Warner Home Video presents
Eyes Wide Shut: Two-Disc Special Edition (1999)
"No dream is ever just a dream."- Dr. Bill Harford (Tom Cruise)
Stars: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman
Other Stars: Sydney Pollack, Alan Cumming, Leelee Sobieski
Director: Stanley Kubrick
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (strong sexual content, nudity, langage and some drug-related material)
Run Time: 02h:38m:52s
Release Date: 2007-10-23
DVD ReviewThe DVD Review is by Daniel Hirshleifer.
I have to ask all of you readers a very important question: Is there actually something new to say about Eyes Wide Shut? I've heard every gushing review, every damning review, and everything in between. What is left? I really won't try to convince you that this is a good movie; everyone has a different opinion. So I will just tell you mine:Eyes Wide Shut was the best movie of 1999, a masterpiece that will stand the test of time, and a fine way to end the career of the greatest filmmaker of the 20th century.
With that out of the way, let me tell you why I feel this way. It's true that I'm an avid Kubrick fan, but even I know that not every film he made was a work of genius. Lolita, Spartacus and Full Metal Jacket, among others, had their share of problems. So I am capable of objectively viewing Kubrick's work. And objectively speaking, I think Eyes Wide Shut is a masterpiece. Of course, many people think that masterpieces have to be perfect. This isn't true. Look at Von Stroheim's Greed. It was supposed to be 10 hours long. The current cut is about 2, and the studio cut it. It's considered a masterpiece. Same with Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons. So we really need to stop equating perfection with masterpieces. They can be flawed. And while I have very little to complain about in Eyes Wide Shut, I can think of many people who would have changed one aspect or another, but that doesn't lessen the ability of the film to be a masterwork.
Bill Hartford (Tom Cruise), a doctor, and his wife Alice (Nicole Kidman) go to a party held by Victor Zeigler (Sydney Pollack), one of Bill's patients. There, a Hungarian man hits on Alice, while two models offer Bill sex, but he is soon pulled away to help a woman who is overdosing upstairs. The next night, Bill and Alice get high, and Alice reveals to Bill that on a vacation she saw a naval officer who captivated her so much that she would have given up everything she had, including her marriage and child, just to have sex with him. Bill is heavily put off by this revelation, but before he can respond, he's called away by the family of a patient who has just died. While there, the daughter of Bill's patient proclaims she loves him. Bill escapes and begins a sexual odyssey that haunts him and affects the people he cares about.
Eyes Wide Shut is based on a novella by Arthur Schnitzler entitled Traumnovelle (Dream Story). While, as in the original story, the film deals with themes of marriage, infidelity, loyalty, and sexuality, its main theme is dreams, and their power. Some people have theorized that the majority of the film is a dream that Bill is having. While there are many details that point to the film being a dream (the mask appearing on the pillow, the backwards vocals in the ceremony before the orgy, Alice's reactions at the end, and more), it actually does not matter if any of the movie is a dream, because for Bill, dreams contain enough reality to be taken as seriously as waking actions.
Another reason people might think the movie is a dream is the atmosphere. Lights shine with an unearthly glow, and since the film takes place during the Christmas season, reds appear again and again, culminating in the red robes of the magistrate in the orgy scene (the character is actually called Red Cloak). In other scenes, most noticeably when Alice is telling her dream to Bill, blues predominate, almost looking like something out of a Dario Argento film. Kubrick gives the film a high contrast look, which makes certain objects and colors stand out in ways they do not normally; this way he can emphasize certain things without using distracting zooms on a particular object. These items become emphasized in our subconsciousness (which is where dreams originate). This technique works marvelously for placing symbols within the frame for the viewer notice, without appointing a big signpost to each symbol. Therefore, although the symbolism is subtle, the audience does register it. In fact, I'd say that Eyes Wide Shut is Kubrick's most subtle film. Every time I see the movie I always find something new. For example, the last time I saw it I noticed a slight camera zoom in the scene where Bill confronts Zeigler: Bill is sitting on the couch, and he hands Zeigler a newspaper article. The camera zooms in ever so slightly, almost as if Kubrick himself was waiting for Zeigler's response. Once he responds and moves away, the camera zooms back out to its original position. It's a tiny movement, and something that had escaped my notice.
But even if someone does not notice the subtleties in camera work and symbolism, the story itself should be interesting enough to keep the viewer's attention. The film bristles with emotional power, from Alice's revelations in the bedroom to a perplexing and humorous scene in a costumer's shop, to the thrilling intensity of the orgy and the subsequent mystery that grows up around it. Taken on the most basic level, Eyes Wide Shut is still a very entertaining movie. Some people may speak harshly of the slow pace of the film, but Kubrick is known for this, so it shouldn't surprise anyone. In today's world of a thousand cuts a second, no one really takes the time to savor a movie anymore; they just want big action and they want it NOW. Seeing Eyes Wide Shut is like a breath of fresh air. So what if the average moviegoer has cinematic ADD? Part of the beauty of this film is its deliberate pacing.
