It was inevitable that Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut would be the most misunderstood film of 1999. Kubrick died four months prior to its release, and there was no end to speculation how much he would have tinkered with ... more »the picture, changed it, "fixed" it. We'll never know. But even without the haunting enigma of the director's death--and its eerie echo/anticipation in the scene when Dr. Bill Harford (Tom Cruise) visits the deathbed of one of his patients--Eyes Wide Shut would have perplexed and polarized viewers and reviewers. After all, virtually every movie of Kubrick's post-U.S. career had; only 1964's Dr. Strangelove opened to something approaching consensus. Quite apart from the author's tinkering, Kubrick's movies themselves always seemed to change--partly because they changed us, changed the world and the ways we experienced and understood it. And we may expect Eyes Wide Shut to do the same. Unlike Kubrick himself, it has time. So consider, as we settle in to live with this long, advisedly slow, mesmerizing film, how challenging and ambiguous its narrative strategy is. The source is an Arthur Schnitzler novella titled Traumnovelle (or "Dream Story"), and it's a moot question how much of Eyes Wide Shut itself is dream, from the blue shadows frosting the Harfords' bedroom to the backstage replica of New York's Greenwich Village that Kubrick built in England. Its major movement is an imaginative night-journey (even the daylight parts of it) taken by a man reeling from his wife's teasing confession of fantasized infidelity, and toward the end there is a token gesture of the couple waking to reality and, perhaps, a new, chastened maturity. Yet on some level--visually, psychologically, logically--every scene shimmers with unreality. Is everything in the movie a dream? And if so, who is dreaming it at any given moment, and why? Don't settle for easy answers. Kubrick's ultimate odyssey beckons. And now the dream is yours. --Richard T. Jameson« less
This movie confused the heck out of me,too busy and contorting. Not my favorite actors either.
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1999's future classic--"It's not about sex"
lazarus072 | Southern California | 01/31/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"1999 was one of the greatest years in recent memory for film. Yet Eyes Wide Shut is all but absent from the end-of-the-year awards ceremonies and most critics lists. The first thing to bear in mind are that this film was hyped way beyond necessity. As if the general public had any interest in the "Kubrick" listed below "Cruise" and "Kidman". To them this was just another Big Actor's next Big Movie. Passing it off like a "real Hollywood couple gets busy on the big screen" heightened expectations for something Kubrick wasn't trying to achieve. It suffered the same audience reaction as The Phantom Menace, and made only a fraction of the money. Critics seemed to be lining up to take potshots at this film. Why? Recent history shows us that all of Kubrick's films from 2001 onward have been attacked critically, and subsequently hailed as classic years later. The same is true of most of Orson Welles' work. Few critics took the time to see this movie more than once before spewing their venom. A filmmaker like Kubrick is not going for direct emotional contact with the audience. He is aiming far deeper, asking the viewer to reflect on not only the images, but the themes, and the emotional investments of the characters. The subtlety is not something common in today's films, and something critics apparently can't process quick enough to meet a press deadline. For all those complain that the film isn't sexy or erotic enough are missing the point completely. It's not about sex. It's about many other things, some of which linger in the background, some that aren't noticeable on the initial viewing. Kubrick raises questions about our institution of marriage, the nature of faith, commitment, temptation. That most in the audience weren't willing to meet Kubrick, Cruise, and Kidman halfway in this meditation isn't a comment on the quality on the filmmaking, it's a shortcoming of the sensory-deadened society. If Kubrick had been more in touch with today's film culture, would he have bothered to give us this complex of an experience? Let's thank him for his seclusion. A NOTE on the DVD not being letterboxed: Kubrick (again, like Welles) preferred the aspect ratio of television, and left extra space in his frame for their widescreen theatrical showings (some are letterboxed on Home Video as well). The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, and Eyes Wide Shut are meant to be seen in the full-screen standard format, and therefore aren't available in letterbox, so don't feel you're being cheated out of any compositional content. Unfortunately you are being cheated by Warner Bros' refusal to remove the digital figures blocking the orgy scenes, inserted for theatrical release to secure the "R" rating. Only in America..."
Marriage is always under siege
Dennis Littrell | SoCal | 08/25/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Eyes Wide Shut is not the self-indulgent, opaque film that I had been led by some reviewers to expect. It is clear and focused with an important and worthy theme. Kubrick is exploring the nature of human sexuality in light of recent conclusions derived from evolutionary biology. The theme can be stated simply: "marriage is a fortress continually under siege." To be able to use Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman as his married couple, who not so incidentally were actually married to one another at the time, was quite a coup since it lent accessibility and immediacy to his theme. We are able to catch glimpses of what their married life might have been like and to see that marriage played out against the temptations of a cosmopolitan lifestyle. Indeed with their subsequent separation, Kubrick's theme is ironically supported.
