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EYES WIDE SHUT

SYNOPSIS:
Dr. Bill Harford (Tom Cruise) and his wife, Alice (Nicole Kidman), are invited (again) to the glamorous, exotic, sexually charged Christmas party given by one of Bill's wealthy patients, Victor Ziegler (Sydney Pollack). Events and people at the party trigger several actions: Alice reveals a sexually confronting fantasy, which propels Bill into unchartered sexual territory away from her. The seed of her untamed feelings and his imagination become a heady brew that he massages in his imagination, which lands him in compromising circumstances – an orgy among masked and mysterious strangers in a remote mansion. His fascination for stray sex – as an antidote for his wife’s fantasies - is stymied by his reluctance. And the mind is a powerful player: it doesn’t always stay in tune with the heart.

"He does manage to grab your attention, old Kubrick, close to 71 when he finished this film, a foxy old filmmaker who has been around the block a few times. Nicole Kidman disrobing for a flash of derriere (symbolic undressing) before we are taken for a death-defying spin in Kubrick’s cinematic jalopy for his last lap around the circuit. (He didn’t know it was his last, but by jingo he behaved as though it was. And there is a briefly-seen sign in a jazz club scene which reads ‘All Exits Are Final’ . . .) Voyeuristic yet cerebral, Eyes Wide Shut is a mangled fable of European proportions, elaborately told and stretched out, like a long-held musical note (probably more like a chord) which resonates and fills the air until glass shatters - or eyes shut. Not that you will (shut your eyes); edgy and teasing, the film builds a perception of sensuality and eroticism as part of its story structure, yet negates all these potentially visceral responses with brutal frankness. It’s a long film because it takes time to revel in the minutiae of the story, which is entirely to do with the nuances of emotion, the perception of bruised love and the barbed wire of sexual jealousy. But there’s more to it, with its scraping away at the notion of dream as a spike through reality. Traumnovelle, the novel that inspired the film, is by Austria’s Arthur Schnitzler – ‘Traum’ in German means dream, and there is no shortage of dream symbolism.The cultural and period origins are also evident (eg the orgy scene) - through the film's re-setting in contempo New York, adding an eerie almost gothic quality. It may not make you weep, it may not make you feel waves of emotion, but Eyes Wide Shut will probably make a mental gymnast out of you. It will certainly keep your attention."
Andrew L. Urban

"Alluring and relentlessly delving, Eyes Wide Shut is an intellectual erotic exploration of reality, its veneer and the flounces of fantasy. Kubrick's much anticipated work is visually lush, extraordinarily detailed and a stimulating, satisfying experience. Complex and filled with symbolism, emotionally I am intrigued. The hit is in its stimulus, and in the fascinating pursuit down the dark corridors of the mind. We clearly see life's superficiality. We work, we play, we flirt, we indulge. But what of our fantasies? Are they dreams or do they control us? A touch of real life voyeurism with on-screen mystique fascinates in the casting of Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise; Kidman bewitches, Cruise charms. The show role belongs to Kidman, who combines a seductive playfulness with a beguiling vulnerability. Hers is a riveting star performance. Marriage comes under the magnifying glass: 'One of the charms of marriage,' says a would-be admirer 'is that it allows the deception necessary to both parties.' Balancing the see-saw of intimate tell-all and selective disclosure is complexity personified. Drama and eroticism are showcased in the magnificent orgy scene, resplendent in its concept, production design and execution of naked bodies juxtapositioned beside the symbolic masks. Melancholy weaves its complex note throughout the film, both emotionally and musically. The musical journey is complex; reflective, soulful timbre evolves suddenly to the stark four note motif with piercing discords. Here is a truly visceral cinematic experience. Filmed in a golden glaze of superficiality, the film looks wonderful with deeply saturated colours, and lingering direction, allowing leisurely evolution of plot and character. Time is taken; we pause, watch, anticipate; we are not disappointed. Like opening Pandora's box, just one moment of unguarded honesty, unleashes demons that compellingly lead into the chasm of debauchery. Intrigue, anguish, obsession and jealousy are magnets. Compelling and tantalising, Eyes Wide Shut is a ride you won't forget. See it."
Louise Keller

