Film Scouts Reviews

"Eyes Wide Shut"

by Jeremy M. Posner

Every now and then you see a child and can immediately tell who the parents are. Watching Eyes Wide Shut, there was no doubt that it was made by the masterful hand of Stanley Kubrick.

As with most of the late great director's previous work, the film is long, with beautifully composed images that seem to linger on the screen just a bit longer than a less bold director might allow. These shots are interspersed with bits of dialogue that range from banal to Kubrick's finest.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the controversy over the nudity and the modification of the version of the film seen by American audiences to remove some of the images that this country's audiences might find most offensive. I was not fond of the modifications, finding that it ruined the image compositions of which Kubrick was so fond, not to mention that I don't find consenting sex acts to be anywhere near as offensive as some of the endless violence contained in every other major summer film. My biggest fear is that the vocal objections of people who will refuse to even see the film because of the obscenity, combined with the large numbers of teenagers who are going to try to get in so that they can catch glimpses of Mr. and Mrs. Cruise's bodies will result in most people completely missing the fact that the film rather clearly spells out that the behavior depicted isn't really a good idea.

In the film, Mr. and Mrs. Cruise play Dr. and Mrs. William Harford, a rather well to do pair living in a fancy apartment on Central Park West in Manhattan. Dr Harford, or Bill as his friends (and many patients) call him, seems to be living in some fictional version of New York City in which managed care doesn't exist, and a doctor can amass extraordinary wealth while making housecalls and only seeing 4 or 5 patients a day.

The film follows Cruise's character over the course of a couple of days as his doubts about his own marriage and sex life lead him into a self-destructive quest for something, although I doubt he ever knows what he's actually looking for. However uncertain he is of his goal, he is determined to find it, at any cost, despite what any warnings or common sense may tell him. The character is too blindly arrogant to elicit any outright sympathy, yet Kubrick succeeds at getting audience members to feel pain merely watching each of his stupidly short-sighted decisions.

As with many of Kubrick's films (2001 comes to mind), the first hour or so of Eyes Wide Shut leaves you wondering when the story is actually going to start, as the director was very fond of prolonged setup. By the time the film reaches its climax, you feel your pulse in the pit of your stomach, brought to a level of suspense made even more impressive by the fact that there are no adrenaline-inducing chases or villains who break through doors toting machine guns. A few other filmmakers could stand to learn a few things from the master filmmaker's final lesson.

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