Eyes Wide Shut Reviews
This is, like basically every Kubrick film, a challenging, beautiful, and haunting work of art. A ridiculous amount of shots are framed quite literally like you'd see done to a painting in a musuem. This sucker just oozes with craft. It would be a surprise if it didn't, really. I lost track of the number of long takes and tracking there were, but I was also absorbed when I tried to imagine how difficult some of them were to set up and execute, especially given Kubrick's perfectionism. For people who think this movie is only about gratituous nudity and sex, you are wrong, will be disappointed if you watch it solely for that reason. This is a long film that is deliberately (read: slowly) paced, with all of the sex and nudity being done in a very tasteful and artistic manner that also serves as an integral part of the plot and themes. And, just like his other films, this is a film loaded with symbolism, metaphors, and is open to a vast number of interpretations. The music was just phenomenal. It kind of surprised me that there would also be some slight similarities to John Carpenter's score for Halloween. The brief (but appropriate) use of a Chris Isaak song just brought a devious smile to my face, and the classical music that is used is just something that is to be expected- and it works flawlessly. The acting is also quite good (yes, even Cruise for those haters and mockers). I feel like anyone who works with Kubrick is capable of giving an excellent performance- no matter who they are.
Is this a perfect film? Well, based on my rating, and for a general audience, I say no. It is long, slow, and rather pretentious. Even though I raved about the music, I'll admit that the repetition of the piano notes can get a bit tedious and overbearing after a while, but at least it's only around in the second half. You need to be in the right frame of mind to watch it, and cannot do so passively. I spent most of the viewing time totally absorbed in it, but then got interrupted and found it hard to get back into, but that's a minor thing. It would probably help to view it at least twice (once again, like other Kubrick films), in order to get the most out of it. There's a lot to ponder over in this film, but the patient viewer will find themself greatly rewarded.
Yes, it was ms-marketed, and sure, Eyes Wide Shut may not be as profound as some of his masterworks, but it's still a pretty good film in its own right. At its core it's about the bonds of marriage and the challenge of achieving real intimacy. The sexual politics aside (which one can right an entire essay on), this film is one of the more penetrating (bad pun, I know) and creative exposes on the classic bored and wealthy upper-class trying to find true meaning in their lives. And let's not forget, this is Stanley Kubrick at the helm and he hadn't lost his touch: the compositions were spellbinding; the lighting both stylized and natural were endlessly intriguing and added so much to his character's development; his long shots and dissolves were staged with meticulous detail. Also, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the show-stopping, eerily ritualistic upper crust orgy scene -- everything from the mood lighting, to the cold and unemotional mansion that hosted the event, to the cloaks and masks, to the invasive music is endlessly fascinating and surreal, and as good as anything Kubrick has ever done.
The criticisms, though, do persist. Some of pointed out that the film is cheaply sexually exploitative, that only the women are nude and they are nothing more than sexual objects. Well, yes, but the film is quite pointedly a trip through a fairly conventional man's sexual unconscious and necessarily told from a male point of view. None of these things should come as a surprise. Moreover, much like Steve McQueen's masterful study of sexual addiction, Shame, I found Eyes Wide Shut to be remarkably asexual. Sex is power, nothing less and nothing more. It's powerful in the way dreams can almost destroy a marriage, and it's powerful as a reinforcement of class stratification. As far as lead characters go, maybe Bill Hartford (Cruise) isn't complex as Humbert Humbert or Jack Torrance, but isn't that the point? Eyes Wide Shut isn't so much about one man's mental illness or psychotic breakdown, it's about how all of us -- our projections and insecurities manifested. To that end, Eyes Wide Shut is an effective swan song to Kubrick's llife and magnificent career.
Happily married New York City doctor, Bill Harford (Tom Cruise) appears to have the perfect life with his wife Alice (Nicole Kidman). When she admits that she had a potent sexual fantasy about a man she never met and was tempted to cheat on him, he is left reeling from shock, and goes out into the Manhattan night where he meets strange characters and enters into a world of sexual adventure for the first time in his life.
First off, I love how Kubrick can make a room feel. He has a knack for crafting a place or scene that is vast yet claustrophobic. He gives a place importance, and here it is no different. Despite being set in the vibrant sprawling nightlife of New York City, we seem enclosed in the character of Cruise's tormented doctor. Kubrick managed the same effect in "The Shining" and it also brings the actors to the forefront and enhances their performances. Speaking of which, Cruise and Kidman are very brave and dynamic here. Their real life marriage (at the time) effectively seems to permeate the characters, giving a very intimate portrayal of a strained, unfulfilled relationship. Cruise in particular smolders on screen, always heavily weighted on. There is an escalating sense of foreboding and danger in the experiences of Dr. Harford. Are they his fantasies? Or are they the world around him, that he has been cloistered from, now that his sexual desires and imagination have been reawakened? This is a film that is most certainly not for all tastes but has been judged unfairly in my opinion. It's not the explicit orgy that people expected, but a deeply surreal psychological exploration of sexual tension, paranoia and jealousy, that if viewed from a subconcious perspective, is highly rewarding.
