Eyes Wide Shut (1999) Poster

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Mis-marketed and misunderstood, among Kubrick's best
WriConsult7 June 2002
Warning: Spoilers

It's a shame that this film was promoted as a "hot" erotic thriller. Kubrick would not have allowed that marketing campaign to go forward had he been alive. Sure there's a lot of eroticism in this movie, but those who go to it looking for sexual thrills are going to be (and were) sorely disappointed.

The events in this movie are triggered by the protagonist's wife's revelation that she almost slept with another man. This kicks off a range of emotions and prompts him to re-evaluate his sexual relationship with her, subsequently leading to a trip through his sexual SUBconscious. This is the critical point that all too many viewers miss, though it's so overtly surreal I don't see how one could miss it. None of this is real! It's called Eyes Wide SHUT for a reason!

All of our protagonists' "encounters" represent manifestations of his sexual fantasies and fears. His fantasies include group sex, sex with a teenager, sex with a prostitute, sex without strings. His fears include disease, homosexuality (notice the brutal and brief encounter with the gay-bashing gang), and most of all: discovery. Discovery of his hidden fantasies, which might reveal his true nature to the world. Discovery that he is really a pretender, doesn't really belong, and is not worthy after all. This latter is probably universal, and in his case while it has sexual dimensions it is not purely sexual. In the end he realizes that his fantasies are just fantasies, at least some of his fears are legitimate, and that instead of just fantasizing about sex he should actually have sex with his wife. Not rocket science here, but plenty of people need reminding of this from time to time, and it's a well-told story.

I was fortunate enough to first see this movie in theaters overseas, and was spared the atrocity of digital editing to make things less explicit. David Lynch did the same thing more recently in Mulholland Drive, and I hope that this is not the beginning of a trend. Given all of the explicit gore and brutality in movies, the level of sexual explicitness that triggers the censors is simply laughable. Frankly, having seen the un-edited version, I didn't think it was a big deal.

One can't dismiss criticisms that the nudity was all female and many of the women were depicted as sexual objects, but this movie is quite pointedly a trip through a fairly conventional man's sexual unconscious and necessarily told from a male point of view. So none of these things should be a surprise. It would be very interesting to see a comparable exploration of the female sexual subconscious by an accomplished woman director, though I'm not holding my breath that the Hollywood establishment will allow that to happen soon.
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An impressive film with a bad marketing campaign
niteman17 July 1999
Eyes Wide Shut is ill-suited for the summer movie corridor. It has no explosions, no running, shouting, or a single gunshot. What it has are long scenes in which characters talk to one another. Slowly and carefully. The problem is that the film is marketed as having white-hot sex scenes and plenty of gratuitous nudity, while it has neither. There is plenty of naked flesh, don't get me wrong, but in exactly the opposite way that the ads make it appear. This is not a movie about being sexy and naked -- it's a movie about how flesh is just another part of being human, so what is all the fuss about? The marketing campaign is misleading, and led to disappointment in the audience that I saw the movie with, who were just looking for some skin.

The tension in the plot and the issues that the film discusses aren't telegraphed to the audience, they're hinted at in the dialog. There is no neat resolution at the end, life simply goes on. You may watch the whole film and think "that wasn't about anything!" Then think about what you've seen and realize it has a great deal to say.

The film is a meditation on sexuality and how it relates to marriage, death, and money. It's a fascinating commentary on modern life, and a rare movie that dares to examine sex as impassionately as any other issue.

The directing and cinematography alone would be worth the price of admission without the social commentary. The sets are an integral part of the movie; they breathe and glow and live. Kubrick was a master director, and he uses long shots and dissolves to great effect. Cruise and Kidman are at their best, and the supporting cast is also strong. It's Kubrick's magic work with the camera that holds the film together.

