This might go in some review or essay or something, someday. Who knows. Posting it here for posterity.
It amuses me when people say about Barry Lyndon, “It’s so beautiful – but what a cold, inhuman story!” After all, one of the film’s (and Kubrick’s) major motifs is the beautification of barbarity. The whole thing is 2001‘s “Dawn of Man” sequence with period wigs and upper-crust accents. In place of bludgeoning things over the head with a bone, our young primate discovers that he can get what he wants by lying, cheating, and otherwise playing the repressive social mores of 18th-century Britain to his advantage – all with a jolly old English “Please” and “Thank you”.