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    English, Arabic, English - Hearing Impaired, Romanian, Bulgarian
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Eyes Wide Shut
Warner Bros./Warner Bros. . R4 . COLOR . 153 mins . R . PAL


Throughout the closing years of the 1980s and almost all of the 1990s, film fans waited patiently for the next slice of cinematic adventure from Stanley Kubrick. Yes, patiently - after all, this was the man who had not released a film for seven years when he delivered Full Metal Jacket. Most Kubrick fans, by now accustomed to amusing themselves with other things for a good many years while they waited for the next work of art, weren’t at all surprised when the next one took even longer than expected. Rumour abounded about what projects were being hatched at Camp Kubrick, whilst unseen by the public Kubrick entered the planning stages of a film about the Jewish Holocaust (The Aryan Papers) and a sci-fi film about a robot child searching for love (A.I.). But with the first project abandoned after Steven Spielberg released Schindler’s List and the second postponed for technical reasons (and also offered on more than one occasion to Spielberg, who would ultimately make the film after Kubrick’s death), Kubrick turned his attention to filming a script he had loosely adapted from Arthur Schnitzler’s book Traumnovelle. Called Eyes Wide Shut, it was announced by Warner Brothers in December 1995, with a 1997 release date expected. But shooting on Eyes Wide Shut went on, and on; the film was finally completed in early 1999. Days later, Kubrick was dead.

Having been kind enough to postpone dying until he finished Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick was suddenly under greater artistic scrutiny than he ever had been before. This, after all, was the final Kubrick film, the one that would, for better or worse, be the full stop on a genius career. Expectations were high - and many didn’t like what they saw. Most of Kubrick’s films, of course, took a while to be properly appreciated, but Eyes Wide Shut was battling uphill from the word go not only because of Kubrick’s death, but also thanks to the choice of lead actors - real-life married couple (at the time) Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. Kubrick had - perhaps inadvertently, perhaps not - cast major-league Hollywood “celebrities” in one of his films arguably for the first time. New Kubrick film? “Yeah, of course,” said the TV and cinema ads, “but even better, you’ll get to see Tom and Nicole naked!!!” Hence the dilemma: mainstream moviegoers looking for a rumpy-pumpy sex thriller were never going to get the point of Eyes Wide Shut, and many long-time Kubrick fans felt disillusioned by the cult of celebrity hovering around the film - as well as from the unspoken need for this one to be utter genius cinema, ‘cos it’s the last Kubrick anyone was going to get.

But having seen the film several times since its release (finding more detail and fascination in it with every viewing) we’re willing to be unfashionable and say Eyes Wide Shut was not only well worth the wait, but is also right up there with Kubrick’s best work. Those who’ve not run across the film before should be forewarned that a brief plot description doesn’t quite do the film justice.

Affluent and socially escalated Doctor Bill Harford (Cruise) and his wife Alice (Kidman) are living what would seem to be the perfect life. They have a spectacular New York apartment, big income, a daughter that they both adore and a marriage that’s grown into comfortability after nine years together. But when Bill and Alice lie in bed and share a joint after attending a posh party that was a little more eventful than expected, a rather over-stoned Alice suddenly confronts her husband with the revelation that she has fantasised about having an affair. This comes as a revelation the size of a hydrogen bomb to Bill, who takes his wife so much for granted that he’s never even considered the possibility that she would want anyone else. Suddenly consumed by jealousy, Bill finds himself on a dream-like nocturnal journey through a world that up until now has been utterly alien to him - a journey that’s more dangerous than it first appears. Or is it…?

Pacing his film expertly and making almost constant use of the Steadicam as an unseen participant in the drama, Kubrick leads his protagonist through a relentlessly strange world that’s so exaggerated, so surreal and so immensely forbidding that it can’t be taken as realism - and that’s the whole point. Eyes Wide Shut never even pretends to be aiming for normality, going for the larger-than-life-and-then-some approach instead. Tom Cruise may be playing the wide-eyed Everyman, but each and every person around him - including his wife - is talking, behaving and moving very, very strangely as his long night unfolds. Paranoia? Hallucinations? Quite possibly. After all, he had been smoking what The Goodies used to call “certain substances”…


Presented as an open-matte full frame transfer “as Stanley Kubrick intended” (which he obviously did - the composition of many shots in this film is breathtaking at this aspect ratio), Eyes Wide Shut looks terrific on DVD, with only a few minor problems to distract from what is otherwise an excellent picture. The main problem is grain and noise - some of it clearly caused by a grainy negative, some of it probably not - which pops up from time to time in darker scenes where contrast is lower. It’s infrequent enough not to be a bother even for the fussy, though, and the same goes for the mild aliasing that appears from time to time on hard edges. Like the other discs in the new Kubrick box set, this is an extremely vibrant-looking transfer, though it was done earlier than the others - this repackaged disc is, in fact, the exact same one that was originally released, right down to the actual glass master.

The only Kubrick film to have been mixed for cinemas in Dolby Digital 5.1 (and his first in 30 years to be in any kind of stereo at all), Eyes Wide Shut comes with a detailed but unspectacular discrete surround audio track that complements the film perfectly - there’s plenty of ambience here, but the focus is largely kept front and centre on the characters. Music throughout sounds superb, with THAT piano piece (by wonderfully weird contemporary classical composer György Ligeti) so crystal-clear it’s quite literally startling. Jocelyn Pook’s diverse original score is also excellent and sounds great.

Unlike most of the other Kubrick Collection discs, there is something here in the way of extras. Along with a couple of TV promo spots (but no theatrical trailer), there’s a set of interviews done back in 1999, with Cruise, Kidman and Steven Spielberg reflecting on their memories of Kubrick. Kidman, who gets the most interview time here, becomes very emotional at one stage. Running for a total of 34 minutes, this is of course all talking-head stuff visually - but what they have to say is fascinating.

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  •   And I quote...
    "...the full stop on a genius career."
    - Anthony Horan
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