Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Let me tell you about a movie that you must see.  The film is “Eyes Wide Shut.”  I just saw it last night with one Mr. Keith Berg, a longtime chum whose views on film are often representative of the skeptical everyman.

Most of you have probably heard of “Eyes Wide Shut,” likely because of the over-blown hype that the media has decided to bestow on it due to the exaggerated amount of nudity in the film.  Admittedly, there is a lot of flesh on display at various instances in the film.  However, with the exception of one intense sequence, I don’t view what was shown to be anything out of the ordinary in a typical R-rated action film.

I really can’t understand how people could find offense with the nudity in the film.  I’d liken my reaction of “Eyes Wide Shut” to “Boogie Nights.”  In “Boogie Nights,” a film that takes place around the porn industry, the nudity is not something that has a bunch of guys sitting around chanting for more.  For the most part, you don’t really notice it very much, as it is the backdrop of a more complex story and not something that is meant to be erotic.  Rather, the sex and nude scenes in that film are often tragic and sad, something that you are actually repulsed by.  The so-called controversial scenes in “Eyes Wide Shut” are much like that.  If one has half a brain, you’re too busy thinking about the deeper consequences of a scene than the acts and/or bodies in front of you and you end up repulsed.

I hope that viewing the film this way would convince anyone who hasn’t seen this movie on the basis of it just being some perverted piece of trash to rethink their stance.  It’s sad that this film has been sold to the public based on it’s sexual nature (a campaign that even included the theatrical poster) and that the power of the story has been ignored.

I’ll be honest in stating that the first 20 minutes or so seemed to move very slowly.  However, then in one scene Nicole Kidman launches into a monologue that will have you frozen in your seat and will at least get her an Oscar nomination (if not a win).  At this point, the movie starts to roll like a well-oiled suspense machine.  The slowness that remains present actually makes for agonizing suspense, as you don’t have a clue what is going to happen next.  Given, there are some down-right bizarre moments in this film, but those just add to gluing you to your seat, as you realize anything could happen next (Keith comment:  “I had to go to the bathroom the entire movie, but I just couldn’t get up.  I needed to know what was going to happen).

The seeming un-relatedness of many sequences at the beginning of the film is what led to the film’s initial slowness.  It is this un-relatedness that provides the hook that draws you in.  As strange as it sounds, the plot seems to unravel completely, while simultaneously binding everything together tightly.

As good as Nicole Kidman is, she really isn’t in the film as much as one would assume.  In actuality,  “Eyes Wide Shut” is Tom Cruise’s movie.  It’s his character’s journey.  To get the most out of the film, constantly put yourself in Tom’s shoes.  Keith and I ended up discussing after the film how we would react in the situations that Tom faces and if you are thinking that way during the movie, you’ll find the power that the film has.

The real icing on the cake is the shear perfectionism and professionalism that the late director Stanley Kubrick gives the film.  When one refers to the movie as “Tastefully done,” it is not meant as a joke, but is in fact how the movie was done.  Kubrick was one of the last master directors of his generation and you can see the technique that someone who directed for 45 years has crafted and achieved.  The film just shouts out with style.

I don’t view “Eyes Wide Shut” as the greatest of Kubrick’s films.  Those that have seen “2001” know that the shear scope of its ideas and technical perfection would be incredible to top.  “Eyes Wide Shut” is a smaller and more subtle film.  It was quiet way of Kubrick to end his career, but given its style, an acceptable finale (I’m not going to be forgetting the film’s final line anytime soon).

If “Eyes Wide Shut” is a film that you maybe noticed but dismissed, I urge you to give it a chance.  Keith also was a skeptic, but the film sucked him in just as I suspect that most people looking for a quality movie will be too.  It already has a spot reserved on my video shelves.

D.S. Christensen
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