"In his final cinematic statement Stanley Kubrick leaves us in no doubt of his mastery with an exercise in erotic hypnotism which remarkably maintains its unsettling tone for 160 minutes when one false move could destroy the daydream. Eyes Wide Shut is at once a fantasy about allowing the sexual side of human behaviour to act on its impulses and a nightmare of where that freedom from constraint might lead. Masks and mirrors feature prominently and in almost every detail the film can be interpreted on different levels. Is Bill traumatised or tantalised by the thought of his wife's infidelity? Is murder and conspiracy really a part of the secret sexual underground he has encountered? These questions maintain the external structure of a thriller while Bill's meetings with strange characters make his internal journey riveting because he is nervous and tentative; not really aware of where he's going until he's in too deep. The use of grainy film stock to film the sumptuous, moneyed world Bill and Alice live in heightens the dream-like atmosphere which reaches its peak during the extraordinary orgy sequence in which Bill wanders through scenes of sexual decadence shot with an intensity that's hard to forget. Humour plays its part, too, and Bill's encounters with a flirty desk clerk (Alan Cumming), a costume shop proprietor (Rade Sherbedgia) and the grieving daughter of a just-deceased patient (Marie Richardson) arrive as welcome lighter moments while chaos gradually overtakes him. Kidman is astonishingly good in relatively small screen time while Cruise, in almost every shot, is also outstanding as the personification of success, wealth and good looks who only needs to find out what's inside to be real. Above all there's Kubrick whose famed insistence for shooting in England also helps this vision of artifice as stock footage-type wide shots of New York cut to slightly fake-looking sets of the streets wandered by Bill. The film's final line will divide opinion but if you really consider the truth, haven't most of us at least thought that at some time in a relationship?
Richard Kuipers

"Kubrick has made a film that examines the inner sexual psyche of two intricate characters, as we follow them on a purposeful journey of self-discovery. With its surreal, haunting imagery and dreamlike quality, Kubrick allows his sweeping cameras to invade this world of sexuality and eroticism. Yet, for a film about sex, the film's sexuality is treated in a cold fashion, one that doesn't allow us to ever get too close to the Hartfords. In some films, that might be a fatal flaw, but in keeping with the detailed inner turmoil faced by the couple, it works wonderfully, and by the time we are fully transfixed, we have gotten to know them - or have we? It's a film about dreams and reality and the blurry path crossed by either, and the film is never certain which is which. All of this makes for a truly compelling, cinematic experience, an audacious and riveting masterpiece that never fails to hypnotise the viewer from its startling opening sequence through to its apt conclusion. While the film remains cinematically expressive, Kubrick elicits some of the best work from his onscreen couple. While it may seem voyeuristic for us to watch Cruise and Kidman so exposed here, never before have we seen such brazenly open performances from the couple. Cruise plays one of his most enigmatic characters to date, and his job was the toughest. He pulls it off with total conviction, giving a truly remarkable and complex performance as a seriously flawed character in search of himself. Cruise is in almost every scene, strips away his Hollywood veneer and delivers a hypnotic and uncompromising performance. Equally uncompromising, at her best, is Kidman. Here she radiates, and as the camera focuses on her during some remarkable monologues, we are aware that here is an actress at her peak. Intimate, fragile, sensual and charismatic, Kidman is breathtaking. Also solid is Sydney Pollack and a wonderfully engaging Rade Serbedzija as the owner of a costume store. Visually, as one would expect from a Kubrick film, the movie is visually stunning, full of rich opulence, beautiful lighting and the director's trademark use of sweeping camerawork. Eyes Wide Shut is an elegant affair, yet intimate and vividly character-driven. It's an extraordinarily profound and fascinating work from one of the few mavericks of American cinema. It's a fitting finale to an extraordinary career."
Paul Fischer

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 4
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

DVD REVIEW

Andrew L. Urban has a posthumous conversation with
STANLEY KUBRICK

EYES WIDE SHUT(R)
(US)

CAST: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Sydney Pollack, Marie Richardson, Madison Eginton, Jackie Sawris, Rade Serbedzija

PRODUCERS: Stanley Kubrick

DIRECTOR: Stanley Kubrick

SCRIPT: Stanley Kubrick, Frederic Raphael (inspired by Traumnovelle by Arthur Schnitzler)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Larry Smith

EDITOR: Nigel Galt

MUSIC: Jocelyn Pook

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Les Tomkins, Roy Walker

RUNNING TIME: 160 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 5, 1999

VIDEO RELEASE: May 2, 2000

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Home Video







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