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Warner Home Video presents
Eyes Wide Shut HD-DVD (1999)

Bill: Victor... the woman lying dead in the morgue... was the woman at the party.
Victor: Yes.
Bill: Well, Victor, maybe I'm missing something here. You called it a fake, a charade. Do you mind telling me what kind of...charade ends with somebody turning up dead?

- Tom Cruise, Sydney Pollack

Review By: Mark Zimmer  
Published: November 15, 2007

Stars: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman
Other Stars: Sydney Pollack
Director: Stanley Kubrick

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (strong sexual content, nudity, langage and some drug-related material)
Run Time: 02h:38m:52s
Release Date: October 23, 2007
UPC: 012569818330
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A+ AB+A- B+

DVD Review

The DVD Review is by Daniel Hirshleifer.

I have to ask all of you readers a very important question: Is there actually something new to say about Eyes Wide Shut? I've heard every gushing review, every damning review, and everything in between. What is left? I really won't try to convince you that this is a good movie; everyone has a different opinion. So I will just tell you mine:Eyes Wide Shut was the best movie of 1999, a masterpiece that will stand the test of time, and a fine way to end the career of the greatest filmmaker of the 20th century.

With that out of the way, let me tell you why I feel this way. It's true that I'm an avid Kubrick fan, but even I know that not every film he made was a work of genius. Lolita, Spartacus and Full Metal Jacket, among others, had their share of problems. So I am capable of objectively viewing Kubrick's work. And objectively speaking, I think Eyes Wide Shut is a masterpiece. Of course, many people think that masterpieces have to be perfect. This isn't true. Look at Von Stroheim's Greed. It was supposed to be 10 hours long. The current cut is about 2, and the studio cut it. It's considered a masterpiece. Same with Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons. So we really need to stop equating perfection with masterpieces. They can be flawed. And while I have very little to complain about in Eyes Wide Shut, I can think of many people who would have changed one aspect or another, but that doesn't lessen the ability of the film to be a masterwork.

Bill Hartford (Tom Cruise), a doctor, and his wife Alice (Nicole Kidman) go to a party held by Victor Zeigler (Sydney Pollack), one of Bill's patients. There, a Hungarian man hits on Alice, while two models offer Bill sex, but he is soon pulled away to help a woman who is overdosing upstairs. The next night, Bill and Alice get high, and Alice reveals to Bill that on a vacation she saw a naval officer who captivated her so much that she would have given up everything she had, including her marriage and child, just to have sex with him. Bill is heavily put off by this revelation, but before he can respond, he's called away by the family of a patient who has just died. While there, the daughter of Bill's patient proclaims she loves him. Bill escapes and begins a sexual odyssey that haunts him and affects the people he cares about.

Eyes Wide Shut is based on a novella by Arthur Schnitzler entitled Traumnovelle (Dream Story). While, as in the original story, the film deals with themes of marriage, infidelity, loyalty, and sexuality, its main theme is dreams, and their power. Some people have theorized that the majority of the film is a dream that Bill is having. While there are many details that point to the film being a dream (the mask appearing on the pillow, the backwards vocals in the ceremony before the orgy, Alice's reactions at the end, and more), it actually does not matter if any of the movie is a dream, because for Bill, dreams contain enough reality to be taken as seriously as waking actions.

Another reason people might think the movie is a dream is the atmosphere. Lights shine with an unearthly glow, and since the film takes place during the Christmas season, reds appear again and again, culminating in the red robes of the magistrate in the orgy scene (the character is actually called Red Cloak). In other scenes, most noticeably when Alice is telling her dream to Bill, blues predominate, almost looking like something out of a Dario Argento film. Kubrick gives the film a high contrast look, which makes certain objects and colors stand out in ways they do not normally; this way he can emphasize certain things without using distracting zooms on a particular object. These items become emphasized in our subconsciousness (which is where dreams originate). This technique works marvelously for placing symbols within the frame for the viewer notice, without appointing a big signpost to each symbol. Therefore, although the symbolism is subtle, the audience does register it. In fact, I'd say that Eyes Wide Shut is Kubrick's most subtle film. Every time I see the movie I always find something new. For example, the last time I saw it I noticed a slight camera zoom in the scene where Bill confronts Zeigler: Bill is sitting on the couch, and he hands Zeigler a newspaper article. The camera zooms in ever so slightly, almost as if Kubrick himself was waiting for Zeigler's response. Once he responds and moves away, the camera zooms back out to its original position. It's a tiny movement, and something that had escaped my notice.

But even if someone does not notice the subtleties in camera work and symbolism, the story itself should be interesting enough to keep the viewer's attention. The film bristles with emotional power, from Alice's revelations in the bedroom to a perplexing and humorous scene in a costumer's shop, to the thrilling intensity of the orgy and the subsequent mystery that grows up around it. Taken on the most basic level, Eyes Wide Shut is still a very entertaining movie. Some people may speak harshly of the slow pace of the film, but Kubrick is known for this, so it shouldn't surprise anyone. In today's world of a thousand cuts a second, no one really takes the time to savor a movie anymore; they just want big action and they want it NOW. Seeing Eyes Wide Shut is like a breath of fresh air. So what if the average moviegoer has cinematic ADD? Part of the beauty of this film is its deliberate pacing.

