Monday, September 26, 2011

Eyes Wide Shut

Although Stanley Kubrick is one of my favorite directors, I wasn't especially looking forward to seeing his final film. An erotic thriller starring a real (at the time) couple just seemed a bit beneath him, I guess. Of course, it wasn't really that simple. It never is with Kubrick. Even if maybe he died of a heart attack before he was actually totally finished working on it, it's still a remarkable movie, one of his most artful, and easily one of my favorites of the ten I've seen. It's foreboding and exciting, and it does deal heavily in sexual themes, but it's definitely not your standard erotic thriller.

Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman star as Bill and Alice, a married couple with a daughter that begin the story by going to a Christmas party hosted by a patient of Cruise's played by Sydney Pollack. Alice becomes suspicious when she sees Bill with a couple models and then disappears for a while (he's actually treating a prostitute who overdosed when she was with Pollack). In a later argument, Alice reveals that she thought about an affair a year earlier, and Bill gets called away just in time to get sucked into a world of sexual desire and paranoia. He eventually ends up at a weird party that's equal parts orgy and cult ritual, in an infamous sequence that was initially censored in the United States to get an R rating and is one of the most compelling things I've ever watched.

After the party, the intensity doesn't really let up, as Bill continues to learn strange things about what went on that night, and becomes increasingly suspicious of what's really going on all around him. It's a pretty long movie, but I never felt its length pressing on me, due to the constantly interesting cinematography (the movie always looks great, even if the New York scenes were filmed on a London set) and score, which uses various orchestral pieces to great effect. The film eventually has a scene that finally explains what happened to Bill, and taken at face value it's a bit of a letdown compared to the unbearable tension of what came before. Of course, there's no guarantee that it's the whole truth, because we never really see one way or the other. Going along with the upbeat denouement, I can see why the movie might seem like much ado about nothing, but there's always more layers to a Kubrick movie than you might initially expect. He was a great filmmaker, and Eyes Wide Shut is a completely fitting final work for him.

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