All in all, definitely worth seeing for the un-uptight. It's possible to watch this film and actually think about it for hours afterward. That's something you won't get with the Wild, Wild West.
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A mirror audaciously obsessive in its dazzling revelations...
Nazi_Fighter_David7 September 1999
Warning: Spoilers
Stanley Kubrick was tempted to do "Eyes Wide Shut" in 1970, but Christianne, his wife, felt that her marriage could be in jeopardy, so she implored him not to do it... But "Eyes Wide Shut" came to be after all, the last temptation of Kubrick...

The film begins revealing the nice figure in high heels of Alice Harford (Nicole Kidman), moving in sliding motion her nice black gown... Alice is invited with her husband Dr. William (Tom Cruise) to a holiday party given by a New York wealthy broker called Victor Ziegler (Sydney Pollack).

While Alice is dancing half-drunk with an effusive Hungarian (Ski Dumont), she was, at the same time, spying on her husband who was flirting with two models... A ménage à trois is insinuated by the attractive girls, but a sudden interruption comes from Ziegler's private apartment which made the doctor climb upstairs to assist an attractive woman lying unconscious, repressed, overdosed!

The famous mirror love scene, between Alice and her husband, reflected a missing sexual desire between them both... William was kissing his lovely wife on the neck while her glance seemed weary and tired... It seems that the eroticism has vanished from her boring life... Only a little intimate contact is left... Is she truly recognizing a necessity for a change, maybe for a new husband much more nearby...

Looking for a certain sexual vengeance, Alice begins irritating her husband about adultery by testing his immunity, and relating some fantasy she had with a handsome naval officer last summer, she assures William that 'if the handsome office had wanted her,' she would have sacrificed everything, even her marriage and her child for one night stand!

Feeling his word destroyed into fragments, and walking the dangerous streets of New York, William remembered an old friend he met in the party, the piano player Todd Field (Nick Nightingale). He decides to pass by...

There, Nick divulges a secret... A secret place on Long Island... A château where he will be playing piano 'eyes shuttered'... But he continued, to get into the castle, one must have a mask, a disguise and he must 'know' the password...

With shades of Hitchcock's "Vertigo," Kubrick starts to play, at this point, with his characters... He seems escorting them and leading the audience for some purpose, for one definite performance he prepared his whole picture for it... Kubrick did not create a film about sex... He made a film about the conception of sex... He wanted us to explore something inside our mind that we usually prefer not to discover... Through his eyes a visual work appeared, a cinematic technique breathtakingly beautiful, a perfectionism, precise and mystical...

Reducing the dialog to a minimum, and with a distinguished confused music, we were in presence of a strange ceremonial rite, a picturesque ritual...

Based on a psychological drama, written by the Viennese novelist Arthur Schnizler, "Eyes Wide Shut" is a mirror, audaciously obsessive in its dazzling revelations, profound, provocative and passionate, transmitted in a frame of sex, fear and death, that we have to see with wide eyes fully opened...
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A fitting completion to Kubrick's study of humanity
Skywise-417 July 1999
I managed to swallow my expectations before the film, setting myself to judge it on its own without judging it as a Kubrick film. No need, no need! This film IS a Kubrick film, without any doubt, and as all Kubrick films are it was absolutely stunning. Absolutely. Visually it is brilliant, though I should warn that this isn't quite as visual a film as most other Kubrick works. A lot of the film focuses on the characters, on human interaction, something rather new to this director. Of course, all the Kubrick trademarks are there, cold analytical gazes, sharp introspection. Tom Cruise seems like Jack Nicholson in 'The Shining' and even Malcolm MacDowell in 'A Clockwork Orange' at times, a rather striking fact considering that this is Tom Cruise. The performances were excellent all around, even from places not expected. Again, this is typical for Kubrick. He wasn't much of a people director, but he still knew how to direct people.