Cruise plays Dr. Bill Harford, an attractive, high status, confident male who has always deceived himself about his sexual nature and the nature of women and especially the nature of his wife, Alice. They go to a party and act out some "teasing themselves" roles, as they have undoubtedly done before. Nothing comes of it since they are circumspect people. But the next night Alice decides to strip away her husband's smug confidence about her nature and expose to him the truth about feminine sexuality, and so tells him a little story about how she was moved to abandonment by just a glance from a man in uniform. Her expression is so vivid and powerful that Bill, stunned and shocked, begins to imagine this event that never took place, an event Alice has assured him, might well have taken place. As he visualizes, he begins to explore himself as various expressions of human sexuality are thrown his way, the prostitute, the gay-bashing young men, the teenage girl entertaining older men...etc. What he sees behind his mask watching the enactment of a secret medieval pagan ceremony tempts and enlightens him.
This film did not work well for a general audience for several reasons. One, many people did NOT identify with the privileged and glamorous couple. Two, the resolution of the theme was without the usual violence and/or sexual indulgence common in contemporary American cinema, a disappointment for some. Three, many young couples viewing the film together, or at least in light of their own marriages, were made uncomfortable and threatened by being reminded of their own temptations and frustrations. To have the truth of our duplicitous natures rubbed in our faces, as it were, is not something everybody wants to sit still for. Most people lie to themselves about their sexual behavior and especially their hidden sexual desires most of the time. Kubrick wanted us to see how compromised we really are. Finally, some were disappointed by an ending in which we see that we are human, all too human, and we have to accept that and live with it. Bill, realizing what he has done, not so much in action, as in his heart, cries out to Alice, what shall we do now? And she wisely says (because she has already figured this out): Be grateful that one day does not make an entire lifetime.
What is wonderful about a film like this is that, instead of going to the movies, fat and comfortable with the steak and wine in our bellies, expecting to be diverted from the irritations of our lives and to be massaged by the story upon the screen (as in say, You've Got Mail (1998) or Titanic (1998)) instead we are confronted with some uncomfortable truths about our own lives, and made to squirm. Our eyes are indeed wide shut, and we kid ourselves and tell ourselves lies about who we are sexually and what we really feel and want. Marriage is a compromise with the world and with our nature. Something is gained and something is lost, but this is no perfect world; and just as it is better to be respectable and a member of the establishment than to sleep in the streets, it is better to marry and maintain that marriage against our animal nature than it is to toss it away.
Kidman is mesmerizing and reinforces her reputation as great talent. As always she becomes the character she is playing. Cruise is clever, cute and has great timing. The sets are crisp and absolutely right for the story, and the dialogue is first class. The sometimes annoying score is appropriate. But this is not a great movie. Some of the scenes could have been sped up, and Kubrick did play the suspense card a little too slowly at times. I would rank it just below the best of Kubrick's work, somewhere between Dr. Strangelove (1964) and The Shining (1980), superior to Spartacus (1960) but not quite on the level of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Certainly we see the mark of the mature artist here in both theme and treatment.
See this for Stanley Kubrick, one of cinema's most accomplished and respected artists. It was his last completed film before he died. Would that we had another like him."
Warner messes up with this release but it's still great
Raymond Benson | Illinois, USA | 10/23/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Special Edition is a welcome release simply because it's the unrated, European, uncensored version of the film. I won't begin to review the film itself except to say that it's probably Kubrick's least appreciated and most underrated film--undeservedly so-- I personally think it's just as brilliant as his other works. See it more than once before you decide.
That said, the new Warner release has some flaws. The disk is supposed to contain BOTH versions of the film (unrated and rated), but it ONLY contains the unrated version (better that than just the rated one!). But the packaging says it contains both, so there's a big boo-boo. Also, it was originally advertised that the film would contain commentary by Sydney Pollack and someone else-- but there is no commentary on the film (and it doesn't say as such on the packaging... so it must have been decided not to include it for some reason). Nevertheless, it was originally touted in press releases that it would have commentary that I was looking forward to hearing.
After that, the extras a excellent and the movie looks great. But someone at Warner Home Video needs to have a reprimanding! :) "
Good News, Kubrick and HD Fans
M. Hickey | California, USA | 10/30/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Kubrick's final effort is also his greatest masterpiece: a humane and expressionistic fable, endlessly complex and guardedly optimistic. A few notes about the HD DVD of "Eyes Wide Shut:" This is the unrated version of the film, meaning it does not have those CGI figures added to the orgy scenes to obscure the simulated sex. (The CGI figures were added in order to secure a U.S. theatrical release rating of "R," without Kubrick's input; their only purpose was censorship. This unrated version, which was released theatrically in Europe but until now has not been available in the U.S., restores those shots to the way Kubrick filmed them.) The HD disc contains all of the special features which appear on the 16x9 standard-definition DVD in the new boxed set, and they are interesting enough. The aspect-ratio of the HD DVD is 16x9, which is a vast improvement over the old 3x4 DVD, as 16x9 is much closer to the theatrical aspect-ratio for which the film's shots were composed. The High-Definition film transfer is beautiful, pristine, the images luminous and rich. For a film as beautifully photographed as this, in which the texture of the image conveys essential, visceral meaning, the difference between High-Definition and Standard Def might make the difference between fully receiving the film and not. If you've gone HD and are thinking of buying this to replace your old standard-def 3x4 DVD, by all means do so. Short of a new 35mm print of the unrated version, this HD disc -- displayed on a big 1080 set in a dark room, uninterrupted -- is how this challenging and ultimately thrilling film should be seen, and seen again."
