I threw in Eyes Wide Shut earlier in the week for the first time in a few years. Amazingly enough, this is still the only Kubrick film I have seen on the big screen. I remember it being released soon after I moved to Indianapolis. I remember being thrilled to see it, and I remember walking out and having loved it. Earlier this week when I watched it again, for only the second time since that day in the theater, I came away feeling even more strongly about it than I had before. This has been my favorite Kubrick film for a while. But I truly wonder if it will ever get the recognition it deserves.
First, when it hit theaters, it was shortly after Kubrick's death and three storylines dominated all talk about the film, Kubrick's death, the Kidman/Cruise were married in real life and playing a married couple, and finally the talk of the mask party sex scenes seemed to dominate even the previous two topics. Watching it years after it's release one can drop the Kidman/Cruise side story if they wanted, we are a bit further removed from the shock of Kubrick's death, but the mask party sex scenes still remain and seem to be what people remember most about the film. To me, that seems a bit unfortunate.
When I watch Eyes Wide Shut I am completely taken in from the very beginning. The connection between Dr. Bill and his wife Alice is fragile at the get go. Dr. Bill seems so secure in their marital happiness. She asks how she looks before they go to the initial party, he says great, but without looking at her. She is visably bothered by this and Bill gives her an almost demeaning kiss while telling her she always looks beautiful. At the party Alice is drunk dancing with a Hungarian, and Bill thinks nothing of it as he is off walking with two women who want to lead him to the "end of the rainbow." Is Bill this naive about moves other men will make on his wife, or is he overly confident in how secure she feels in their love. Why would she leave him? After all, he is a Doctor, something we are comically reminded up numerous times throughout the film.
When Alice then mentions to Tom, there are other men she has imagined being with, that she would have been with if only... Tom is then visably shaken, and from there the film either takes off or annoys the hell out of people. I love it from here on out.
The Doctor walks the streets wondering how his woman could imagine being with anyone else. And then, it is as if cosmic forces align and every single person the Doctor comes in contact with is sexually attracted to him or has sexual interaction. After the doctor gives the speech to Alice in the bedroom about the differences between males and females, she turns the table on him entirely and seemingly has the power while stripping him of any feelings of masculinity, or protector, or maybe worst of all sexual provider. So as Dr. Bill goes place to place haunted by his imagination running amok of pictures with Alice and another man, the woman with a dead father in the room comes on to him, then the prostitute, a bell boy at a hotel, the daughter of the costume shop, and of course the Mask party/orgy where the Doctor is asked to strip naked in fron of the crowd. All of these opportunities for the Doctor to either regain some feeling of sexual dominance or manhood, or possibly even get back at his wife.
It'd be ridiculous to not mention the party here as well. The party, to me was not meant to be sexy. The party is in a way a nightmare. There have been few films which have left me with the feeling in my chest that the party left me with. It's an ominous, all together uncomfortable and horrifying event. Those who have walked away wanting that part, or the overall film in general to be sexier may have been missing the point.
And as to the casting of Cruise and Kidman. Kidman, as usual is excellent, complex, and wonderful. Cruise may be punching above his weight with this script but that is in part what makes it work! When Cruise is walking the streets confused as hell, unable to tell if he is living a dream or reality, the fact that it is Tom Cruise helps it to make more sense. I mentioned to a friend yesterday, that I wished at some point down the line people would be able to seperate the persona of Cruise and Kidman from the roles they play in this film and just enjoy it, but that may truly be impossible. And if that is impossible, than the sheer absurdity of Cruise walking around in the enviroments and situations he has walked around in may in fact actually be an advantage to the already intriguing story.
Some critics have mentioned they see a false note with the ending, and the reconcilliation between the Doctor and Alice at the end. Some of these people (like Mr. Ebert) are the same that love a scene just prior when Ziegler (played by Sydney Pollack) gives the most ambiguous explination of the Doctors last 48 hours? Was the prostitute really killed, what about the piano player. Ziegler says they were not, but can we trust him? Likewise when we see the Doctor and Alice shopping with the child and they agree to attempt to stay together and work things out, and make mention that they must "fuck" as soon as possible, are we to believe that will remedy everything. That maybe the act of sex alone will bring back the obviously more fragile than he outwardly shows Doctor to a feeling of security in his relations with his wife, personal and sexual? I am not sure what to believe. I am not sure the reconcilliation is anything more than ambiguious as well, which to me is a fine way to end the movie.