So many things are perfect about Barry Lyndon, from the art direction and cinematography to soundtrack and casting.
It got a mixed reaction on its release in December 1975 but went on to win four Oscars. Now it is viewed as arguably Kubrick’s greatest achievement and my favourite film of all time.
Every inch of it was worked over with obsessive attention to detail by Kubrick. The marketing of Barry Lyndon was one such aspect that he kept a rigorous eye on.
French designer Jouineau Bourduge’s Saul Bass inspired poster seems ubiquitous. It is up there with Pacino’s Scarface poster so beloved of students — yet I think it has a timeless and mythical quality, very much like the best of Kubrick’s creations.
Jouineau Bourduge was one of the most iconic poster designers of the 60’s and 70’s. He created posters for 70’s classics like The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Rollerball and Network and the poster for Barry Lyndon feels like his most perfect creation.
The blackness of the figure and lettering is so striking. The red of the rose, a wonderful and lucky bit of symbolism that relates to many themes that run through the film. The typography feels like an Ed Benguiat typeface, but it is probably hand lettered. It’s an interesting case of a style from another era, Art Nouveau, being used for a film set in the 18th century.
The contrast in styles between the image of the primitive flintlock pistol and pirate boots, and the more knowing, stylish typography creates a powerful tension. This is what gives the poster its distinctive flavour and quality, elevating it to a masterpiece of poster art.
American artist and illustrator Charles Gehm had created a highly detailed alternative poster, which is a monumental work in its intricacy. The obvious simplicity of Bourduge’s poster is more impactful, suits Kubrick’s style of filmmaking and really says all you need to know about the film.