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Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Directed by
Stanley Kubrick

Screenplay by
Arthur Schnitzler, Stanley Kubrick and Frederic Raphael

Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman star as a married couple in New York whose relationship is tested when Cruise stumbles upon a sexual cult. As he tries to uncover its secret, he finds that he may be involved in a more sinister plot and that he and his family may be at risk. But director Stanley Kubrick takes this movie to the level of artistic excellence that Coppola achieved with the gangster picture in The Godfather. Kubrick's films have always been slow in pace, but here the slowness aids the suspense. Conversations between Cruise and Kidman resonate more here because we're given time for their words to truly sink in. Lesser directors would be forced by dunderheaded producers to cut the empty spaces that hum in order to "pick up the pace." But the pace in Eyes Wide Shut couldn't be any better.

The most exciting thing about Eyes Wide Shut is that it's the first time Kubrick has tackled erotic sex. It's necessary that Cruise and Kidman appear in this movie because of their extraordinary beauty and sex appeal. And that they are married in real life lends a whole extra dimension to the picture. The sensuality here is palpable, using a lot of nudity, but no graphic sex.

With this movie Kubrick has also given up some of his gimmicky filmmaking (like his extreme use of slo-mo) in exchange for human emotions, and the result is exhilarating. We still have Kubrick's glorious style - extremely wide shots that encompass floors and ceilings; deep focus that clearly shows backgrounds; lighting a scene to give it a certain kind of glow; and those subtle tracking shots that follow an actor from behind. But, with Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick seems to have gone back to the suspense he so excelled at in The Killing (1956).

At its core, Eyes Wide Shut is about marriage and the challenges it represents. When Kidman and Cruise attempt to reconcile what has happened to them, the marriage bond works like an invisible adhesive. Kidman sums everything up in the movie's all-important last line and we go home charged and enlightened.

Eyes Wide Shut represents a major artistic advancement in the career of Stanley Kubrick. It's a shame that it's his last film. But it's also a blessing that he left us a final masterpiece.


Stanley Kubrick

Few directors have inspired as much controversy as this unpredictable artist and innovative craftsman, whose output spans many film genres. The Bronx-born Kubrick first became interested in directing via photography, his teenage hobby. After making a couple of documentary shorts, he got together financing for a short feature, 1953's Fear and Desire which he wrote, produced, edited, and photographed as well. After Killer's Kiss (1955), Kubrick's first real film of note was the dark caper picture The Killing (1956). Featuring a quintessential film noir cast (including Sterling Hayden and Elisha Cook, Jr.), this exciting, unusually structured picture was well received by critics. Kubrick spent four years working on what would be, for many, the definitive sci-fi film: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968; nominated for Best Direction and Screenplay, it earned Kubrick a Visual Effects Oscar). Diffuse and slowly paced, it acquired nearly as many detractors as admirers, and still divides viewers who come upon it today in theaters or on video. Much the same type of reaction was accorded the cynical, savagely violent A Clockwork Orange (1971), which featured Malcolm McDowell as Alex, a Beethoven-loving thug who leads his vicious pack of "droogs" through a bleak, futuristic London. It also earned Kubrick nominations for Picture, Director and Screenplay. Kubrick's next film was the considerably gentler and more picturesque (though equally pessimistic) Barry Lyndon (1975), adapted from a novel by 19thcentury writer William Thackeray. Too slow and deliberate for some viewers, it mesmerized others, and was particularly notable for its visual style, which was an attempt to capture the look of the period by using only natural light; he even developed, with his longtime cinematographer John Alcott, the ability to shoot by candlelight. Again, it scored nominations for Picture, Director and Screenplay. Around this period Kubrick's reputation as a relentless, near-obsessive perfectionist began to get a good deal of play in the press; while the number of years between post-1960 projects was something of a tipoff, reports that Lyndon required 300 days just to shoot sent many reeling. Similar reports came from the set of 1980's The Shining one story had Kubrick asking elderly actor Scatman Crothers for 75 takes of slamming a car door. While fluid tracking camera movements have always been a hallmark of Kubrick's visual style, they reached their apotheosis in The Shining wherein the camera glides through the hallways of a deserted resort hotel and later, in the film's terrifying climactic chase, around the walls of a snowcovered hedge maze. Kubrick's Vietnam war film Full Metal Jacket (1987), is an even more bitter picture than Paths of Glory less a depiction of history than a blatant disavowal of the human race from an increasingly reclusive artist. In 1993 Kubrick began working in earnest (and under his usual shroud of secrecy) on a futuristic, special effects-oriented story called AI ...

  Also starring

Tom Cruise
as Bill Harford

Born Thomas Cruise Mapother IV on July 3, 1962 in Syracuse, New York, actor Tom Cruise led a peripatetic existence as a child, moving from town to town with his rootless family. A high-school wrestler, Cruise went into acting after being sidelined by a knee injury. This new activity served a dual purpose: performing satiated Cruise's need for attention, while the memorization aspect of acting helped him come to grips with his dyslexia. Top Gun (1985) established Cruise as an "action" star, but again he refused to be pigeonholed, and followed up Top Gun with a solid characterization of a fledgling pool shark in The Color of Money (1986), the film that earned co-star Paul Newman an Academy Award. In 1988, Cruise took on one of his most challenging assignments as the brother of autistic savant Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man. "Old" Hollywood chose to give all the credit for that film's success to Hoffman, but a closer look at Rain Man reveals that Cruise is the true central character in the film, the one who "grows" in humanity and maturity while Hoffman's character, though brilliantly portrayed, remains the same. In 1996, Cruise scored financial success with the big-budget actioner Mission Impossible, but it was with his multilayered, Oscar-nominated performance in Jerry Maguire (also 1996) that Cruise proved once again why he is considered a major Hollywood player. 1999 saw Cruise reunited onscreen with Kidman in a project of a very different sort, Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut. The film, which was the director's last, had been the subject of controversy, rumor, and speculation since it began filming. It opened to curious critics and audiences alike across the nation, and was met with a violently mixed response. However, it allowed Cruise to once again take part in film history, further solidifying his position as one of Hollywood's most well-placed movers and shakers.

Nicole Kidman
as Alice Harford

Born in Hawaii and raised in Australia, she studied dance and drama from childhood and made her film debut in Bush Christmas (1983) at the age of 14. Her performance in the 1985 Australian miniseries "Vietnam" made her a star in that country and won her several awards. Other credits include BMX Bandits (1983), Wills and Burke: The Untold Story (1985), Windrider (1986, as a rock star), Emerald City (1989), and the miniseries "Five Mile Creek" (1985) and "Bangkok Hilton" (1990). Her performance as a snooty upperclasswoman in Flirting (1990) was duly noted when American moviegoers got to see the film in 1992. This tall, strawberry-blond actress garnered excellent notices for her first major film role, as the terrorized but resourceful wife adrift with a homicidal maniac in the Australian sailing thriller Dead Calm (1989). She came to America for Days of Thunder (1990), in which she was conveniently cast as a doctor for leading man Tom Cruise. Despite her steady employment, critics and moviegoers still hadn't quite warmed to Kidman as a leading lady. She tried to spice up her image by seducing Val Kilmer in Batman Forever (1995), but achieved her real breakthrough with Gus Van Sant's To Die for (1995). As a fame-crazed housewife determined to eliminate any obstacle in her path, Kidman proved that she had an impressive range and deadly comic timing. She took home a Golden Globe and several critics' awards for the performance.