Wednesday, November 2, 2011
EYES WIDE SHUT
(July 1999, U.S.)
When the final year of the 20th century began, I had only two films on my mind. The first was (just like the rest of the world), the first STAR WARS film in sixteen years. The second was the first Stanley Kubrick film in twelve years. However, in March of that year, Stanley died at the age of 70, and the next Kubrick film would become the last...his swan song. As it turned out, both films left a bit to be desired with fans.
Was EYES WIDE SHUT a misfire or a masterpiece? Was EYES WIDE SHUTa film only a true fan of Stanley Kubrick could love? Would it have been a better film had Kubrick lived long enough to oversee the editing process? Would it have been a better film if its stars had not been the same team that made DAYS OF THUNDER (1990) and FAR AND AWAY (1992) such bad films? Is having the opportunity to stare at Nicole Kidman's perfectly-sculpted ass enough reason to maintain the patience and open-mindedness to watch all two and a half hours of EYES WIDE SHUT? Well, to Nicole's defense, it IS a great ass...
The story of EYES WIDE SHUT is based upon Arthur Schnitzler's 1926 novella Traumnovelle (Dream Story). Set in and around New York City (filmed in London to LOOK like New York City, actually), the film follows the sexually-charged adventures of Dr. Bill Harford (played by Tom Cruise), who is shocked when his wife, Alice (played by Nicole Kidman), reveals that she had contemplated an affair a year earlier when she set her sights on a naval officer when she was in Cape Cod with her family. Provoked by his fears and jealousies, Bill embarks on a night-long adventure, during which he encounters more than several sexual situations that can put his life in danger, including a massive masked ritual orgy of an underground quasi-religious cult located in Glen Cove, Long Island, no less.
Kubrick's pacing of this film is considerably slow (but then so was 2001). This may be intended to convey the film's concept of a dream state (with an ongoing Christmas background) throughout the lives of both Bill and Alice, as well as the people they encounter. As the viewer, we're never given a clear definition of what is their reality and what is their dream. Is it only within a dream that we as human beings have the potential (or the stupidity) to seek out sexual pleasures and deviances that will very likely get us into trouble? Most of us are just that stupid in our everyday realities. And yet it should be noticed that just about every time Bill is on the brink of some new form of sexual discovery, he's inconveniently (or miraculously) interrupted before anything can really happen. This can perhaps be interpreted as a sign that we should all keep our "feet on the ground" when it comes to commitment issues of intimacy and marriage because the concept of sexual misguidance outside the bonds of marriage is very clear and so are its regrets and consequences. In the end, though, and in an almost cliche-like tone, it appears that the marriage of Bill and Alice will survive now that they are both "awake". And apparently, a good fuck won't hurt them, either.
Having ended my last paragraph on that note, I have to say that it really burns me up that the very last line spoken in what would turn out to be the final film of Stanley Kubrick's long and distinguished career is Nicole Kidman standing in FAO Schwartz saying, "Fuck." The other thing that has infuriated me about watching this film is the fact that the characters (particularly Cruise's) have this intolerable nasty habit of constantly repeating the last thing that was previously said to them. I find it hard to believe that Kubrick would write a screenplay with such a persistent annoyance. So that being the case, is that sort of dialogue an intentional element to somehow further convey the dream state that we may be involved in? Truth is, I still haven't figured that one out yet.
Stanley, EYES WIDE SHUT may not have been a perfect film, but I want you to know that your films meant so much to my life. I miss you and I'll never forget you.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Alice Harford: "Millions of years of evolution, right? Right? Men have to stick it in every place they can, but for women...women it is just about security and commitment and whatever the fuck else!"
Bill Harford: "A little oversimplified, Alice, but yes, something like that."
Alice: "If you men only KNEW..."