on 3 June 2000
Here in the USA, petitions have circulated urging Warner Bros. to release the uncensored version of "Eyes Wide Shut" on DVD. They CLAIM the version of the film being marketed in the USA (including digitally-inserted "manikins" that obscure the more explicit scenes) is the version Kubrick intended American audiences to see! Even though the studio may have felt the need to censor the film for American theatrical release, there is no reason why they can't market an uncensored "director's cut" on DVD. Anyone in Europe, the Middle East or Japan who purchases this DVD should consider themselves lucky, because they are getting Stanley Kubrick's artistic vision as it SHOULD be seen. Here in the USA we have to make do with an inferior product, and I for one refuse to buy it.
That having been said ... "Eyes Wide Shut" is an excellent, if somewhat challenging, Kubrick film, and although initial reviews were mixed, I think in retrospect this film will be viewed as one of Kubrick's best 10, 20 years from now. In the years before this film was released, the studio would only say that "Eyes Wide Shut" was a tale about jealousy and sexual obsession. My first reaction was, "Gee, that's like saying 'A Clockwork Orange' is about juvenile delinquency!" But actually "Eyes Wide Shut" does boil down to a tale about jealousy and sexual obsession. After his wife (played by Nicole Kidman) confesses a sexual fantasy while puffing on a joint, Dr. Bill Harford (Tom Cruise) retaliates by looking for some sexual fantasies of his own, and he ends up looking in all the wrong places and gets sucked into situations he wishes he hadn't. His wife's final line in this picture, her suggestion to her hapless husband, is a real clincher.
This is an absolutely gorgeous movie, as beautifully-shot as anything Kubrick has ever done. It is also a hypnotic and cerebral film. To say "slow" would be much too simple. "Eyes Wide Shut" requires something that too many American moviegoers lack: An attention span.
on 18 August 2012
I just want to make some comments on this Blu-Ray release. I purchased this Blu-Ray recently and was very disappointed with the standard of the transfer and the issue with the ratio of the picture (some loss of the image at the top and bottom). If you already have the DVD of this film do not buy the Blu-Ray because you will see very little difference to the visual or audio quality to that of the DVD. I find this astounding as this film is a Stanley Krubrick film and there is no doubt only the very best filming and audio equipment was used in its production so there are no excuses as to why the Blu-Ray has a DVD quality about it. I am not an expert on the processes involved in producing DVD/Blu-Ray digital files but this Blu-Ray looks to me simply as a upscale of the original DVD file rather than a re-scan at a higher resolution of the original print....
The film itself I give 4 stars (A flawed Masterpiece that is visually stunning, highlighting Stanley Krubrick's mastery of film).
The Blu-Ray transfer I give 1 Star.
"Eyes Wide Shut" is Stanley Kubrick's last film.
Like all Kubricks, "Eyes Wide Shut" is a film that appears on the surface to be relatively straightforward, yet isn't, if you want it to be. You take from it what you want. When I first saw it, I was disappointed. I was expecting genius. And yet, like the layers of a peeled orange, the more you look, the more you see.
Visually it's fabulous - the colours and textures of the film are sumptious. You can tell when you watch it this guy started off as a stills photographer. Like Barry Lyndon, each shot is framed like a painting.
In terms of plot, "Eyes Wide Shut" is fairly one-dimensional. On the surface it might seem like a fairly basic morality tale about the temptations of infidelity, but the translation of the title of the novella it is based on is "Dream Story" - little of "Eyes Wide Shut" actually happens. Hence then, the unusual dialogue, the bizarre imagery, and the strange-plot-arc.
You can pick this up in the unusual dialogue frequented by the longue lizard in the opening scene who attempts to seduce Alice (Nicole Kidman), or the gaggle of women who flirt outrageously with Bill (Tom Cruise), or the bereaved woman who attempts to seduce him. Bill literally exists in a world where all women are sexual, even those who are being examined for breast cancer suffer from an objection of their flesh, as Cruise examines them in a state of unnecessary nakedness.
If the film is 'real', highly unlikely given the circumstances, then, for example, why is everything so old-fashioned? Why is the hooker so... civilised, her dialogue so stilted, her language so repressed? Why do characters behave as if they were living in the 1940's, not the 1990's?