Almost every moment of this film was flawless, perfect and pristine. The dialog is predictable, but in some solemn and holy fateful sort of way, as though the words and the moments are matched so essentially that nothing else could possibly fit. Beyond that the sounds and images all fit together beautifully, creating an almost unblemished whole. The only part that didn't seem right was the sequence that had been digitally altered. While the alterations were not nearly so obtrusive as I had feared (not knowing about them one probably wouldn't notice them) they do grow a bit noticeable for redundancy (you see a lot more backs than you'd expect, and always in the same places). Unfortunately these came right in the middle of one of the most visually amazing pieces of the film (one of the most amazing pieces of cinema as a whole, in my opinion), a very unwelcome distraction.

Is this movie about sex? Yes, it is, but more importantly it is about people. The sex part is simply a product thereof. This is one of the most disturbingly honest portraits of human behavior and motivations ever made. The most honest I've ever seen, at least. To be put simply: It is about sex because people are about sex.

I'm still trying to sort through this movie. It's been a good twelve hours since I saw it, and I can still feel it, hard and definite, rotating in my stomach. The film itself seems mostly void of opinion (not entirely, but mostly), serving more as a general statement and commentary than any specific moral warning, but the questions it inspires are very strong indeed. The film, being objective, provides no answers, no justification for humanity. There is no redemption, either, none whatsoever. The film's final word sums it (it being the film and humanity) up pretty well, for better or for worse. I guess that depends on you.

A common thread in Kubrick's films since 2001 has been the contemplation and examination of human intentions, the essence of human behavior. Motivations. He's shown us violence and madness and everything else, all tracking the path back to the dawn of man. I think he finally figured it out with this film, however anticlimactic the discovery might have been. At least he did finally figure it out. That's something.

I am one of many. I never had the privilege to know Stanley Kubrick. I don't even know that privilege is the right word. I do know his films, though, and while I am in no position to say that I will miss him as a person, I can say, without doubt or hesitation, that I will miss him as a filmmaker.
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Kubrick's Gift to us all. "I have seen one or two things in my life but never, never anything like this."
JFHunt25 September 2005
I'm sitting here trying to come up with a clever comment about this movie to make you want to see it. When in reality it doesn't matter what I say. As Stallone would say "I'm at least half a bum." The truth to it is, it kind of makes me sad that I'll probably never see another movie that affects so much. Never experience a film that 6 years after it's release, I still can not forget.

To say the most, it's a powerful film. The directing is world class. The camera work is haunting and the soundtrack gives me chills. It's Cruise at his finest. He is so convincing that one might actually believe that this guy is Doctor Bill Harford and this really did happen to him. And that my friends is the definition of acting. The seriousness of the situation fades away with a stern smile as the plot thickens.

To say the least it is one of those movies you could watch over and over again. To be honest with you, I didn't buy it the first time I saw it. I thought it was good, but not great. Then one day I was bored, so I decided to see it again. And that's when it happened. Kubrick came alive. I became infected by his genius and captivated by Cruise's portrayal. His realization and his detail.

It's hard to pick my favorite scene in the movie. I couldn't pretend if I tried. I particularly love the opening party scene. That leads to a "Baby did a bad bad thing". Cruise being assaulted on the street being so eloquently called a fag. The prostitute. From the piano bar to the costume shop. And finally, the unionized orgy party, that I find hard to believe doesn't really exist. Maybe only guys like Kubrick or Cruise will ever really know if they do or not.

Many people might disagree with me when I say Eyes Wide Shut is one of the greatest films. But how come I think it is every time I watch it? To me, it's more than a beautiful work of art. More than a visceral painted picture or a haunting melody. It's a masterpiece that should be treasured.
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A haunting dream of sexual obsession.
weezer-518 July 1999
I admit that I'm part of the Kubrick cult(people that follow his movies like a religion), and I was first in line to see this movie. Being a huge movie fan I've seen a wide variety of movies, and have walked away from them with a wide variety of emotions. This was the first movie to put me in a trance, or dream, like state. The way the movie was shot, lighted, and so on gave the feel of a dream (to me at least). I believe that this feel is just what was needed and what Kubrick wanted. Everyone has to admit to thinking about the dark side of sex, and I believe that in this movie we see that a person can explore the buried desires of their sexual id and still come away a good person.

