Monday, March 9, 2009

Notes on Eyes Wide Shut

I re-watched Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut over the weekend and I want to get a few notes down about the film. Hence, if you have not already seen Eyes Wide Shut and wish to, I recommend the film and issue a spoiler alert for everything appearing below this paragraph.

I don't pretend the following represents anything more than 'food for thought,' and as we know, food ranges from the highest of haute cuisine down to corn dogs sold at the county fair by a guy named Randy:

  • I don't despise Tom Cruise as much as many people do, and I don't despise Nicole Kidman at all, but I have to think this would have been a better film with better actors in the roles they played. Tom Cruise could have made a fine Nick Nightingale; and Nicole Kidman could have played any one of the strawberry blonde women appearing throughout the film; but as the leads, Bill and Alice, the reach exceeded the grasp. For example, the early scene in which the married couple, having returned from the party, spar over how men and women think about sex, marriage, fidelity, and so on -- the one in which Kidman's character reveals, or perhaps invents, an almost-dalliance with a navy officer, which in turn propels so much of the psychological exploration to follow, had all the trappings of One of Cinema's Greatest Scenes. And yet in the hands of Cruise and Kidman, it was cartoonish and unconvincing.
  • Nearly all the women in the film looked alike -- tall, slender, strawberry blonde, each could have been a stunt double for Nicole Kidman (not that this is a bad thing). No doubt this was intentional, and it contributes to the dreamlike nature of the overall presentation. I am not sure what it amounts to, but it's interesting.
  • A possible reading: the entire film, start to finish, is a dream of Bill. The source for the film, Arthur Schnitzler's novella Traumnovelle, or Dream Story, endows this reading with a hint of the blindingly obvious, but the interesting question is locating the border between dream and reality. Another possible reading: Bill's trip to the mansion was a dream sequence. Another possible reading: everything in the film between the first party and the closing scene at the toy store was a dream.
  • Another possible reading: the film consists of scene after scene depicting close-but-no-cigar (so to speak) sexual opportunities for Bill. Someone should count how many times he almost has sex, or could have had sex. And yet he did not. This reading is not incompatible with the scenes-as-dreams readings, of course.
  • There is at least one significant missed sexual opportunity for Bill's wife, Alice. How this relates to Bill's missed opportunities is, perhaps, a promising inquiry.
  • Of all Tom Cruise films, this one might have the briefest sequence of Tom Cruise running.

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