DVD Brief: Eyes Wide Shut
Description: Director Stanley Kubrick's last film, with a self- confident New York doctor (Tom Cruise) entering a strange, nocturnal world of eroticism and longing when a minor tiff with his wife (Nicole Kidman), after each are sensually tempted at a posh Christmas party, jangles his faith in their complacent marriage. The film explores the extent that people will go to test their faith in their values, here with Cruise embarking on a sexual odyssey that puts him face to face with exotic sex and death. A superb performance by Kidman and one of Cruise's better outings. The film works on many levels: as a haunting dreamscape, a psychosexual journey, a meditation on life and death and meaning. Kubrick takes his time, setting up his scenes slowly, using graceful tracking shots and controlled pacing. This is definitely not for everyone: the slow, long scenes and purposeful dialog (verging on the mundane, as much conversation is in real life) requires deep contemplation and concentration on the part of the viewer. But the film is well worth the investment: it's beautiful to behold. Allow yourself to be submerged in Kubrick's strange, maze-like world, where every action is thwarted, every turn leads you deeper into a puzzle, where the end is only just the beginning.
The delicious images are counterpointed by Kubrick's brilliant use of music (one of his fortes): original music composed by Jocelyn Pook, Gyorgy Ligeti's "Musica Ricercata II," music from Dmitri Shostakovich's "Jazz Suite, Waltz," and Chris Isaak's "Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing," all superbly reproduced on the disc.
Warner has released "Eyes Wide Shut" in the U.S. R-rated version (which uses digitally created "bystanders to obscure sex acts and body parts in a 65-second segment of the film's orgy scene), since, according to the studio, an R-rated version was what Kubrick had agreed to deliver (apparently the editing was undertaken by Kubrick's executive producer Jan Harlan). This reasoning, of course, presupposes that this cut was Kubrick's preferred version, which, since Kubrick died shortly before the film's release, we'll never know. This version may simply have been the version he was contracted to deliver to satisfy the conservative tastes of the MPAA's rating board (a version lacking the digital imaging was released in Europe). Someday I hope that Warner will release a version that reflects Kubrick's entire vision, but right now I can live without it -- I'm happy just to have this film in hand.
Likewise, many of Kubrick's fans have complained that recent DVD releases of his films have lacked comprehensive extra features; this release, too, is no exception (see below). But Kubrick was an artist in the classical sense: He created his work, put it out into the world, then retired to create more art. No explanations; no justifications; no hype. He wasn't one for awards ceremonies or talk shows. Making-of documentaries and behind-the-scenes featurettes, while they could be illuminating for some of Kubrick's films ("Clockwork Orange," "Barry Lyndon," "The Shining" come to mind), aren't necessary for "Eyes." The "Making of Eyes Wide Shut" is "Eyes Wide Shut." (Want to learn more about Kubrick? Read "Kubrick: Inside a Film Artist's Maze" by Thomas Allen Nelson [Indiana University Press: 1982] or "The Cinema of Stanley Kubrick" by Norman Kagan [Continuum, N.Y.: 1989)].
The DVD is also presented in full-screen (no letterboxing) since Kubrick chose not to shoot the film in a widescreen aspect ratio (the better to highlight the intimacy of the proceedings and bring the viewer into the dream of the action). Warner offers a disclaimer on the packaging and before the film: "This feature is presented in the full aspect ratio of the original camera negative, as Stanley Kubrick intended."
There's very few extras on the disc. Included are short interviews with Cruise
and Kubrick's friend Steven Spielberg, and a longer interview with Kidman
(running around 20 minutes) in which the star breaks down and cries when queried
about Kubrick's death (all the interviews were conducted in July, 1999, shortly
after the director's death). There are two TV spots and a theatrical trailer, as
well as cast notes.
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