Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
It’s kinda funny but just read ‘Eyes Wide Open’ by Frederic Raphael; a recounting of the time spent writing the screenplay for Stanley Kubrick’s last film. It was an interesting look at the process, as Raphael feels in control in the beginning, laying down the criticism of the source material (based on Arthur Schnitzler’s 1926 novella Dream Story). Raphael is openly contemptuous of the source material (and lay down its faults in the beginning chapter) - completely unaware that Kubrick has been trying to bring the story into life for the past twenty years. As the process continues, it becomes obvious that Raphael falls into the hands of Kubrick, until after many drafts, the final version is Kubrick’s vision. What a vision! Updating the story for present day, both Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise, both excel in their roles. On Saturday afternoon, before re watching Eyes Wide Shut, I pulled out Douglas Sirk’s ‘All That Heaven Allows’‘ - a beautiful technicolor treat from ‘55, and important for subtly underscoring the sexual politics that a woman must go through (in All That Heaven Allows - Jane Wyman must remain demur and unattached in her widowed life, and when falling for a younger man instantly becomes the pariah of her community). The comparison between All That Heaven Allows and Eyes Wide Shut is valid. And stunning. Forty five years later, Kubrick is exploring the ideas of a woman as a sexual beast, and how the very idea that a woman is beyond a maternal creature wanting stability and comfort is abhorrent. In Eyes Wide Shut, when Alice Hartford (Nicole Kidman) confesses her sexual fantasies to Tom Cruise, it inspires him to set out on a sexual journey, and one that never completes, as it is - he remains - almost fearful of women - with this new found knowledge. In discussing this with a friend, she remarked, that Tom Cruise is almost a passive homosexual (in the film - not real lifes everyone) - as wanders through his sexual journeys of non completion (and indeed Kubrick may have highlighted this when Cruise is attacked by College kid and insulted with homophobic slurs (as opposed to the Jewish slurs in the source novel). Does Kubrick have an answer to the sexual politics?
No. But as Kidman demurs from the use of the word ‘forever’ in the end of the film, she sums it up with an urgent request that they ‘fuck’ immediately. Brilliant and fascinating exploration of sexuality within a marriage. And like his previous feature feature ‘Full Metal Jacket’, the film remains almost timeless, and not a slave to particular fashions and agendas of the time.