I'm guessing that this was a very personal movie for Kubrick. He seemed to take Cruise's character to places that he, personally, wished he could explore. Places, like a prostitute or an orgy, that he'd like to visit, but not want to stay at very long.

Praise has to go to Cruise and Kidman for their performances. Cruise was able to strip away his movie star veneer that seems to protect him in all of his other movies, and bring through the clouded, tormented, and unsure heart of a jealous man. Kidman must have known that part of her role was to be eye candy, but she fought through that and gave the movie's best performance.

To anyone out there thinking about seeing the movie.....I say go. Some will hate it and others will love it, but half the fun of the movie lies in the discussions that will blossom from this great movie experience.
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Remarkable finale to a long, glorious career
Jaime N. Christley16 July 1999
The thing a lot of folks haven't liked about Stanley Kubrick's films is the fact that he always seemed to think the audience needed some points driven home a little harder than others. Very little is left for debate; most everything is spelled out, pressed hard, and dwelled upon. His critics have compared the long waits between his films to the long periods of waiting that occur while watching his films.

Personally, I like the long, slow scenes in his films. When they're filled with something: music, movement, thought, memory of a previous scene, dread, or any other emotion, they can never really be said to be empty. I like them because, with Kubrick, I can be sure that they're absolutely essential to his ultimate vision. He could have put out a six-hour documentary on tissue manufacturing; at least I'll know that not one minute of screen time is wasted.

"Eyes Wide Shut" isn't as vacuous as, say, "Barry Lyndon" or "The Shining." Compared to those two, this one scoots along like a person trying to get to his car in the rain. It'll try a lot of folks' patience, I'm sure -- even his most loyal fans will be bothered by the incessant piano "bell tolls" in the soundtrack of some scenes, or the constant reminders (in imaginary flashbacks) that Cruise's character is bothered by his wife's near-infidelity. I know I was.

Despite that, it's an apt final film for the long, glorious career of a man who has done more for the cinema, with less movies, than can ever be catalogued. To try and cite influences for this particular work is futile. Though one might draw parallels to Lindsay Anderson's "O Lucky Man!" or Martin Scorsese's "After Hours," "Eyes Wide Shut" is no less than a complete work from the cold heart and brilliant mind of Stanley Kubrick alone. It's also a furiously ingenious piece of filmmaking, one that works less on the emotions than on the senses and on the mind. Unlike most of Kubrick's earlier work, however, it does have an emotional subtext, which is used to devastating effect.

Cruise, by the way, does an outstanding job, not as a trained, camera-conscious film actor, but as a mature, seasoned performer. Here he uses his "Top Gun"/"Jerry Maguire" suavity to malicious effect; like Ryan O'Neal's Barry Lyndon before him, he's an egotistical cad. Unlike Lyndon, he gains our sympathy -- that's key to keeping us from disowning his character and thus negating the entire film.

Kidman is given less screen time, but it matters little. She's mostly seen in the beginning, and she has brief (but crucial) scenes throughout, and a masterful one at the end. It is safe to say that this is her best performance to date, and those of us who have been ignoring her treasured abilities up until now (the Academy, critics, myself) will be astounded to see how far she's come since "Dead Calm." Her high points: the argument with her husband that ends by setting the film's plot in motion perfectly captures the way women lure men into arguments when the cause for one is nonexistent (and on Cruise's part, how men can't think fast enough to do anything about it), and her dream confession scene, in which she wakes laughing but becomes tearful during recollection.

On a technical level, "Eyes Wide Shut" displays Kubrick's trademark perfectionism. Recreating Vietnam in rural England for "Full Metal Jacket" must have been nearly impossible, but the unrelenting accuracy in recreating uptown and downtown New York City is absolutely stunning. Right down to the diners and the newspaper stands; I shake my head in awe when I remind myself that Kubrick (a native Brooklynite) hasn't been to NYC in decades. The lighting and photography is impeccable, also, as it is in every one of his films.