However, there are also some moments of richness. Who else has filmed a couple applying deodorant or brushing their teeth? Who else has penetrated the nature of relationships in such a successful manner in film? Eyes Wide Shut is about the way we act against what we think, about the essential deceptions we all carry within us and do not reveal, about the gap between our desires and our reality.
Hence the use of masks as a recurrent theme. Hence the fact that all male characters have two faces - for example, the masks, or the fear of losing their faces (many characters bemoan losing their hair - the frame around the face), and many of the female characters (Domino - literally one with two faces) are also two-faced. Decievers and decieved.
The other sub-plot is that of a world where the rich use and discard people who are of lesser importance. Bill is constantly buying people off, paying for services that are either not rendered, or over-paying for everything - the Taxi Driver, the Prostitute. This is probably something to do with the fact that wealth brings with it guilt, and by constantly 'forking out', he's trying to address the balance and pay off his middle or upper-class sense of guilt. With Wealth comes the knowledge everyone has a price.
To its logical extension, the people behind the debauched mansion sequence actually appear to gang-rape and drug a woman to death. Bill only survives because they do not want to kill him. Yet. If any of it is real.
So "Eyes Wide Shut". Not by any means an easy movie to love. But a great one. Like any Kubrick movie, it takes many repeated viewings and years of enjoyment to begin to unravel all the riches it has to reveal. A satisfying end to a career.
And hence the title Eyes Wide Shut is a deceptively shallow name for a film. But what does the phrase mean? In full knowledge of the darker side of human nature, in full awareness of the corruption at the heart of man (the use of money to buy anything, the corruption of power, the emptiness of sex which is a mere simulation of love), Bill / Alice choose to ignore the facts they are fully aware of, and try to live an ignorant life. In ignorance lies bliss. But it has a price. The couple no longer are innocent - the purity of their love has been broken. Alice's final suggestion is that the couple shag. Not make love. But sex, like base animals, like creatures who can no longer connect spiritually anymore. But do not yet know that all they are doing now is decieving themselves in an imitation. An imitation of what their love used to be.
on 10 September 2002
Many critics of this movie complain that it never truly makes a point. After my first viewing, I didn't quite know what to think, other than I had just seen a visual masterpiece where a brilliant filmmaker squeezed every last drop of acting out of several incredibly talented actors. Nicole Kidman proves that she is certainly one of the best around, and Tom Cruise didn't miss once in his portrayal of Dr. Bill. I've seen many negative reviews about Tom Cruise's acting, but I think they are really complaints about Dr. Bill, who often has less depth than a kiddie pool as he alternates between pitiful, dense, and occassionally unlikeable, which is perhaps not what people expected or wanted from Dr. Bill or Cruise. The Dr. Bill you see on screen is entirely necessary to making you believe that he could consciously make so many pathetic choices, one after another, before beginning to realize his own ineptitude, which makes it impossible for me to swallow that any portion of his portrayal was not completely deliberate.
After several subsequent viewings, it became clear to me that this movie is much like life itself: vague, ambiguous, and chock full of important messages buried within an often confusing barrage of distraction. It would be fairly boring (and perhaps even sensory overload) if this movie had the equivalent of blinking neon signs explaining every important message, and the subdued manner of relaying them suits the movie, and its director, perfectly. Kubrick wonderfully balances startling revelation with seemingly intentional wandering that allows the viewer to ponder what they've just witnessed, and the messages are so skillfully woven in the space between that it's no surprise many people don't recognize them.
It would be impossible to spell out many of these messages without completely dissecting the movie and taking away the wonder of discovery you will feel when you see them for yourself. It's also highly likely that you will find others I did not.
It is basically a story about a man who smugly believes that he has life figured out and under control, progressive to a point and seemingly perfect. When that shimmering illusion is torn away by a mind-numbing revelation from his wife, his perfect world spirals out of control. His need to get back at her puts him in a series of bizarre and increasingly dangerous situations until he becomes lost in a world where he doesn't understand anything, bumbling through choice after choice in an attempt to return to his flawed life, which doesn't seem all that bad after all.
