Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Where the Nightingale Sings a Pretty Song

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
directed by Stanley Kubrick
rating: 3 out of 5 cravats
on DVD from Netflix

In praise of Eyes Wide Shut, Michael Chion's BFI book illuminates the little-noticed (peripheral characters do not exist except in the company of protagonists Bill and Alice Harford), the unexpected (Kubrick is hopeful in most of his movies, or at least generous in not judging his men and women too harshly), and the underrated (the whole film). Reading it after a second viewing (still the "edited" cut, thanks Netflix), I closed the book and said to myself, "What a great movie."

What's funny is that, watching Eyes Wide Shut six hours earlier, and me as open-minded as I could be - I've looked forward to sitting down with it again for years, assuming I'd underestimated the effectiveness of its eerie social subversions all along - I felt immediately afterwards that I'd seen two films. The first was the long nighttime descent of Bill Harford into an underworld of perfectly transposed dreams. The second was Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise overacting, like a video a coach might make to show the team how wrong they got the game-losing drive. If the famous trailer was an exercise in star power ("CRUISE - KIDMAN - KUBRICK"), time has revealed the limits of fame over talent. You need both, and the last ten years have simply been too unkind to Tom and Nicole for Eyes Wide Shut to weather them.