Eyes Wide Shut ★★★★

No. 256:
Empire Magazines Greatest Challenge: 301 films, 301 words

Stanley Kubrick’s first film since Killer’s Kiss to return to his home setting of New York, and his final overall, Eyes Wide Shut sees him handling sex as a thorough text as well as subtext to the underpinning of its characters primal motivations and desires. Despite the star power in front of the camera and the fevered media storm that surrounded the lengthy production on the cusp of the new century, this is not a fuck-fest.
Yes, this is a sexual odyssey, but also a slow, multifaceted mediation on the unsolvable absurdities of intimacy in the modern world. Cruise’s Bill Harford is the voyeur of the fantasies he wishes to indulge in as he makes the journey for equilibrium with his partner, Kidman’s Alice. There’s a hallucinatory nature to its Christmas time setting; the New York of a dream as seen through the eyes of Cruise drifting through his own state of reality – all but throwing to the wind the narrative consequences that Kubrick sought to shed. He allows so much time with his supporting cast as to not allow them to be overshadowed by the domination of its Hollywood power couple, including Sydney Pollack in a scene stealing turn.
The film looks as beautiful as anything he’s made before, through Larry Smith’s cinematography somehow pouring and turning more out of the painterly frames than anyone could take from the context of its basis. Tapping into a form of profound emotional expression rarely seen by the filmmaker, it’s one of his strangest works on a visual, sensory and physical level.
Elemental in thought, intellect and instinctual basis and dexterity, but also bizarrely uplifting for Kubrick without ever resorting to the wills of the ever omnipresent sentimentality of Hollywood storytelling, this is very much the late artist’s film as he envisioned it.

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