Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Director:  Stanley Kubrick
Cast:  Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Sydney Pollack, Todd Field
Plot:  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.

Genre:  Drama / Mystery / Thriller
Awards:  Won Bastone Bianco Award (Venice).  Nom. for 1 Golden Globe - Best Original Score.
Runtime:  159min
Rating:  R21 for strong sexual content, nudity, language and some drug-related material.

“No dream is ever just a dream.”

I miss Stanley.  He’s in my opinion the greatest filmmaker who ever graced the medium of cinema.  His sudden death in 1999 sent shockwaves so massive that they still reverberate today.  He left a hole so gigantic that sometimes critics split the history of cinema into ‘Before Kubrick’ and ‘After Kubrick’.  Such was his influence and… godliness. 

Twelve years separated Full Metal Jacket (1987), Kubrick’s penultimate film, and Eyes Wide Shut.  1999 was the year nearly every moviegoer was eagerly waiting for George Lucas’ The Phantom Menace, but I daresay among genuine film enthusiasts at that time, it was Eyes Wide Shut that was the film event of the year, possibly of the decade.

Eyes Wide Shut sees Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman play a married middle-class couple who are enjoying a comfortable life.  They have a young daughter and they get invited to exuberant parties by rich friends like Victor Ziegler (Sydney Pollack). 

After a night at Victor’s party, they come home and Alice (Kidman) starts a weird conversation about male and female’s attitudes toward sex, and revealing a sexual fantasy that she once had.  Kubrick uses this as a launching pad to bring us deep into the heart of darkness and strangeness in a cold and calculated psychosexual trip filled with paranoia, moral depravity and sexual taboos. 

We come out dazed, but in the hands of a master filmmaker who makes the 159-minute picture feel like just an hour-and-a-half long.  Granted Eyes Wide Shut may not be as hypnotic as Kubrick’s previous works, but it remains engaging.  Spielberg once commented that Kubrick’s films all had a fail-safe button; once you get a glimpse of any scene, you are inconceivably hooked.  That is the mark of a genius. 

Eyes Wide Shut is perhaps the most Lynchian of Kubrick’s oeuvre – a hallucinatory, dreamlike experience best encapsulated in one of the great sequences of cinema: the masked ball.  Controversy aside due to its graphic depictions of sexuality and nudity and its allusion to Satanism, the ‘masked ball’ sequence sucks you right into Kubrick’s dystopian worldview.

In Kubrick’s eyes, we may not live alone, but we live in loneliness.  We are often lost in our thoughts and we can be repressed by the knowledge that we may exist now, but what do we actually exist for?  In Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick taps into psychology and sexuality as lenses that could possibly illuminate the complexity of human existence.

Materialism, desire, gratification and deep secrets lie within ourselves.  The Venetian mask as worn by Cruise’s character in the ‘masked ball’ sequence perhaps best symbolizes how we hide behind a fa├žade, either as an outsider in or insider out, that with time blurs the boundaries between reality and dream.  Will we know who we are then?  Do we even know who we are now?  That’s Kubrick’s parting gift – a final warning for all of humankind.

Verdict:  Kubrick's final film is a calculated psychosexual trip filled with paranoia, moral depravity and sexual fantasies and excesses.

GRADE: A (9/10 or 4.5 stars)

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