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Eyes Wide Shut

Cruise. Kidman. Kubrick. 

Year: 1999 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (XWide) 
Certificate: BBFC 18 Cert – Not suitable for under 18s 
Subtitles: This film is not expected to be subtitled, though this cannot be guaranteed. 
Directed by Stanley Kubrick 
Starring: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Sydney Pollack  
An image from Eyes Wide Shut

The 90s release of this film concocted one of the most effective publicity coups in recent memory, and it’s all in that poster: CRUISE/KIDMAN/KUBRICK, almost as large as the title. One of the few directors whose name alone could open a cinema release with promise, Kubrick fated the film with notoriety–his death having been announced mere days after the final edit was prepared. Beyond that, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman couldn’t help but have their much-publicised marriage compared to that of their Bill and Alice Harford in the film: a rich New York couple, who each fall victim to sexual fantasies and accompanying jealousy. It’s a toxic and heady mix, received coolly by some at the time to make way for an emerging re-appraisal and appreciation over the years. The interplay between its two stars remains a foremost delight even today; Kidman’s Alice has as much subconscious control over Bill as Kubrick does over the both of them, and their sparring match on infidelity and marital ego is thrilling. Bill’s following descent into the sexual underworld of New York’s elite - a dreamlike journey of orgies and masked cults which Kubrick daringly suggests to have been precipitated by Alice’s reawakened libido - is the film’s most notorious climax, with a threat and self-seriousness that perhaps Eyes Wide Shut can’t absorb. But its sensuous locations and andante pace are a treat for Kubrick fans–and if you have tried and failed to love it before, like me, it’s never too late for a second look: just keep your eyes wide open, this time…

Max King

One of the must-see films of last year, “Eyes Wide Shut” offered stunning visuals, an interesting storyline and lots of rich people screwing like bunnies. Yes; you get to see Nicole butt naked, yes; there is full frontal nudity, and yes; it is that film where the director died five days after finishing the film.

This is interesting enough, but when you consider that all of Kubrick’s previous films were hailed as classics (“The Shining”, “A Clockwork Orange” and “2001: A Space Odyssey” being good examples), coupled with the fact that this film took the longest time in recorded history to shoot, you can imagine the tension and anticipation with which the film was awaited. The trailer was released - a naked Tom Cruise caressing a naked Nicole Kidman in front of a hugely exquisite mirror to backing music stating “They did a bad, bad thing...”, and hype reached fever pitch. The studio wouldn’t release any plot details and Kubrick refused to give interviews - he was the biggest recluse Hollywood has never known (living in total privacy in Hertfordshire). Kubrick hadn’t made a film for over twenty years - and yet he was planning the film way back in 1966. When Tom Cruise was four.

So, is it any good? Well, the answer has to be “yes” - after a ver questionable first twenty minutes (where one wonders if the whole movie will read like a Ferrero Rocher ad), “Eyes Wide Shut” develops into an interesting tale of middle-class angst: the cracks appear in Kidman and Cruise’s marriage, Cruise gets involved in a bizarre orgy-thing with masks and rituals, and there are drugs, death-threats, alcohol and sex a-plenty. For this is a tale of boredom, deceit, jealousy and the search to find something to make one’s life more interesting. And we all know that drugs, alcohol, sex and death-threats make life more interesting, don’t we?

The thing is, Kubrick never, ever, left anything to chance. It was common for him to re-shoot a scene fifty or sixty times. If an actor had completed his role but Kubrick wasn’t happy with it, he would re-cast and shoot the whole thing over again, as famously happened several times in this movie (Harvey Keitel being given the brush-off). He was a methodical genius, and movie stars hated him for it. Ever demanding and ever precise, Kubrick’s movies have been described as being “cold” at worst, and at best, he has been hailed around the world as an extremely talented and versatile moviemaker - perhaps the greatest of all time, but certainly one of the century’s most influential, popular and talented moviemakers. His unexpected death earlier this year has bereft the world of a genius.

Christopher Campbell

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Screenings of this film:

1999/2000 Spring Term (35mm)
1999/2000 Spring Term (35mm)
2023/2024 Spring Term (35mm)