Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
USA / English
"Cruise. Kidman. Kubrick."A New York City doctor, who is married to an art curator, pushes himself on a harrowing and dangerous night-long odyssey of sexual and moral discovery after his wife admits that she once almost cheated on him.
Remarkable finale to a long, glorious career
The thing a lot of folks haven't liked about Stanley Kubrick's films is
fact that he always seemed to think the audience needed some points driven
home a little harder than others. Very little is left for debate; most
everything is spelled out, pressed hard, and dwelled upon. His critics
compared the long waits between his films to the long periods of waiting
that occur while watching his films.
Personally, I like the long, slow scenes in his films. When they're
with something: music, movement, thought, memory of a previous scene,
dread, or any other emotion, they can never really be said to be empty. I
like them because, with Kubrick, I can be sure that they're absolutely
essential to his ultimate vision. He could have put out a six-hour
documentary on tissue manufacturing; at least I'll know that not one
of screen time is wasted.
"Eyes Wide Shut" isn't as vacuous as, say, "Barry Lyndon" or "The
Compared to those two, this one scoots along like a person trying to get
his car in the rain. It'll try a lot of folks' patience, I'm sure -- even
his most loyal fans will be bothered by the incessant piano "bell tolls"
the soundtrack of some scenes, or the constant reminders (in imaginary
flashbacks) that Cruise's character is bothered by his wife's
near-infidelity. I know I was.
Despite that, it's an apt final film for the long, glorious career of a
who has done more for the cinema, with less movies, than can ever be
catalogued. To try and cite influences for this particular work is
Though one might draw parallels to Lindsay Anderson's "O Lucky Man!" or
Martin Scorsese's "After Hours," "Eyes Wide Shut" is no less than a
work from the cold heart and brilliant mind of Stanley Kubrick alone.
also a furiously ingenious piece of filmmaking, one that works less on the
emotions than on the senses and on the mind. Unlike most of Kubrick's
earlier work, however, it does have an emotional subtext, which is used to
Cruise, by the way, does an outstanding job, not as a trained,
camera-conscious film actor, but as a mature, seasoned performer. Here he
uses his "Top Gun"/"Jerry Maguire" suavity to malicious effect; like Ryan
O'Neal's Barry Lyndon before him, he's an egotistical cad. Unlike Lyndon,
he gains our sympathy -- that's key to keeping us from disowning his
character and thus negating the entire film.
Kidman is given less screen time, but it matters little. She's mostly
in the beginning, and she has brief (but crucial) scenes throughout, and a
masterful one at the end. It is safe to say that this is her best
performance to date, and those of us who have been ignoring her treasured
abilities up until now (the Academy, critics, myself) will be astounded to
see how far she's come since "Dead Calm." Her high points: the argument
with her husband that ends by setting the film's plot in motion perfectly
captures the way women lure men into arguments when the cause for one is
nonexistent (and on Cruise's part, how men can't think fast enough to do
anything about it), and her dream confession scene, in which she wakes
laughing but becomes tearful during recollection.
On a technical level, "Eyes Wide Shut" displays Kubrick's trademark
perfectionism. Recreating Vietnam in rural England for "Full Metal
must have been nearly impossible, but the unrelenting accuracy in
uptown and downtown New York City is absolutely stunning. Right down to
diners and the newspaper stands; I shake my head in awe when I remind
that Kubrick (a native Brooklynite) hasn't been to NYC in decades. The
lighting and photography is impeccable, also, as it is in every one of his
This is the sort of film one sees more than once. Once is good to cleanse
the palate, to clear out all the residual toxins left from other recent
films. See it again, perhaps a third time, and get to appreciate the
graceful, nearly unblemished finale of a man who took the art of cinema
seriously. It's a sobering experience.