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USA/United Kingdom 1999
Directed by
Stanley Kubrick
159 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Eyes Wide Shut

Kubrick's last film (he died three days after completing the final cut) is beautifully and expensively-crafted film about the social constraints placed on sexual desire, looked at, somewhat histrionically, through the alembic of a marriage. Based on the novel Traumnovelle by Arthur Schnitzler it is set in the milieu of haute-bourgeois Manhattan. Tom Cruise plays a wealthy MD and Nicole Kidman wife and the story tracks the extra-marital sexual longings that beset them despite their ostensible loyalty to each other . Most of the attention on the Cruise character as he, once unsettled by his wife’s confession that she once desired another man, embarks on a quest to explore his own wayward desires.

There are problems with the film. It is not clear why Cruise’s character, who appears to be a general practitioner, is so wealthy and Cruise himself is quite unconvincing as a medico. He is much better playing the boyishly good-looking  errant husband, although his inability to get his end away is breathtaking.   Nicole Kidman on the other hand is much more effective, bringing a real (literally so as she appears nude quite often) physicality to her role. Also the climactic orgy scene tends to play like the Masonic Lodge episode of The Simpsons rather than having the feeling of Satyricon-like depravity that was apparently intended. Nevertheless, as a depiction of the conflict between sexual desire and social organization Eye Wide Shut is commendably confronting as Kubrick masterfully guides us to his last word on the subject, spoken by Kidman, “Fuck”.

 

 

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