Cert: 18 Runtime: 159 mins Director: Stanley Kubrick Cast: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Todd Field, Rade Serbedzija and Sidney Pollack
Life goes on. It always does, until it doesn’t
During a recent bout of the flu I re-watched a lot of films. Eyes Wide Shut being one of them, I have been studying Kubrick a lot over the last year and for me this was one film of his I had only watched a few times. It was the last film he ever made, a lot claiming it was his masterpiece. Personally it isn’t his masterpiece, but it is in the top five in my opinion. What is Eyes Wide Shut all about? Sexual jolts disrupt Manhattan physician Bill Harford’s (Tom Cruise) equilibrium. At an elegant Christmas party, two “models” hit on him, he watches a Lothario try to pick up his tipsy wife (Nicole Kidman), he aids a woman sprawled naked in a bathroom after an overdose. The next night, his wife reveals sexual fantasies with a stranger; a dead patient’s daughter throws herself at him; as he walks, brooding, six teen boys hurl homophobic insults at him; a streetwalker takes him to her flat; he interrupts men having a sex party with a girl barely in her teens. His odyssey, which next takes him into a world of wealthy sex play at a masked ball of hedonism, threatens his life, his self-respect, and his marriage.
This film is a Kubrick film, without any doubt, and as all Kubrick films are it was absolutely stunning. Absolutely. Visually it is brilliant, though I should warn that this isn’t quite as visual a film as most other Kubrick works. A lot of the film focuses on the characters, on human interaction, something rather new to this director. Of course, all the Kubrick trademarks are there, cold analytical gazes, sharp introspection. Tom Cruise seems like Jack Nicholson in ‘The Shining’ and even Malcolm MacDowell in ‘A Clockwork Orange’ at times, a rather striking fact considering that this is Tom Cruise. The performances were excellent all around, even from places not expected. Again, this is typical for Kubrick. He wasn’t much of a people director, but he still knew how to direct people.Almost every moment of this film was flawless, perfect and pristine. The dialog is predictable, but in some solemn and holy fateful sort of way, as though the words and the moments are matched so essentially that nothing else could possibly fit. Beyond that the sounds and images all fit together beautifully, creating an almost unblemished whole. The only part that didn’t seem right was the sequence that had been digitally altered. While the alterations were not nearly so obtrusive as I had feared (not knowing about them one probably wouldn’t notice them) they do grow a bit noticeable for redundancy (you see a lot more backs than you’d expect, and always in the same places). Unfortunately these came right in the middle of one of the most visually amazing pieces of the film, a very unwelcome distraction.
Is this movie about sex? Yes, it is, but more importantly it is about people. The sex part is simply a product thereof. This is one of the most disturbingly honest portraits of human behavior and motivations ever made. The most honest I’ve ever seen, at least. To be put simply: It is about sex because people are about sex.I’m still trying to sort through this movie. It’s been a good twenty four hours since I saw it, and I can still feel it, hard and definite, rotating in my stomach. The film itself seems mostly void of opinion (not entirely, but mostly), serving more as a general statement and commentary than any specific moral warning, but the questions it inspires are very strong indeed. The film, being objective, provides no answers, no justification for humanity. There is no redemption, either, none whatsoever. The film’s final word sums it (it being the film and humanity) up pretty well, for better or for worse. I guess that depends on you.A common thread in Kubrick’s films since 2001 has been the contemplation and examination of human intentions, the essence of human behavior. Motivations. He’s shown us violence and madness and everything else, all tracking the path back to the dawn of man. I think he finally figured it out with this film, however anticlimactic the discovery might have been. At least he did finally figure it out. That’s something.