I rewatched Eyes Wide Shut in full last night for the first time, I believe, since its release. A visual masterpiece beyond compare. Every shot a revelation. Even though I’ve seen it before, I have a new respect for Kubrick’s mind for photography, pacing, tone - his obsessive attention to (and sharpened attunement to) detail.
(Spoilers ahead. Duh.)
It’s notable here that he directed photography so closely that he credited his ostensible DP, Larry Smith, simply as “lighting cameraman” - that is, a skilled technician working to execute an auteur’s precise vision.
Even though I liked it back in the day, my 13-year-old brain couldn’t appreciate this depth of style and form at ALL. I simply wasn’t equipped. Absolutely breathtaking use of sudden cuts away from a reaction, as in the scene-exits of the second visit to Rainbow Fashions or Victor Ziegler’s monologue - or aggressive pulls in on a chilling image, as in several stunning moments of the much-discussed orgy sequence. (The only tangible criticism I can give the film is on a slight overuse of crossfade scene-transitions in the first half or so, which could have been a circumstantial concession. I do also wonder what considerations of editing and post were decided in the latter stages, after Kubrick’s unfortunate death.)
Speaking of things I couldn’t grasp at 13 or 14, it’s such a tragic, convincing exploration of the lust and wanting underneath every human exchange, no matter how grave. The seemingly minor Alan Cumming (ha) scene drives this point hard (ha ha). Overall, the film seems to follow thematically and philosophically from Eraserhead, which Kubrick had once called his “favorite film.”
Back when I first watched this, I had no frame of reference for drug states, sex, relationship dynamics, even the city - at 29, it has a whole new texture of realness and believability, from the grit of late-night Manhattan to the frustrations of communication right down to the stupid fucking logic and comic self-sabotage that can come with smoking too much.
This leads me to a quick aside - there is something unnerving and perfect about the city-street scenes. They all feel boxed-in and contained, conspicuously like a studio set. Every street seems to end in a T intersection, closed off from the world at large, in ways that appear impossibly circular - a note that I doubt was incidental considering the great pains of precision taken at every turn in the making of this film. This feels weirdly appropriate as we follow Dr. Bill Hartford, a character that I believe has been sometimes derided as a boring victim of only his own privilege and self-obsession, but who reads to me more as an endearingly naïve man who exists in a world of wealth and indulgence into which he actually doesn’t fit at all.
When I saw Eyes Wide Shut in a theater during its initial run, the conversation in the room was loud, and the anticipation palpable, in a way that is unlike ANY other filmgoing experience I’ve ever had to this very day. Despite that, popular media has failed this film. It’s not in the least some debauched, amoral shock-romp. To the contrary, it’s a morality play about how pathetic and powerless the individual can be before pervasive, inescapable forces: wealth, power, institution - and worse yet, his or her own base, animal longings; the insatiable hunger and wanting for sex, money, status.
In short, it’s about how lust poisons everything.
Perhaps ironically, last night I actually meant to watch Oldboy (the original, cuz come on) for an aspirational stylistic refresher as a filmmaker. The torrent hadn’t finished, so my date and I put this on instead. Eyes Wide Shut has almost literally the opposite pace and tone of Oldboy, but I walk away now feeling equally that it’s a gold standard to aspire to.
Mulholland Drive, Le Mépris/Contempt, Oldboy. Twin Peaks, maybe Alien and Blade Runner. There are very few pieces of media that see me physically jumping out of my skin with excitement. This one did, from literally start to finish.
(Spoilers ahead, obviously.)
1. Newly re-magick’d ingenue gets locked away;
2. Misguided troops storm castle and fight the misunderstood supernatural heroine’s just-created monster;
3. Re-cursed ingenue will die unless she receives “true love’s kiss” (exact phrase);
4. Crucial plot twist is that the act of true love which saves her is not a romantic gesture from a man but comes from a familial relationship with a female elder.
Very interesting to note. In both cases I admire the feminist spirit in setting women’s relationships with each other as the primary relationships of a film (also notable in Brave), and in defying our conditioned expectation for a female lead’s redemption or rescue to come from a male suitor.
That said, it’s a little disappointing to watch this again after having seen Maleficent and realize there’s such a distinct plot structure reiterated, re: the whole twist on “true love’s kiss,” which - while in both cases well executed and tasteful - comprises the emotional core and take-away of each film.
On the other hand, it’s interesting to note that even as crucial an element of Frozen as that is, I watched Maleficent just a couple months later and didn’t draw the parallel at all. So maybe I’m lazy, or maybe that’s good on them?
stefanoblack said: What is tumblr *for*, anyway?
Me 2008: I really don’t fucking know. Seems kinda pointless. I should probably figure it out.
Me 2009-2011: LMAO OMFG WTF WAS I THINKING THIS IS THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE
Me 2014: What? Go away, I’m doing shit.
Middle-aged man in a B&N starbucks
focused on what interests them
another, maybe older, man reads Michael Moore
fighting with their wives
Just watched ROGUE again for the first time in a year. Almost made it to the end without breaking down in tears this time.
I’ll never let you die, you son of a bitch.
Two years ago this time, we eat together for the last time.
Speaks for itself. Join us at 2pm on Sunday 12/15.
what you love will be gone
H ☰ L L Oi'm Stefano.