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Eyes Wide Shut

** ½
(1999) rated: R

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Starring: Tom Cruise, Nichole Kidman, Sidney Pollack.

Synopsis: The film starts with Bill (Cruise) and Alice (Kidman) Harford attending a party thrown by Victor Ziegler (played well by Sydney Pollack). The two don't know anyone at the party, but it doesn't take long for them to become separated. Dr. Bill comes upon an old friend turned piano player and ends up being led around by two gorgeous and aggressive women, while Alice meets up with an elegant and suave old man who attempts to woo her. The next night the two are getting stoned on pot, when Alice brings up the subject of infidelity, which leads up to a point where Bill utters the words "I trust you." As if waiting for those words, Alice plunges into a fantasy she had a few years before while they were on vacation about a Naval Officer. The explicit detail with which she describes the encounter (which produced no such infidelity, but the desire was there) serves to kindle the jealousy in Dr Bill, who is conveniently called away on Doctor's business. Thus the adventure begins as Bill wanders the streets while jealousy eats away at him.

Review: This final vision of Director Stanely Kubrick is probably not his best work, but it is certainly a worthy effort. The film is paced and structured like a dreamy thriller, with intrigue and conspiracy playing major roles, but that is not the main focus of the film. This film really tells the same story as all of Kubrick's other work. A man who believes his life is safely in order suddenly finds a few cracks that can sometimes bring the whole thing tumbling down. The cracks appear in different ways: a malfunctioning computer in 2001, a cummunications blunder in Dr Strangelove, or, in this case, the jealousy created by a wife's detailed story of an (non) encounter with a naval officer.

The acting really is top notch, with Cruise bearing the brunt of the responsibility, while Kidman plays more of a secondary role (and for the majority of her on screen time, she is under the influence of some sort of mind altering drug). The supporting roles are all extremely well done, especially that of Victor Zeigler, whose worldly demeanor lends his character the sense of respect it needs.

As always, Kubrick's direction is visually stunning. Set in the gaudy lights of Christmas and the dark shadows of the night in New York City, each of the films scenes manage to take on a power of their own, creating a connected but not quite progressing story. This strange structure resembles that of a dream: You don't know where you are going and you don't remember where you came from. One scene you will remember is the "orgy" scene, which I won't bother ruining with any sort of description.

Kubrick is tackling new ground with this story of psychological sex. It has often been noted that Cruise and Kidman have no on-screen chemistry, but I think this was intentional. This is a story about sex of the mind, not the body. While neither Bill nor Alice physically cheat on each other during the course of the movie, the desire to cheat was there. They cheated in their mind, but not their bodies. By the end of the movie, they have both confessed to these "affairs" and are ready to move on.

I would have preferred the more suspenseful aspects of the story to have been played up a bit more. There were a few things I thought were lacking, namely Bill's apparent acceptance of Victor's explanation of the events of the past few days. I would rather have left things more ambiguous. The movie is still entertaining to watch though, especially given that all of the film's events center around cheating in the mind and not suspense (though some added suspense would have been nice).

Did you notice:
• The headline on Dr Bill's newspaper: "Lucky to be alive". After his adventures of the previous night, he certainly was lucky to be alive.
• Stanley Kubrick's cameo sitting at a table in the cafe where Nick's band plays.
• The password "fidelio" that Bill uses to gain entrance to the Mansion comes from the Latin "fidelis," meaning "faithful." Fidelio also refers to Beethoven's only opera...

• Were Bill's experiences any less faithful than Alice's encounter with the naval officer?
• Do you think Victor Zeigler's version of events was true?

Kubrick Multimedia Film Guide: Excellent Kubrick site.
Stanely Kubrick: The Master Filmmaker
Eyes Wide Shut: Official Site
Eyes Wide Shut: IMDB Page

Dr Strangelove
2001: A Space odyssey
A Clockwork Orange
The Shining
Full Metal Jacket

The Store:
Eyes Wide Shut (DVD)
Eyes Wide Shut (VHS)
Eyes Wide Shut (soundtrack)
Eyes Wide Shut (book)

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