Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

I didn't really know what to expect from Eyes Wide Shut, but it was one of those movies on my periphery that I had marked as "should check out" but "not in any hurry". However, it came up in a discussion about Mulholland Dr. that I recently watched, so I decided to give it a watch. Also partly because it was directed by Stanley Kubrick. Lots of film buffs rate Stanley Kubrick as one of the greatest directors of all time, but I personally consider him to be overrated, since of his films that I've seen, I've been generally underwhelmed. I think his adaptation of Lolita flopped, and pales in comparison to Adrian Lyne's later version. The Shining is a good horror movie, but would I rate it a masterpiece? I don't know. 2001: A Space Odyssey is a truly inspired piece of science fiction - but as a movie, it just drags on and lacks coherence. And A Clockwork Orange - well, I liked it, but it's not one of the best movies I've ever seen.

So anyway, I heard that this movie was directed by Stanley Kubrick, and I was intrigued by the reference to David Lynch, since I can appreciate Lynch's sensibilities, so I figured I'd give this movie a watch and see if it improves my opinion of Stanley Kubrick as a director. Well, the verdict is that this was a good movie - but it hasn't really changed my opinion of Stanley Kubrick. After all, I don't think he's a bad director, I just don't think he's the best director of all time. But there's other movies of his I have yet to watch, and who knows, my opinion might change in the future. After all, I was underwhelmed by Jimi Hendrix the first time I heard him on the radio!

As for this movie, Eyes Wide Shut, you might call it something of an erotic thriller, but it's really more of a dreamy exploration of psychosexual themes. It stars Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman - and let me tell you, Nicole Kidman is gorgeous in this movie. And she's not afraid to get a little naked, which earns instant points of respect in my book. Plus, she's gorgeous. Did I say that?

The movie explores various sexual concepts, largely surrounding the theme of fidelity. Like, within the context of marriage. I'll be honest, as a sexual progressive, this couple's concerns were a little unsympathetic to me. I mean, like, it's clear that neither one of them actually cheated on the other. So is it really that devastating to learn that your spouse has sexual fantasies and desires for other people? The thing that's special about committed relationships isn't that people impossibly reign in their sexual interest in other people, but that they refrain from acting on that interest. The vows aren't about "I will never look at another man/woman", but "I will never pursue another man/woman". And that's assuming the couple is into monogamy, which is popular, but as a pro-polyamory type of person, I just don't see it as that big of a deal.

Anyway, it didn't destroy my appreciation for the movie, it just lessened my sympathy for the characters' struggles. The way the movie turns out, after a Christmas party in which both partner has eyes for others, the wife later divulges the fact that there was this one time when she totally had the hots for some naval officer. And Tom Cruise's character breaks down, leaves the house, and basically goes on a hunt for some woman to cheat on his wife with. Although he has a hard time actually going through with it. But his journey, and the people he meets, and the trouble he gets into, is where the film gets really interesting.

And the pinnacle of that is this wild party he sneaks into which is ostensibly attended by some wealthy and/or renowned luminaries, but it's all secretive because everyone wears masks. But they perform this sexual ritual, and they have impossibly beautiful women - albeit hookers and drug addicts and the like - who roam around naked among the cloaked and hooded men, and there's all this sex going on throughout this mansion, right in front of everyone else, and it's every bit as surreal as it is erotic.

And really, the movie's worth it for the erotic themes alone - between Nicole Kidman's beauty, and the women Tom Cruise runs into, and this bizarre sex cult party. But the surreal, dreamy aspect is a nice touch to it. I'd definitely rate it as a good film, and recommend it to anyone who thinks it sounds intriguing.

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