Only a director as inscrutable as Stanley Kubrick would follow up the effects wizardry of 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange with a William Makepeace Thackeray adaptation that traipses epically around Europe for three hours. Of course, Kubrick merely mines the 18th century for his usual man-in-the-social-machine inquisition, only here he orchestrates some of the most subtly complex observations and overall driest wit of his entire oeuvre. Ryan O’Neal plays the eventual titular nobleman, a fatherless Irish peasant willing to do anything to climb the social ladder to respectability, guiltlessly moving through different military uniforms, country allegiances, gambling dens, and women. Kubrick the visual formalist is at his most keen here, bookending Lyndon with a pair of duels that play out trenchantly morbid (opening) and surprisingly moving (ending), and throughout the movie he plays visual and thematic dialectics with the gorgeous sophistication of a Chopin fugue. Perfectly capturing this meticulous social-chess drama is John Alcott’s luscious cinematography, with its zoom-lens exploitations that turn intimate closeups into distancing panoramas and the at-the-time miraculous shooting of interior night scenes lit by nothing but candlelight.