(1999)

Cruise. Kidman. Kubrick.

http://eyeswideshut.warnerbros.com/

After Dr. Bill Harford's wife, Alice, admits to having sexual fantasies about a man she met, Bill becomes obsessed with having a sexual encounter. He discovers an underground sexual group and attends one of their meetings -- and quickly discovers that he is in over his head.

**It doesn't matter if it's Stanley Kubrick's best or worst. It's a movie that makes you think.**
Stanley Kubrick is one of those filmmakers who didn't make a lot of films. Over the course of his forty-year career, he only made thirteen feature films. Very little... However, if we look closely, almost all of them are familiar and immediately entered the pantheon of cinema. They are not perfect films, nor was Kubrick perfect no matter how methodical he was, and there are films of his that are unpalatable (I've already written that in some of them). But each of them, for its reasons, is its own, a very different work. In this film, he makes a case study around desire, sexuality and how we, individually or as a couple, deal with it.
The script follows a doctor and his wife. An apparently happy couple who, after a party where they both flirted with other people (without consequences), have a fight where she, perhaps to take away his self-confidence, confesses that she wanted to have another man, some time ago. The revelation leaves the doctor speechless. That night, he doesn't seem to know what he wants: he desires other women, but refuses their advances. But when a pianist friend tells him about a strange party, full of beauties, where he has to play blindfolded, he wants to see it up close. Yes, the party was a gigantic chic orgy, with touches of unholy religious ritual to accentuate the sense of sin and lust. Of course, the unwary guy ends up being discovered and unmasked… and from there, the film becomes denser, with the character increasingly afraid of what might happen to him.
The film makes us think a lot about sexuality, monogamy, the importance we give to marital fidelity. I don't know what it was like in 1999, but today it's common to see couples in open relationships, or relatively discreet saunas and swing clubs that throw liberal parties with some regularity. There is still a universe apart – private parties, organized by social networks and for guests only – and it is true that the rich and famous are much more demanding with the reservation of their intimacy, especially when they do naughty things. But what the film proposes to us is, not so much the refusal of monogamy, but that we think about the way we give up all other sexual partners when we really fall in love. The notion of personal sacrifice runs through the entire film (a woman who gives up an erotic fantasy for love, another who proposes to die in order to save an innocent, a man who refuses sex because he is married) and indicates that the best bonds we create in life involve choices and sacrifices in exchange for something greater. In fact, to be happy in a marriage, you need to keep your eyes wide shut to temptations.
With a very good and well written story, the film develops the characters very well and allows us to get to know them. For that, the film doesn't mind taking a slower pace that can leave some audiences exasperated. Decisive was the choice of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman for the main roles. At the time, they were Hollywood's pretty couple, and there's no doubt that Kubrick knew how to exploit their enormous personal and intimate chemistry, transporting it to the characters and the film. In fact, this may not be Kubrick's best film (that's relative!) but, for me, it's Cruise's best film so far.
Technically, the film has many positives. Kubrick gave an almost maniacal attention to detail and took his time filming. And we can see how each scene was shot in a detailed way, with the camera moving precisely, cuts surgically made, very long and very well edited scenes, taking advantage of the excellent cinematography and sets (where, of course, the mansion of the party stands out). Even more important is the way the director was able to work with the environment and the tension, growing and almost palpable. There is a lot of nudity in this film, including frontal nudity (Kidman herself did scenes where she is practically naked) and some sex scenes that, if not explicit, are very visual. Even so, the film is not, surprisingly, very erotic. I think the director didn't want sex to distract us or cut that tension he was looking for. As for the sound and soundtrack, I think it does its job well, but I didn't find it particularly remarkable.

Warner Bros. Pictures, Hobby Films, Pole Star, Stanley Kubrick Productions by Stanley Kubrick, Frederic Raphael, Arthur Schnitzler.
Stars: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Todd Field.

Genres: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Keywords: new york city sexual obsession prostitute based on novel or book christmas party eroticism orgy masked ball sacrifice secret society cult conspiracy marijuana mansion lust drugs disguise illegal prostitution cult film sexual desire voyeurism erotic thriller sex party marital crisis costume shop hooker christmas movie alternative

07/16/1999

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