Sociology over Psychology
Beeble Bop | Whitby, ON Canada | 06/14/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Stanley Kubrick's final and most complicated masterpiece opened to extreme disappointment among reviewers from all over. Critical disappointment with the film was almost unanimous. They claimed that Kubrick was "out of touch with today's jaded sensibilities". However, as has been the case with almost every Kubrick film ever released, the critics, at first, could only see what was not there. The film was, and continues to be, completely and utterly misinterpreted by both the critical and the public eye.The main themes in Eyes Wide Shut are not those of sex and marriage - now, certainly, the story that is told by the actors alone echoes of these subjects. However, what the actors are doing onscreen more often than not was meant by Kubrick to take second place to the imagery used in the film. And the themes portrayed by the imagery are most certainly not that which mainstream reviews have let on.So what exactly is Eyes Wide Shut about, then? Not sex. That much should be obvious from the re-appearance of the film's title after the short shot of Nicole Kidman's buttocks (telling us that we're not really seeing what we're seeing). Eyes Wide Shut is about the wealth and power of society - about the upper class. It's about how the elite men in this world manipulate their inferiors and treat them like mere possessions. It is about the mistreatment of women and the lower class, and the source of that mistreatment.From a single viewing of Eyes Wide Shut one may assume that Nicole Kidman's character has some "power" in her relationship with her husband, that she has some other meaning to him and his acquaintances than an object - a possession. One will see, however, after analyzing the film carefully, that she has no power. Kidman's character claims she is looking for a job in one scene, but we never see her looking. Instead, we see men - powerful men, who manipulate and control their inferiors to suit their needs - looking at her. Look carefully and one will see a series of parallels between Kidman's character and that of the call-girl we see at Ziegler's Christmas party - both have red hair, are approximately the same height, and seem to have a fondness for mind-altering drugs. The character played by Kidman is nothing more than another, married prostitute.One of the most disturbing images the film shows us is that of Nicole Kidman's character "training" her daughter to follow in her footsteps - the footsteps of the wife as a possession, the wife as an object... the wife as an "upper class call-girl". When we see her daughter working on math problems, she is trying to figure out which boy has more money than the other one. The one sentence we hear as she is reading a storybook to her mom is something to the effect of "and so I jumped into bed". The countless scenes of Kidman's character and her daughter grooming themselves side-by-side should make this point obvious enough. As well, in the film's final scene, we see the daughter flitting around the shopping store, picking up items that all relate her back to the women that Bill Harford has abused in his nighttime excursions - she picks up a Barbie doll (similar to Milich's daughter, who he is pimping off to any man who wants her), a teddy bear (just like the one we see when Bill Harford is with one of the prostitutes), and a purple baby carriage (like the one we see twice outside the prostitutes' door). And for one last disturbing flourish, Kubrick has her walk past a toy conspicuously called "The Magic Circle". History repeats itself and has come full circle, and Bill and Alice are too busy to notice.Recall the cafe that Bill Harford walks into when he discovers that Mandy - the girl he believes saved his life at the orgy - has died. Notice the music that's playing in the background. It's no ordinary classical music. It's Mozart's Requiem. The piece is a song mourning the death of someone. One may think it touching of Kubrick to include this little thing in the film, but it doesn't stop there - look closely at the paintings covering the walls in the room. They are antique paintings of women - women who, in their times, were treated like possessions just as each and every woman we see in this film is treated. It is a requiem for them - it's a requiem for all those who have been downtrodden on by the socially elite.The film's final scene has been interpreted by many as a happy ending. I do not see it that way. Bill and Alice are in a position to DO SOMETHING about all of the atrocities that have been committed by the upper class. Someone has been killed and they have this one opportunity to expose it. But no. They're both too caught up in their own problems to notice, or even understand, the bigger picture. In Kubrick's last word on this subject, or, for that matter, any subject, Alice and Bill, along with the rest of the world are "**cked". Given the chance to change the world in which they live for the better, they give it up - nay, they fail to even acknowledge that the opportunity exists. For all of their meaningless chatter about being wide awake now, they're still screwed over. Their eyes are still wide shut."