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That, however, is precisely what Kubrick is not. He is almost reclusively shy, "a demented perfectionist, according to the publicity mythology around me." This myth began building when he decided to stay on in England after shooting Lolita there in 1961. He found it "helpful not to be constantly exposed to the fear and anxiety that prevail in the film world." He lives and does all pre-and post-production work in a rambling manor house defended by two wooden walls and furnished in early nondescript. He rarely ventures forth even to London, less than an hour away. He prefers that the world—in controllable quantities—be brought to him via telex, telephone, television. All the books and movies this omnivorous reader-viewer requires are delivered to the retreat he shares with his third wife Christiane, his three daughters, three dogs and six cats. He is, says his friend, Film Critic Alexander Walker, "like a medieval artist living above his workshop." According to an actress who once worked for him, he is also "a mole."

What has the mole wrought? Is the finished film worth the pains he has taken with it—and given to his associates over the long years of its creation? The answer is a resounding yes.

Kubrick does not know what drew him to this tale of a scoundrel's rise and fall. Beyond noting that he has always enjoyed Thackeray, he does not try to explain his choice: "It's like trying to say why you fell in love with your wife—it's meaningless."

Possibly, but Kubrick's curiosity was probably aroused by the chance to explore a character who is his antithesis. About his work Kubrick is the most self-conscious and rational of men. His eccentricities—secretiveness, a great need for privacy —are caused by his intense awareness of time's relentless passage. He wants to use time to "create a string of masterpieces," as an acquaintance puts it. Social status means nothing to him, money is simply a tool of his trade.

Barry, on the other hand, suffers a monstrous complacency.

He betrays not the slightest moral or intellectual self-awareness. Born poor but with a modest claim to gentleman's rank, he never doubts his right to rise to the highest ranks of the nobility. Nor does he ever seem to question the various means by which he pursues his end: army desertion, card sharping, contracting a loveless marriage in order to acquire a fortune. As for time, it means nothing to him. He squanders it, as he does money, in pursuit of pleasure and the title he is desperate for.

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