Sunday, January 31, 2010

Top 100 movies of the '90s: #5

5. Eyes Wide Shut, 1999
Dir: Stanley Kubrick
Cast: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman

Wrongly dismissed as one of Kubrick's lesser works at the time of release even though the film never received outright negative reviews, the main reason for the dismissal, I feel, is the casting of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman who were married at the time. They were one of Hollywood's hottest couples and I remember the commercials in this movie hyped up the film as this big erotic drama featuring Hollywood's sexiest couple. Either you were into that or you weren't. That, of course, is completely not the case here as Eyes Wide Shut is a film so rich with context and so densely layered that even though I've seen the movie about three or four times and it has catapulted into my top 5 of the '90s... I predict that as I get older and see the movie a few more times that it will be one of my all-time favorite films. Until that happens, its place is firm at number 5 on my list here. And believe me when I say that this isn't just a personal favorite of mine, I truly believe it belongs up here both subjectively and objectively.

I would classify this film as an anti-erotic drama/thriller. There is nothing erotic about this film at all. Anything that is perceived as erotic between Cruise's and Kidman's characters are completely superficial, at least to me.

First, there's the wealthy couple (played by Cruise and Kidman, of course) presented one way in the public eye and another way in private. We see them in both ways which is evidenced by the opening sequence of the film which shows Nicole Kidman's character undressing. With that, it becomes clear that this film is going to explicitly explore sexuality both among the main characters and the characters around them.

Both main characters are haunted by sex. A man tries to seduce Alice (Nicole Kidman) at a Christmas party while two younger women try to seduce her husband. After the Christmas party, the couple are alone in their bedroom having an argument. Throughout the course of the argument, it's revealed that Alice was tempted to have a one night stand with a naval officer that she saw on their trip to Cape Cod. Later in the movie, she confesses to her husband, Bill, that she dreamed that she was having sex with multiple men while Bill was watching. Knowing the he was watching, she started laughing at him.

Clearly disturbed by these confessions, Bill goes on with the rest of his night (having heard about the first confession and subsequently becoming haunted by it) and gets summoned to a deceased patient's home. There, the daughter of the patient tells Bill that she wants to give up her life to be with him, which Bill refuses. Later, he accepts a solicitation from a prostitute which later gets disrupted when his wife calls him. Then, the centerpiece of the movie, Bill discovering this mansion which contains multiple people wearing masks and performing a sexual ritual. Eventually he is caught at the party and is urged never to speak of it to anyone or else he will be punished severely.

Yes, sex is everywhere in this film. During the sex rituals, you see lots of people having sex in the background. Bill is haunted by images of Alice making love to an unknown sailor. Alice is haunted by a dream where she's having sex with multiple men while Bill watches. Not to mention that the prostitute who Bill almost had sex with later turned out to be HIV positive.

Almost every sex-related scene has severe and dire consequences. Bill is tempted by nearly every woman he comes across but regardless of his marital situation with Alice, he refuses to go along with any of them or something prevents him from doing so. This is why I say it's an anti-erotic film. Any sexual temptation is smacked down by a disturbing reality.

This is a fascinating film which I mentioned earlier has so many details within its context. It's fitting that Kubrick's final film is not only his most baffling and, perhaps, most controversial (next to A Clockwork Orange) as well as how rich this film is both thematically and technically. I haven't even mentioned how superbly crafted this film is but I suppose that should be implied when I mention the name Stanley Kubrick.

To close, I'd like bring back what I was talking about in the beginning. I think it was a brilliant casting choice to have Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise play the two lead roles. Yes, we know that they're married in real life and that is exactly what Kubrick is going for. Kubrick was a cinematic genius. He wouldn't have casted them both if he thought the viewer would be taken away from the movie because of such details. No, he knew that he could use that piece of fact to make their chemistry (or lackthereof) on screen 100% believable.

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