This is the sort of film one sees more than once. Once is good to cleanse the palate, to clear out all the residual toxins left from other recent films. See it again, perhaps a third time, and get to appreciate the graceful, nearly unblemished finale of a man who took the art of cinema seriously. It's a sobering experience.
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Be prepared to think
Holden-1718 July 1999
There is no denying that Stanley Kubrick is one of the greatest filmmakers to ever live. He may not have made many films, but every single one of them is a masterpiece. That is not something that can be said about many other directors. He is a true artist. And it is because of that word, "art", that his work is often misunderstood. Rather than create films which reveal everything that the audience needs to know through the dialogue or the action, Kubrick layers his films with meaning. He does this through all aspects of the film.. the music, the images, the dialogue, and expressions. And by the end of the film, nothing is left clear, because he wants you to think about what you have seen, and come up with your own meaning for the film. The problem with this is that most people don't go to see films to think, they just want to see the next "Armageddon" or "Waterboy". So, if "Eyes Wide Shut" fails at the box-office, or is badly criticized by movie-goers, it has nothing to do with the film itself, but is more reflective of the movie-goers, and their inability to see further than what is presented to them on the screen. Life experience and a philosophical mind is also required to fully understand and enjoy this film. If you have ever thought of what role sex plays in your relationship, and what love and commitment really mean, you will understand this film. If you have ever considered what the difference between love and sex is, you will understand this film. If you have ever truly felt lust, you will understand this film. Be prepared to think.
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Kubrick's final masterpiece
Sean Gallagher19 July 1999
Warning: Spoilers
After three years of waiting, EYES WIDE SHUT has finally come out. So now after all this time, the delays, the rumors, the teases, the sad death of its director, Stanley Kubrick, we finally get to answer the question, Does it live up to the hype? For the first time this year, the answer to that question is a resounding yes. This is, so far, the best film I've seen this year, and it deserves its place among other Kubrick masterpieces like DR. STRANGELOVE, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, and A CLOCKWORK ORANGE.

Although I had been looking forward to this film, I must admit I was unsure about it at first. After all, since CLOCKWORK, Kubrick's films(BARRY LYNDON, THE SHINING, and FULL METAL JACKET), while having some good parts, have all been somewhat flawed, particularly THE SHINING. But my misgivings were quickly put to rest within the opening scenes, where we get a glimpse of both what's right on the surface(nine happy years of marriage, wealth, a healthy 7 year old daughter, both husband and wife with jobs) and the possibility of storms that lurk underneath(the practiced way they get ready for the party, hardly looking at each other), and I stayed enthralled throughout.

Now I'd like to use this forum to deflect some of the criticisms I've read of the movie so far. One, of course, is that this is not really New York City, but a soundstage in England. I've lived in New York City and visited several times, and the surface details seem right, but more importantly, this is set in the "rich" area of Manhattan, which has always been idealized in movies(particularly the Woody Allen ones), and thus it's appropriate in a dream-like movie to play to the fantasy of the city, rather than the reality.

Secondly, we are given no hint that this is a dream Cruise's character may be walking in, since it looks so real(yes, that's inconsistent with the criticism up above, but to be fair, I've only seen a couple of reviews which make that mistake). First of all, dreams rarely look like they were designed by Salvador Dali(at least, my dreams). Secondly, if the whole nighttime sequence looked like a dream and nothing else, we would laugh when Cruise goes back to the various places he visited at night; how would he know to go back to them if they weren't real? Finally, in the way the narrative unspools, it's played like a dream, complete with scene where he might be awakening(the scene with Domino(Vinessa Shaw), the prostitute, where his cell phone rings and Kidman is on the phone right before he can do any damage).

Thirdly, that Kidman is only in the film for 40 minutes of its 2 hour, 40 minute running length. Now granted, that is all of her screen time, but when Cruise enters his "dream state", she is always in back of his mind, not just in the flashback scenes(when he imagines her having sex with the sailor she had fantasies about), but in the fact that all the other women he comes across are meant to make him think of Kidman. And her performance is certainly strong enough(especially in her monologues) to linger in the mind.