A rich, provocative meditation on the human psyche and sexual desires, anchored by a excellent central peformance by Cruise. One of Kubrick's finest and sadly his last.
Eyes Wide Shut is one of the most technically perfect and methodically paced films ever committed to celluloid, in spite of Nichole Kidman's somewhat shrill performance (and her inability to deliver a passing american accent). What are the dangers of using sex as a weapon anyway?
Not at all recommended.
But in a way, all of this is strangely appropriate. Regardless of their central themes ? be it war, progress, or in this case jealousy ? all of Kubrick?s films have been about taking the audience?s expectations and then exceeding or subverting them. In his best films he manages both, creating a visual world which is overwhelmingly brilliant and technically stunning, and then playing out a series of events which surprise and challenge the audience, to the extent that, in the case of 2001 and The Shining, the genre is completely changed.
Eyes Wide Shut may not exceed audience expectations, but it certainly subverts them. Consider the orgy sequences at the Somerton Mansion. Any other director ? with the possible exception of Ken Russell ? would have used these scenes to titillate the audience, to reward their perseverance with a sexual smorgasbord which would appeal to some kind of base instinct. But in Eyes Wide Shut, you?re not turned on by the sex scenes; you?re disgusted by them. They are comparable to those in Ken Russell?s The Devils, but whereas in The Devils the orgy scenes are an indicator of demonic possession, in Eyes Wide Shut they demonstrate a secret, animalistic corruption at the core of polite society. Kubrick takes sex, one of the most celebrated and glamorised acts of human interaction, and turns it into an emblem of all that is excessive and shameful.
In many ways, this is Kubrick?s most moralistic film. But like all of his films, there is never a moment at which any character will suggest that what they are doing is wrong. Nor is there anything in either the direction or the screenplay which forces an audience to lean one way or the other. One of the charms of Kubrick?s work, right back to A Clockwork Orange, is that the audience is never quite sure whose side they should be on (or whether, in the case of A Clockwork Orange, it is pointless to choose). Much like David Fincher?s Se7en, it deals with the idea that certain human practices have become so commonplace that they have become accepted by default, on the basis that nothing can be done to fight them. But where Fincher had to juggle with seven sins, Kubrick takes on one, narrows the focus and uses it to deeply challenge an audience.
The film?s use of dream logic (in which events and images can repeat themselves in distorted or corrupted forms) is successfully underpinned by the dreamlike fashion of shooting. With the exception of the last half hour, there are very few sequences in Eyes Wide Shut that are genuinely boring, since everything always seems too stately and too idealised for everything to be hunky-dory. Just as in The Shining, the blandness of the encounters Tom Cruise has is not a measure of reassurance but a seed of paranoia which is planted in the viewer?s mind. We feel like we are in a dream which slowly but surely turns into a nightmare until eventually, in the final scenes, our world comes crashing down and we awake. The increasing surrealism of his encounters, ranging from the meeting with the prostitute Domino to his arrival at the orgy, really create the sense that this entire sexual odyssey is one long act of jealousy playing out inside Tom Cruise?s head ? which further bolsters the message of the film as a warning against the corrupting power of hedonism.
Of the central performances, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman are very good, playing the archetypal middle-class husband and wife, wrestling between their ambitions and their responsibilities. Considering Cruise?s subsequent controversies, and their respective choice of roles, it is reassuring that at some point in their careers, both Cruise and Kidman were capable of delivering performances which were both authentic and immersive. Sydney Pollack does very well in his supporting role of Victor Ziegler, delivering a powerful final speech during the scene in the billiard room. And on the cameos front, there are some fine appearances by Alan Cumming and Vinessa Shaw, who is far more convincing here than in 40 Days and 40 Nights.
Eyes Wide Shut is not a masterpiece, nor is it a contender for Kubrick?s best film. Even if the device of the slow story is accepted, the final half hour could have been substantially trimmed or sped up, to give a better indication of the unravelling of Cruise?s aborted fantasies. Certainly there is a lot of tying up of loose ends ? rare in a Kubrick film ? which does not suit its slow pace. Nevertheless, like all of Kubrick?s work, Eyes Wide Shut draws the audience in with its unusual style and vivid imagination, only to completely shake our preconceptions to the core. It holds a mirror up to the faults we take for granted, and without preaching, lets us see ourselves with eyes wide open.