Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Don't be put off by the actor combination of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman; Eyes Wide Shut is not the typical Hollywood power couple box office exploitation.  Having seen their previous tandem film, Far And Away (1992), I wouldn't have been remotely interested in seeing this film had I not known it was directed, written, and produced by Stanley Kubrick.  Having recently seen his 1980 adaptation of Stephen King's The Shining, my third Kubrick film following A Clockwork Orange and 2001: A Space Odyssey (books I've all read and enjoyed), I've recognized the fact that this man was incredible at interpreting stories worth reading and turning them into movies worth watching.  Based on the 1926 novella "Dream Story" by Austrian writer Arthur Schnitzler, Eyes Wide Shut further enhanced this newly found understanding of why the name Stanley Kubrick speaks for itself.

The last film before Kubrick's death in 1999, Eyes Wide Shut is a mesmerizing suspense/drama about uncivilized human sexuality in modern society and its effect on the civilized union we know as marriage.  The film serves as a warning to both those in monogamous relationships as well as those merely wary of the need to conduct proper social behavior while handling the chemical sexual urges that make us human; the wet dreams we have with eyes wide shut are not without meaning.

Cruise and Kidman play a wealthy married couple who live with their one child in New York City.  At a dinner party the couple is separated and hit on by strangers, both entertaining what they believe to be harmless flirting.  After an argument about their prior behavior ensues the next night, Cruise realizes for the first time that his unwavering assurance of mutual fidelity may be naive.  Feeling inconsolable primal male jealousy (unsuppressed for perhaps the first time in their marriage), he uses a coincidental opportunity to stay out and roam the streets and clubs of NYC to his full advantage, finding sex offered in the strangest of places and temptation more alluring than ever before.

One thing some viewers may want to know in advance about this movie is that there is a fair amount of nudity in the R-rated version and, to my understanding, much more in the unrated version which is apparently a better representation of Kubrick's unedited intention of the film.  I don't think that it's nudity for the sake of nudity, however, because despite this sometimes controversial feature I didn't find the movie to be particularly erotic, most likely because I was conscious of the illogical decisions the characters were making because of their innate sexuality.  This dual focus is what made Eyes Wide Shut such an interesting watch and why I recommend it to fans of Kubrick, Cruise, Kidman, or just good movies in general.

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