Fourth, that Cruise is completely flat here. Again, at least in the dreams I've had and read about, often in dreams we react to events, not provoke them, and that's what his character does. Secondly, Kubrick and Cruise play off of his image, to make him the object of desire of everyone he meets, and not just women(I like to think the scenes where he's harassed by a group of teenage thugs who think he's gay, and where hotel concierge Alan Cumming seems to be coming on to him, are Kubrick's way of joking about the rumors of Cruise being gay which have dogged him). For all of that, I think he plays it exactly right.

Finally, that the film is flat and not really sexy. Once again, unless it's a nightmare, dreams aren't played at MTV speed. Secondly, contrary to what we heard at first about the film, this isn't about sex. Rather, this is about sexual obsession, so it's not supposed to be about sex the act. It may seem like the film cheats a little by asking us to play off our expectations of Cruise and Kidman as a couple, so we just picture in our heads them having sex, rather than us seeing it, but isn't it good that some things are left to our imagination? Besides, it's only on the surface that things look good, as I said before.

Unfortunately, I have not had a chance to read DREAM STORY, the novella this is based on, and so have no answer to those who claim this is a poor adaptation(though what some have called stilted dialogue I think adds to the dreamlike quality, and I'm normally on the lookout for flat dialogue), and that may be true. But this is an excellent film, a fitting epitaph for Kubrick, and proof once again that Cruise can act when he's teamed with a real director.
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A Potpourri of Vestiges Review: Kubrick's swan song, and arguably his greatest
Murtaza Ali8 December 2009
Stanley Kubrick is unarguably Anglo-American cinema's most potent reply to the 'Fellinis', the 'Bunuels', the 'Bergmans', the 'Kurosawas', the 'Rays', and the 'Tarkovskys' of the world. Ubiquitously known for his inexorable yearning for perfection and uncanny innovation, Kubrick had managed to hold millions of viewers worldwide in a transfixion through his brilliant works for well over four decades. Regarded by Kubrick as his very best, Eyes Wide Shut is incredibly brilliant and sui generis. It's an elixir for the sore eyes; a panacea for the perturbed souls; a surreally psychedelic pleasure. Like most of his avant-garde works, Eyes Wide Shut is open to speculation and can be interpreted in a number of ways.

Despite being rife with nudity, Eyes Wide Shut cannot be stigmatized or snubbed on the account of eroticism. On the contrary, it is aesthetic as well as thought-provoking. The movie incredibly manages to have a tremendous impact on the intellect as well as the viscera, asking incessant questions of the viewer while simultaneously haunting his thoughts and refining his imagination. The story revolves around a New York based doctor whose wife's confession of ephemeral infidelity perplexes him. Consequently, his chagrin and dudgeon drives him into a night of debauchery where he gets a lesson on sexual and moral enlightenment, which inexplicably saves him from an incipient turmoil. The cinematography is awe-inspiring to say the least and is well complemented by the plaintively haunting background score. The orgy scene, which is treated with contempt by many, is undoubtedly one of the most vivid scenes ever visualized or choreographed in the history of cinema. In fact, it is Kubrick's brilliant showmanship that makes it so very special.

Tom Cruise is absolutely brilliant and convincing in the challenging portrayal of Dr. Harford and succeeds in having an enormous impact on the viewers and also manages to evoke their empathy. The nocturnal odyssey being rife with debauchery and decadence, ironically serves as a lesson of moral reformation. Nicole Kidman is ravishingly scintillating in her portrayal. The couple has incredibly managed to mirror their real life chemistry and tension on screen.

The movie is a quintessence of cinematic excellence and can only be relished by discarding bigotry, conservatism and prejudice. The movie is a delectable feast and a must watch for patient viewers and lovers of avant-garde cinema. 10/10

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