DIRECTOR: Stanley Kubrick


May Contain Spoilers!

Will we be adding this to our collection?  NO

There’s no doubt that Stanley Kubrick courted controversy and his film making style, though poised to look uncompromising, was in my opinion, specifically aimed at causing as much drama, on and off the screen, as possible. His early work was simple, straight forward, such as his excellent Spartacus (1960), which was his last mainstream “director for hire” effort.

After that, during the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s, he became and iconic film maker, spoiling himself with the latest gadgets and making them his own, such as the steadicam, as used in The Shining (1980). He was a visual autore and as such became as influential in style and Alfred Hitchcock. On a Saturday night, you knew that you were going to see a Kubrick film, not just any film.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) set the bench mark for Sci-Fi’s visual style and opened the door for existentialism over narrative in mainstream cinema. It just seemed that he did whatever he wanted to do and people, either loved or hated him for it. Then there was A Clockwork Orange, a film which after death-threats to his family and some associated copycat killings, Kubrick himself personally removed it from cinema screens. Though it is fair to note that the film was never actually banned by the BBFC as myth would have it.

So, here we have Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick’s final film, with his death coming just before the film was released. Based on a 1926 novella, entitled Dream Story by Arthur Schnitzler, we follow the final performance as a couple, of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, as a professional New York couple in the midst of a sexual and emotional crisis. Kidman reveals, whilst the pair are smoking maharaja, that she had considered an affair a year earlier. Cruise, disturbed by this revelation is called out on a house call, he is a doctor, and begins a night-long journey of discovery.

His existential adventure takes him from one sexual setting to another, culminating with a secret societies orgy, which he gate-crashed, supposedly risking his life in doing so. That’s basically it. It’s an Art House film in the purest, or possibly the most puerile sense. The nudity is prolonged and pointless, though I would suspect that the word ironic or intellectually revealing would be terms used by its fans.

To me this was like many so-called Art House films and that is an expensive exploitation movie. It could be classed as an erotic thriller, which is fine but artistic nudity for the sake of it becomes very tiresome, and it just seemed to me as if he was simply trying to push the subject matter to extremes to get the strongest reaction possible. Kubrick was an intellectual rebel who, when given the freedom to explore his own artist vision, went out of his way to push for a reaction, at any cost.

He earlier works, such as Spartacus, proves that he was and with some restraint, could have been a prolific and top rated conventional director, instead he became a legendary one. But his audience is smaller, he name will always be associated with the controversy which he created and his films have the Marmite effect. Don’t get me wrong, I love some of his films, hate others and have yet to see a few, but this is the lasting impression which I have of him and his work.

His cinematography lives on through his inspiring eye and this was where his true gift lay. He was an artist and Eyes Wide Shut is basically a life drawing project, an artist sketchbook of the visual style of sex and the human body. His exploration of the subject is whimsical at best, cynical at worst but there’s no doubt that visually it’s a winner, as with all ALL his films. But this is no 2001, or The Shining. This isn’t a film which can be saved from it’s thin narrative by a stunning style. This is a poor film and a real shame that this will be his last film.

Kubrick was working on A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) at the time of his death, a project which was taken over by Steven Spielberg with mixed results. But no matter how much I love Spielberg’s work, and I do, I would have loved to have seen Kubrick tackle THAT story. I’ll get that it would have been a better epitaph than Eyes Wide Shut, which is kind of an apt description of my reaction to the film, both times that I have tried to watch it.

A great director but a poor film to finish on.

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