As part of July’s KubrickFeast, we asked the FeastFam team of writers to have a long, hard think about Stanley Kubrick and then wax lyrical accordingly. The results were…interesting! First up, Tom Baker takes on Eyes Wide Shut…
It’s not hard to see why people don’t get on with Eyes Wide Shut. Kubrick’s final film is an erotic thriller which is never especially sexy, and fails to deliver on (or perhaps deliberately withholds) the promise of showing two legit movie stars – and then-real-life couple – doing it. Besides that masked orgy Tom Cruise’s character attends there are no stand-out visual motifs to latch onto, ala the match cuts in 2001: A Space Odyssey, the outfits of the Droogs, nor quotable lines of dialogue, as with those espoused by HAL or Lee Ermey’s Sergeant Hartman. Plus it’s nearly three bloody hours long.
Cruise’s handsome doctor Bill Harford going on a dream-like sojourn of soul searching following the revelation that (gasp!) his wife, played by Nicole Kidman, is just as capable of lusting after extramarital sex as he is, can perhaps be better understood as an example of “late style.” Coined by critic Edward Said, late style is “the way in which the work of some great artists and writers acquires a new idiom towards the end of their lives…Each of us can supply evidence of late works which crown a lifetime of aesthetic endeavour. But what of artistic lateness not as harmony and resolution, but as intransigence, difficulty and contradiction? What if age and ill health don’t produce serenity at all?”
Rather than capping off his singular career with a victory lap: a culmination of everything that came before and tied his filmography up in a tidy bow (although, admittedly, there are Easter Eggs of this sort dotted throughout the production design and music choices), Kubrick opted to make Eyes Wide Shut: a film which was deliberately complex, difficult and provocative in both its style and subject matter and delivered to the studio just six days before he died.
What are your thoughts on Kubrick’s final picture? Underrated gem or Eyes Wide Shit? Let us know in the comments below.