It’s only just hit me that Warner Home Video’s Barry Lyndon Bluray (out 5.31) has been masked at 1.85 to 1….storm the barricades! The aspect ratio of Stanley Kubrick‘s 1975 classic was supposed to suggest the aspect ratio of stately 18th Century landscape paintings, which are on the boxy side and a lot closer to 1.66 than 1.85. Which is why the DVD was presented in 1.66.

And yet WHV execs have decided to whack a chunk of information off the tops and bottoms of the Bluray? Why? Criterion presents the occasional older film in 1.66 with black windowbox bars on the side. And I know I’m right on this one — the shape of Barry Lyndon is supposed to look like an 18th Century painting and not a friggin’ 16 x 9 plasma screen…Jesus! This is really awful.

A guy named Tyler Williamson (who seems to know what he’s talking about and with whom I agree in any case) wrote the following on about a year ago:

“The Barry Lyndon DVD is 1.59 in a 1.33 shell (yes, 1.59 — a very unusual aspect ratio, but its likely that this is the ratio the film was matted to in-camera [though it was probably composed for 1.66] due to the film being shot on old Mitchell cameras; so, the whole 1.37 film negative wasn’t exposed for this film), thus the DVD is 4:3 letterboxed — it has black bars burned onto the tops and bottom of a 4:3 frame, with the image of the actual movie in the center. So, when you watch the DVD on a 16√ó9 HDTV, you get black bars on all sides. The image is not very wide, so it might even appear on some older TVs to be a full frame transfer, due to overscan.

“What I’d really love is a Bluray remaster with Barry Lyndon‘s 1.59 or 1.66 image (the difference in more or less negligible, so I don’t really care) in the center of a 1.78 frame — which is how Blurays handle films with aspect ratios less wide than 1.78. All the 1.66 and 1.37 films on Blu-ray are done this way: Chungking Express, The Third Man, etc.”