Of course, people didn't just complain about the pacing. One particularly popular criticism was that Cruise and Kidman were flat. I couldn't disagree more. I felt that Cruise did a great job of carrying the film. He creates a character that may not be perfect, but is certainly interesting enough that we feel comfortable with sharing his journey. This is his best performance since Born On The Fourth Of July. And the first time I saw the scene where Alice tells Bill about the naval officer and her desires, I was blown away by the power of Kidman's performance. The expression on her face after Bill tells her of his escapades does more than twenty pages of dialogue could have. These performances are not flat, at most they're subdued, but I have trouble accepting even that. Certainly the performances aren't conventional, but that's what makes them so interesting to watch.

I'll admit, the ad campaign went a long way in damaging the film and the rumors that it contained some of the most salacious sex scenes put on screen didn't help either. I think what threw most people is that Eyes Wide Shut is not a sex movie, it's not even a sexy movie. It's a movie about sex and sexuality, within the framework of how it affects a marriage, rubbing up against the aforementioned theme of dreams . People expected a sexy romp with Cruise and Kidman, Hollywood's then-premiere couple, and what they got was a complex, European, psychological look at life and marriage that turned people off, big time.



Mark Zimmer adds the following remarks:

After a distance of a few years, as Dan predicted, I'm finding myself more attracted to Eyes Wide Shut. It is certainly unlike anything else Kubrick ever made, and it has the conservative attitude of an aging artist. Yes, despite the scads of nudity and sexuality, it's essentially a very conservative picture, with its rather odd notions of female sexuality centering on a basic distrust of women. As a case in point, Alice is able to stray effortlessly, but Bill not only has difficulty doing so, he finds infidelity to be incredibly dangerous, from the threat of AIDS right on his doorstep to possible murder and blackmail resulting from even the attempt. Had he been successful, he certainly would have paid a fearful price in this bleak vision. Alice's tirade about male sexuality is more than a little ironic in hindsight.

One intriguing point that has occurred to me over the years is the clear dichotomy between night and day in the picture; during the day everything seems normal, children are present and the relationship between Bill and Alice is positive. At night, danger and temptation abound and the central couple often fall into bickering and tempestuous fights. It almost seems like the cry of a terrified child, wanting to not go out of doors after dark. The pervasive sense of fear works well, most dramatically during Bill's inquisition by Red Cloak, with Kubrick's deliberate pacing working to create nearly unbearable suspense. At the same time, the photography is drop-dead gorgeous; Kubrick's eye never failed him one bit.

Although the case proclaims that the HD DVD contains both the rated and unrated cuts of the film, only the unrated international cut is provided, for the first time in North America. The bogus CGI figures hiding the sexual conduct necessary to obtain an R rating, added after the director's death, are eliminated, revealing that there actually wasn't anything visible behind them that you can't see on Cinemax.

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Eyes Wide Shut is a highly stylized picture, which makes for some difficulties in home video presentation. Much of it was shot in dim light, with grainy film, and Kubrick arranged for the film to be processed in a manner that emphasized the grain even more. Accordingly, the standard DVD issued years ago looks fairly dismal. The HD DVD, on the other hand, gives a reasonably good presentation of the appearance of the picture, especially its soft, golden and romantic glow. That isn't natural HD material, but the added pixels help keep the grain from being sparkly or annoying. It doesn't seem to be quite as grainy as I remember theatrical prints as being, so there still may be some digital noise reduction going on but the grain structure is still quite evident so it's satisfactory.

As noted above, there are frequent moments of eye-popping color a la Bava or Argento, and the HD DVD brings them across admirably. Particularly striking is the scene of Kidman's confession of her dream, as the couple is bathed in deep blue, with the gold of her wedding band the only color breaking up the blueness. The picture is detailed enough that one can plainly read the entire newspaper article about one character's death, including an in-joke reference to Kubrick's assistant, Leon Vitali (who also played Red Cloak) as a fashion designer.

One concern is that the headroom is a bit lacking; it's possible that the framing is off because heads appear clipped quite often in the early going, which is quite un-Kubrick-like.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
+
English, French, Spanish, Japaneseyes


Audio Transfer Review: DD+ tracks are provided in four languages, and there's also a lossless English True HD audio track. The True HD, as is often the case, sounds best, with a wonderful presence to the insistent Ligeti piano theme as it reverberates at moments where Dr. Harford is most at risk. The jazz music in the club comes across quite well too. The sound of the organ at the orgy has excellent bass extension. This sounds better than it did in the theater. Quite fine indeed.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu
Scene Access with 38 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Japanese with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 TV Spots/Teasers
3 Documentaries
Packaging: Elite
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Acceptance speech for Directors Guild award
Extras Review: While the lack of a commentary track is a bit disappointing, there are plenty of other solid extras, though they're all in standard definition. The most prominent is the documentary The Last Movie: Stanley Kubrick and Eyes Wide Shut (43m:06), a Channel Four presentation that looks at Kubrick's working methods, the work on A.I., and the making of the feature here. There are plenty of reminiscences from Kubrick's wife and some of his daughters, as well as his friend Steven Spielberg, Cruise, Kidman, Pollack and others, and some of them get quite emotional about his death—Kidman even moreso than Kubrick's family.

Equally interesting is The Lost Kubrick (20m:18s), devoted to the projects that never got made, most notably the picture about Napoleon that obsessed him for years, and the Holocaust drama The Aryan Papers, which was torpedoed by Schindler's List. Malcolm McDowell narrates. The three interviews with Cruise, Kidman and Spielberg that were on the 2001 DVD release are ported over here too. One of the best glimpses at Kubrick himself is through his acceptance speech to the Directors Guild for the D.W. Griffith Lifetime Achievement Award (4m:02s). The package is wrapped up by two TV spots and a trailer.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

Kubrick's final film is delivered in fine style, and on reassessment it holds up exceedingly well.

 


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