If you are not a person who can watch movies more than once, then this movie is not for you, but if you have the time and the inclination, it is well worth it.
on 15 January 2001
Eyes wide Shut ,like all Kubrick films, should be judged by it's own merits. According to all the ill informed(unofficial) hype that preceeded it's release we were to expect a lurid erotic vehicle for Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. Nothing could be further from the truth, most of the stories stemmed from the fact that much of the media (perhaps with the exception of the Evening Standard's Alexander Walker) was so frustrated by the lack of information on the film that they decided to do what they do best and start filling in the blanks with anything they fancied. This, after 2001:A space odyssey, is without any doubt Kubricks finest moment. I promise you that the film will be nothing like you've been led to expect. I really don't want to give much away ( I believe a review should cover the quality of a movie,not it's plot) but much of the film takes place on one long night after Bill Harford (Tom Cruise) has just been through a mesmerising revelation with his wife(Nicole Kidman). The film fills a space in the subconscious often neglected by modern films and we get carried deep into the heart of something truly compelling by the main character who is played with an eye opening honesty by Mr Cruise. I'll have to admit that I have never been a fan of Tom Cruise,often even avoiding his work because of his association with all that awful american apple pie stuff, but this is the most astonishing 'solo' performance I've seen since Harvey Keitel in Bad Lieutenant. This film proves to be Cruise's best work and I am now a believer in his talent, with this film he has shifted his axis and I hope his priorities in movies. Kidman is also very 'real' although her screen time is limited to crucial key moments. The camerawork and editing is the usual tight and specific high standard you get from any Kubrick picture and all the music and sound equally efficient. This is an important DVD release for several reasons: The high standard of lighting demanded by Kubrick would probably be wasted on VHS (all DVD owners know about the importance of picture clarity) and much of the more eccentric shots which give the movie it's dreamlike quality deserve a decent medium to give them depth. This is also a movie which is quite demanding on the audio front. There is masses of dialogue which needs the DVD format to help you hang on every word (and believe me you'll need to pay attention to whats being said) and some very sonically demanding musical sections (I guarantee you'll be fixated with the groundbreaking acoustics on chapter 16 of the disc) so much so that I know of several home cinema retailers using this disc for demos on some of their systems. I have been fascinated by this movie since seeing it on it's cinema release and I haven't had any negative feedback from anyone I know who's seen it. As I said,have no expectations other than this is a film from a true craftsman,no one ever came close to Kubrick for pure quality and as Steven Spielberg accurately mention on his interview in the special features section of this top DVD title,once you start watching a Kubrick movie,you cannot turn it off until the very end. Get this disc,I promise you won't be disappointed.
I don't think it's possible to truly explain Eyes Wide Shut to anyone who hasn't seen it. For some, it will be too darn weird, far too lengthy, and too abstract and open-ended to be enjoyable. Others, however, will find themselves as fascinated as I was while watching this extraordinary film, especially after it transforms itself into something totally unexpected about midway through. There is a sort of surreal atmosphere around everything that happens here, although I must say I sensed no dreamlike qualities to any parts of it. I really didn't know what to expect going in - besides a bunch of nudity and the whole erotic Cruise-Kidman relationship - but that was a good thing (especially since the movie isn't really about those things). Eyes Wide Shut is so unusual that it's probably better for the viewer to go in with no expectations whatsoever.
I came to this film for Nicole Kidman, just as many probably came to it for Cruise. It's really a Tom Cruise feature, I have to say, with Kidman scoring a lot less screen time than I expected. Now, I love Nicole Kidman, and I was mesmerized by this entire movie, but I don't think this was one of Kidman's better performances. Maybe it's just the fact that racy language coming out of her mouth just doesn't sit right with me, but I was definitely uncomfortable watching Kidman work her way through the more emotional scenes (which seemed a little overdramatic). Cruise, for his part, is great, and the whole supporting cast (including Leelee Sobieski in a small but scintillating role) is excellent.
