Home Video’s Ned Price and George Feltenstein would be well-advised to present the Barry Lyndon Blu-ray in a 1.66 to 1 aspect ratio…or else. No 1.85 to 1 crap for this masterpiece. My understanding is that Kubrick actually protected the framings for a 1.37 to 1 presentation on television, but the important thing to keep in mind is that 1.66 to 1 approximates the aspect ratio of many if not most 18th Century portraits and landscapes, which is precisely the effect that Kubrick was going for — a feeling that you were watching the Lyndon story through a prism of old paintings of the period.”
And then the Barry Lyndon Bluray came out with a 1.78 to 1 aspect ratio (a nose hair away from 1.85) and then the shitstorm began. Four HE articles resulted between 5.23 amd 5.26 , and then two more on 6.21.11. And then I ran an epilogue piece when I went to to see Barry Lyndon in a theatre in Savannah, Georgia, and noticed it was projected at 1.37.