04 December 2008

"No dream is ever just a dream." Notes on Eyes Wide Shut.

I was fortunate enough to introduce a screening of Eyes Wide Shut as part of the Belcourt's Stanley Kubrick retrospective. I had a lot of people ask about several of the things I mentioned during my little talk, so I figured I would post the notes I used that Wedensday night.

I only got to cover about sixty or so percent of what all I had written, but it was such a thrill to see a 35mm print of the film (and to talk with people afterward) that I would put it all up here. Part sentence-outline, part flow-chart, I can't say that it works aas a logical piece of criticism, but it covers all the bases on the film that I wanted to get into.

I was also sent an article by one of last night's attendees about the film that is absolutely delicious analysis and criticism of the film. Many thanks to Richard K for hepping me to the Krieder piece.


1 Obligations.
For the story, of marriage.
For the audience in 1999, of sexual content and the ‘event’ of a Kubrick film, a posthumous one at that.
For the characters, of society. Drudgeries of work, the process of Christmas (presents, parties).

Temptation takes the Harfords for a dance

Made in the shadow of the Cruise/Kidman marriage, now a memorial of it.
Other marriages have crumbled in its wake. “Taking the day off to figure out who he was.”
At the beginning, Bill takes Alice’s body for granted. Literally or figuratively, this is his journey back.

‘the grass is always greener’ somewhere, it seems.
Rainbows recur (costume shop, two women at the Christmas party)

The Wizard of Oz as deconstructive journey home
Kidman’s current turn in the vastly underrated and utterly insane Australia.

Trust does not necessarily imply a common interest
Sex and its weird power- it binds them together, comically but firmly, in the final line.

2 What we see and what we do not.
Jennifer Jason Leigh, Harvey Keitel as well.
The women at the masked ball; the carpet doesn’t match.

We don’t know the real story behind Nick Nightingale and the multiple Mandies.

The Harfords’ NYC apartment, big enough for sinuous tracking shots-
Ths Shining’s steadicam shots and vast spaces of menace and portent are explicitly doubled with the slinky curves of Kidman’s body in a cocktail dress and the mystery ball Bill so desperately wants to experience. Kidman has a Steadicam spine, like a Modigliani painting. Compare the Zieglers’ Christmas party dance with the New Year’s Ball at the Overlook.

“Staged… charade… fake.”

Eyes Wide Shut, by virtue of its ethos of available light and the many scenes lit by Christmas trees, pushed two stops, represents a camera philosophy even more radical than Barry Lyndon.
The elimination of shadow detail means there is simply no place for anything to hide. Minority Report loved grain this much

Schnitzler’s Traumnovelle
Freudian, but not in terms of symbolism, more in terms of using dreams as deconstructive tool.

Dream logic – italo horror, Silent Hill film adaptation, eXistenZ

The backprojection work is stunning, especially 4th street as it crosses Sixth avenue.
Malik Hassan-Saeed (Lauryn Hill’s “Ex Factor” video)

The two party/ball sequences cut directly to the return to the Harford home.
There is no diegetic travel, merely a cut. Scenes of travel, therefore, are significant.

3 Fear and Desire.

If you came to this film for flesh, you have it before the title card is even revealed. So where do you go from there?

As an analysis of male sexual insecurity, this is up there with Lynch’s Lost Highway.

Fear of what you might find keeps sex at bay:
The cancer during the breast exam
The HIV (Domino), contrasted with Mizzi’s illness and Fridolin’s fear of diphtheria in the Schnitzler.
The abandonment

The whole stoned argument like a Bene Gesserit training exercise, feinting text and subtext.

Yet every step he takes questions Bill’s masculinity, except in the mirror with Alice and the flirtatious hotel clerk (there’s the Barry Lyndon comic queerness again)
Any attempt he makes to assert his sexuality leads to the abyss.
NY Post headline “Lucky to be alive.”

Kubrick the perfectionist did something in this film that we had never been allowed to see: he ground the movie star out of Tom Cruise. He seems out of place, never in control in any situation. When he tries to use what we perceive as his iconic charm, its effect is off-time. He tries to react like a movie star: money, baked goods, charm, everything- we seem him lose his edge in real-time. Cruise drained of star power; given his recent difficulties, imagine, then, how the hundreds of takes must have been.

This sexparty is very Prussian, a very ierarchical orgy at the masked ball- voyeurism as a thing of the upperclass?
The digital figures are emblematic of Bill’s own yoyeuristic tendencies. We want to see acrobatic sportfucking, too.
The vast majority of masked ballers are voyeurs, not participants

Bill throws $ around like candy
Commerce of desire; in this case, knowledge.

My, how Stanley loves bare breasts pressed against formalwear (cf Barry Lyndon)

Orgies we have known
Fellini, Cecil B DeMille (The Sign of The Cross)
Emanuelle in America introduces the spectre of death.

There is no definitive version of the film.
A) grainy initial international version, 35mm, no digital obstruction in orgy sequence, crew reflection present, unsynched Kidman line.
B) grainy US version, 35mm, with digital obstruction in orgy sequence, crew reflection present, unsynched Kidman line. This is what we’ll be seeing at the Belcourt.
C) smoothed international version, 4:3, no digital obstruction in orgy sequence, now out of print
D) smoothed international version, 4:3, no digital obstruction in orgy sequence, bhagavad-gita extracts removed (though actually Tamil love song)
E) smoothed US version, 4:3, with digital obstruction, Tamil extract removed
F) Hi-Def 16:9 master, smoothed international version, Tamil extract removed

R. Lee Ermey vs Todd Field

Ligeti’s Musica Ricercata and what it represents.

Mystikal – “Shake Ya Ass” much in the way of 2 Live Crew’s “Me So Horny” was for Full Metal Jacket.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (The password is ‘ooooooor-gy’).
Season Two of True Blood (oops, I’ve said too much)
30 Rock joke about playing piano for those rich weird people


Phillip Johnston said...

I missed this screening at The Belcourt and am kicking myself for doing so. Some great thoughts here on what is (from my estimation) Kubrick's richest film.

orlando pisegna said...

where can I find these type of thoughts on the film in more detail? Your notes are great but I'm not fully understand it all and I want to.