Bill and Alice Harford have a complex relationship. Following a strange party which finds them each flirting with other people, Alice starts a discussion that ends with her recounting her fantasies about another man. Bill, who sits there with a blank look on his face throughout the uncomfortable scene, then gets called away to the home of a patient who has just died. As you might expect, images of his wife with another man just keep running through his mind, and the unexpected advances of his dead patient's daughter sort of tip his precarious grip on reality a little too close to the edge. Opportunity begins to become temptation, and he moves ever closer to infidelity. Just when you think you have the movie figured out, though, it runs off like the Road Runner escaping the grasping hands of Wile E. Coyote. Bill finds his way to an exclusive, secretive party of costumed men and women doing things that are far removed from the morality of the everyday world. The whole scene is just amazingly surreal and weird - yet certainly exciting and stimulating. The things Bill witnesses at this party set the stage for the rest of the film. This is as much as I want to say about the plot, but I must emphasize just how multi-layered the story is. It's a brilliantly complicated film that touches all sorts of emotional buttons.
In the end, Eyes Wide Shut is a movie about relationships, particularly marriage, with infidelity and jealousy standing as the touchstones of Kubrick's elaborate exploration of the most intense and vulnerable of emotions. People wear all sorts of emotional masks, they indulge in fantasies and sometimes give in to temptation, and Eyes Wide Shut plays extremely well on these themes. Kubrick really weaves all sorts of disparate elements together in the most mesmerizing of ways. I can certainly understand why some people just don't like the movie at all, though. Daring, complex, surreal, intellectual, visionary motion pictures usually divide critics and viewers, inspiring either love or hate. I can barely begin to do the movie justice here, but I personally feel that this is a brilliant motion picture that will garner more and more critical acclaim over time.
on 28 August 2009
I saw this movie when it first came out back in the late 1990's and certain very poignant scenes stuck in my memory forever more, so when I saw it on Amazon I just bought it and I'm so glad I did. It was even better second time around as it's one of those tales that requires a second viewing to fully understand the nuances of the plot and the acting. I never thought I'd say that a film starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman could be a classic but here, with the direction of Stabley Kubrick and a script of sheer brilliance, it works! I do have a few complaints about it (not least Kidman's overacting when she tries to play a drunk) but overall this is class. Say what you like about Tom Cruise but he really is an extrordinarily good actor and here he excels himself as a man lost and on a sado-sexual journey after his wife reveals that all was not as it seemed in their marriage. Buy it!
on 18 March 2002
Generally, this film has inspired more verbiage than most. Like any great artist, it seems Kubrick never saw the point of saying the same old thing in the same tired way, so each of his films is in some part an exploration. For me, this seems like a remarkably simple plot of sexual jealousy and fantasy that any long term couple can identify with. Indeed, I would suspect that many of the negative comments come from profoundly single young men, perhaps hoping for a little more obvious sleaze. Nevermind. The challenge facing any film maker tackling the obsessive psychology of eroticism and power is how to produce a creation that extends beyond hormonal gratification.
The character of Dr. Bill (Cruise) reminds me a lot of Marcello from La Dolce Vita in his frustrated search for an emotional and sexual framework that can justify both his tenuous social position and his relationship with his wife (Kidman). Compared to many, Dr. Bill is highly successful, and yet he can only glimpse a world of real power and excess. As his wife merrily acknowledges her fantasies, Dr Bill is steadily drawn towards his own.
For me, this is not only one of Kubrick's greatest achievements, but also one of the finest films ever made. Most of Kubrick's films were trashed by critics on release, only to be revered years later as masterpieces and the magnificent sexual content of this film makes it even more difficult for a critic to jump off the bandwagon. Fortunately, this is not your problem.