Of course, people didn't just complain about the pacing. One particularly popular criticism was that Cruise and Kidman were flat. I couldn't disagree more. I felt that Cruise did a great job of carrying the film. He creates a character that may not be perfect, but is certainly interesting enough that we feel comfortable with sharing his journey. This is his best performance since Born On The Fourth Of July. And the first time I saw the scene where Alice tells Bill about the naval officer and her desires, I was blown away by the power of Kidman's performance. The expression on her face after Bill tells her of his escapades does more than twenty pages of dialogue could have. These performances are not flat, at most they're subdued, but I have trouble accepting even that. Certainly the performances aren't conventional, but that's what makes them so interesting to watch.
I'll admit, the ad campaign went a long way in damaging the film and the rumors that it contained some of the most salacious sex scenes put on screen didn't help either. I think what threw most people is that Eyes Wide Shut is not a sex movie, it's not even a sexy movie. It's a movie about sex and sexuality, within the framework of how it affects a marriage, rubbing up against the aforementioned theme of dreams . People expected a sexy romp with Cruise and Kidman, Hollywood's then-premiere couple, and what they got was a complex, European, psychological look at life and marriage that turned people off, big time.
Joel Cunningham adds:
I certainly respect the above assessment of the film; I admit it has a dreamy, hypnotic quality that draws me in every time. But it's also frustratingly closed-off, the most manufactured of any of Kubrick's films, which wear their artificality like a badge of honor. This time, though, it just all seems so over-the-top. The performances are so mannered, I honestly can't even tell whether they are good or not—they just seem oddly lifeless, Cruise in particular (the only one who shows any life is Leelee Sobieski as a young prostitute).
I love the production design, but if you aren't in the right mood, the movie's centerpiece at "Club Fidelio" plays like farce. It's not that I don't get it; it's just that it's all so drawn out. Conversations that really don't impart any information take endless minutes to play out. Sequences of suspense ultimately peter out. It somehow works while you're watching it, but the message is, ultimately, pedantic and oddly conservative: jealously is a bitch, but hey, stick with your wife.
One of the director's most divisive films, for sure. Even in telling you why I don't like it, I have to admit it plays effectively if you're in the groove. If you like Kubrick, you'll probably respect it.
Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||no|
Image Transfer Review: Eyes Wide Shut doesn't look like your everyday movie, so talking about the DVD transfer isn't as easy and complementing a crisp image—Kubrick shot the picture in dim light and emphasized film grain while emphasizing an unnatural color scheme. The result is beautiful and dreamlike, but hardly what you'd traditionally call "reference quality."
This new transfer (available in anamorphic widescreen for the first time; questions over Kubrick's preferred ratio linger and the original DVD was full frame) certainly recreates the theatrical experience. The icy blues and golden tones are rendered accurately, the grain appears filmlike, and I noted no obvious artifacting.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: Eyes Wide Shut is about atmosphere over bombast, and the audio track is subtle but affective, carrying the jarring "plink plink" of Ligeti's piano theme as well as the sonorous chanting during the otherworldly orgy sequence, which features rumbling bass. Dialogue is clear, as you'd expect.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Other Trailer(s)2 TV Spots/Teasers
- Acceptance speech for Directors Guild award
While the lack of a commentary track (advertised in the press release, though absent from the packaging) is a bit disappointing, there are plenty of other solid extras. The most prominent is the documentary The Last Movie: Stanley Kubrick and Eyes Wide Shut (43m:06), a Channel Four presentation that looks at Kubrick's working methods, the work on A.I., and the making of the feature here. There are plenty of reminiscences from Kubrick's wife and some of his daughters, as well as his friend Steven Spielberg, Cruise, Kidman, Pollack and others, and some of them get quite emotional about his death—Kidman even moreso than Kubrick's family.
Equally interesting is The Lost Kubrick (20m:18s), devoted to the projects that never got made, most notably the picture about Napoleon that obsessed him for years, and the Holocaust drama The Aryan Papers, which was torpedoed by Schindler's List. Malcolm McDowell narrates. The three interviews with Cruise, Kidman and Spielberg that were on the 2001 DVD release are ported over here too. One of the best glimpses at Kubrick himself is through his acceptance speech to the Directors Guild for the D.W. Griffith Lifetime Achievement Award (4m:02s). The package is wrapped up by two TV spots and a trailer.
Extras Grade: B+
Final CommentsKubrick's final film is finally on DVD as it was meant to be seen—maybe. Aspect ratio questions aside, the digital figures blocking the naughty bits have been excised from the orgy sequence, leaving us free to contemplate whether the movie is the director's final masterpiece... or history's most pretentious monogamy lecture.
Joel Cunningham 2007-12-06