Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick, 1999, UK/USA)

              Eyes Wide Shut is arguably Stanley Kubrick’s most polarizing film. The master director’s swan song, released posthumously, was met with lukewarm reviews from critics upon its initial release in 1999. Those who entered the theater expecting an erotic thriller based on the advertising campaign were perhaps displeased to find a film where sex is treated in a profoundly mechanical and unerotic fashion. There has also been a perpetual question of whether the film was truly completed. While Kubrick’s family insists the film was released as Kubrick intended, others contradict this claim. Certainly Kubrick was known to edit his films until the very last minute before their release, and even after their release.

               That said, Eyes Wide Shut has gone through something of a re-appraisal in recent years. Like another similar film that came out around the same time – David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive – Kubrick’s film feels particularly prescient in the wake of not only the #metoo movement, but also bizarrely conspiratorial news events such as the Jeffrey Epstein case. Victor Ziegler, the wealthy patient of protagonist Bill Harford, is something of an Epstein-like figure. The film is also curious for the real-life events surrounding it, including Kubrick’s daughter Vivian abandoning her family for Scientology, the crumbling relationship between stars Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, and Kubrick’s own death.

               The film stands on its own merit as a dark comedy about male sexual frustration. Kubrick undoubtedly found it funny to show one of the world’s sexiest male stars continuously trying to get laid and failing. The heightened artificiality of the film – from the constructed New York setting to the stilted performances – is often criticized, but creates the real sensation of a dream. Likewise, while the slow pacing might bother some viewers, it works in creating the frustrating sensation of a dream state.  



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