on 21 January 2016
Kubrick always takes a story and makes it into its own. Anyone who has seen The Shining will know it lacks a good portion of the first half of the book by Stephen King yet delievered crushing isolation and suspense. Kubrick takes you straight into his worlds, almost like your in a time machine dropping in on different peoples lives where perhaps could have been given a bit of an update prior to. To me EWS has the feeling and visual representation of "The Shining", like a homage to America's most freaky hotels, apartments, mansions etc but without Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall running around with knives and wild psychotic demeanours. The decor/lighting used in the buildings and various scenes tends to be luxurious make up for an expansion of Kubrick's incredibly talented directing pallet and visions. Merged with the two central charaters played by Cruise and Kidman and a ridiculous amount of nudity throughout (perhaps the most I have seen in a film), it makes a dreamy yet an emotionally provocative affair. Unfortunately, with much effort placed on these beautiful visuals I think a lot of the script got mixed up with the paint and wallpaper also. Despite Kidmans questionable acting the first half of the film is actually quite intriguing and interesting. But with Cruise constantly carrying everyone else through some very awkward acting and drawn out dialogue the whole film eventually deflates like a well used blow up sex toy. EWS is considered to be Kubrick's "Illuminati" film, one of his many that have flirted with the subject. Along with ever more fuel to the conspiracy following Kubricks death three days after its premiere Im not surprised. Personally I think EWS it more what the sexually perverted would consider secret societies to be about. Other than some ritualist aspects that can be almost certainly be attributed to cults such as Thelema or Satanism (yes real cults) its not even slightly symbolic even when the eyes wanders during some of the most boring scenes in the film. Other than the famous orgy scene there is nothing here to hold angels, demons and Da Vinci coders for more than five minutes let alone a secret society. It is by this point the viewer may see the film for it actual purpose that it is a tale of a married couples challenge against the trials and temptions of life.
However, this film goes all the way to hell to prove it. This is the shame of this movie where there was plenty of room to expand on Illuminati concepts that seem so apparent in his films and could have been far more interesting. That I think is where Kubrick got off and flew to another universe. With the orgy scenes being very powerful as well as the focus on the ritualism scenes, Im surprised the film never turned up the big build up. But I can imagine that if the Illuminati actually exist that they would be none to pleased with him.
EWS is definitely work a watch though and for Kubrick fans its a must see.
on 29 November 2001
Immediately, were are turned into a voyeur, as a sexy young woman with her back to us, alone, drops her little black dress to the floor, and kicks it away. Then the cut jumps to black. We are then watching the same woman, now on the toilet, with her equally young husband fussing with his tuxedo around her, in a hurry for a party. She stands up, adjusts her dress slightly, and abruptly she is part a beautiful, elegant couple. She hurries through her luxurious apartment and kisses her child goodnight and briefs the babysitter patiently. Now she is a mother. The film's fluid attitude towards the role of the woman in society - as the organising principle - is illustrated concisely within these first minutes of the film and anticipates the fundamentals of Eyes Wide Shut. As her husband later confesses, he can rely on himself only as long as her can wholly rely on his wife.
The New York the Harmans occupy is incredibly wealthy - their apartment is spacious as illustrated by the slow tracking shots, their friend victor's apartment larger still; with cavernous snooker rooms, stunning swooping staircases and an art gallery upstairs recalling the moneyed sumptuousness of The Overlook Hotel. They are part, albeit the part that is only just part, of a portion of male-oriented society that has lost its moral bearings - enveloped and cushioned by its own wealth, inward looking, bored and debauched. The highly ordered, stratified, closed society in which secrets are kept and favours are dealt out with the returning one in mind is the male principle of the film. Sex has been reduced to a game, the threat of female sexuality literally masked and discredited, and offered around as if drinks on a tray with no regard to the emotional responsibility of sex. Its system of justice is based on exchanged favours between men - no one seems answerable to their own actions, but instead follows their own, often whimsical, desires. The real world is kept at bay by priviledge. This is a place where you can do anything you like at any time because everything has its price, most of all sex. Under such circumstances, the institution of marriage is under severe threat.
But reality has reserved its right to disrupt the liminal space of this expressonistic portion of society - through the female element in the film, specifically thorugh dreams. The female principle is the one in the film that transgresses the structures that maintain this permissive, lazy, over-rich society, and improves it by breaking them down. Whereas before there was cause but no effect, reality finally penetrates on a subconscious level, and then spreads. Therefore Kidman's explicit, frank explanations of her fears and desires, communicated through her dreams, sets about the trajectory for the film: the marriage is allowed to ruin itself within a hypothetical, dreamlike space, and Bill is allowed a glimpse over the edge to see what exists outside the true protection of him by his wife. Only once he has choosen to wake up, and open his eyes, can his marriage move on, stronger, intact.
The film successfully argues the inadequacies of such a strictly male system and instead promotes the importance of mixing the male and female principles. Kidman's frank confessions of potential infidelity destroys the old ways but simultaneously forms the foundations for a new, combined principle. This forges a positive future, immediately for their marriage but more generally for the institution as a whole, as it goes on under new pressures into a new millennium.