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Eyes Wide Shut - Imagined Infidelity and Temptations of the Darkest Night

Stanley Kubrick is a master filmmaker whose work speaks volumes, responsible for a string of iconic films including: The Shining, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket, Paths of Glory, The Killing, Barry Lyndon, Lolita, Spartacus, Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb and Eyes Wide Shut.

Having only made a dozen or so films over his critically-acclaimed career, it's clear that he took his time and made the films he wanted to make. This is probably what made his career so memorable with each of his films good enough to serve as part of a film appreciation or film school course. There's an epic quality to each of them whether Jack Nicholson is smashing down a door in The Shining or a sniper is being dispatched in Full Metal Jacket. Kubrick's films are anything but boring, taking unusual situations and exploiting them for all they're worth.

Eyes Wide Shut

Having worked with some big stars and made some in the process, Eyes Wide Shut is Kubrick's last film but also one of his most unusual when you consider its context within the wider spectrum of his career. Starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, a power couple who were married at the time, casting two of Hollywood's hottest properties is an inspired move and drew considerable attention to the film beyond Kubrick's involvement. Yet, it's not in keeping with Kubrick's more low-key casting decisions, going for a big swing in a move typical of more mainstream Hollywood marketing.

Going into the cloak and dagger world of a secret society, a doctor finds himself embroiled in a dangerous game as suspicion is aroused by his thinly veiled anonymity at a masked gathering. Hearing about his wife's dream of infidelity, the good doctor finds himself in a precarious situation, tempted at various intervals as visions of his wife's surreal affair haunt his every move.

This dark underworld and New York City by night atmosphere gives Eyes Wide Shut an eerie atmosphere. Attending masked balls, stumbling onto a ritualistic gathering, walking among the super elite in their strange garb as a mysterious party's labyrinthine mansion becomes an orgy... there's a dark, sordid and twisted venture through an inferno of depravity in Eyes Wide Shut.

While Kubrick's film features nudity and naked bodies writhing from a distance, it's an erotic film experience that grapples with lust and temptation. The most shocking scenes aren't necessarily gratuitous, primarily filmed from a distance with the added kinkiness of masked participants. There's a definite creepiness inherent in all of these surreal interactions as Tom Cruise finds himself in a spiraling situation, flitting from one trial to the next.

Proving the mettle of a marriage and the bounds of fidelity, Eyes Wide Shut makes a fascinating journey into the underworld. This place is as enigmatic as a secret society, yet grounded as a spiritual proving ground for a doctor wrestling with the idea of being unfaithful. Exploring each partner's real or imagined dalliances, Kubrick questions the notion of trust, the remnants of dreams and seriousness of flirtation.

While a strange profession, being a doctor responsible for seeing a variety of patients in various stages of undress, Eyes Wide Shut makes a full spectrum exploration of monogamy, sexuality and lingering suspicions. A titillating cinematic experience, it's entertaining to see Tom Cruise muddling his way through one wild night. This "risky business" may involve prostitutes but makes for some poignant reflections when all's said and done. Casting Cruise and Kidman as co-leads does give the mystery drama another layer of pop culture credibility and self-reflective relevance but their involvement does give Eyes Wide Shut an experimental feel. In spite of solid performances, their inclusion is a bit distracting, especially within the context of the film's strong sexual undertones.

Eyes Wide Shut may be corrupted by its star power and carnal subject matter but the film's audacious spirit, thoughtful foray into the darkest realms of a marriage and seething dark mystery compel it. There's a sleazy New York night life undercurrent with some graphic palatial visuals but Cruise's perspective as a doctor does buffer the rawness of the debauchery. While long, there's rarely a dull moment, offering a voyeuristic intensity for the viewer, for Cruise as an onlooker and based on the story-within-a-story nature of a married couple playing a married couple.

Eyes Wide Shut is not for the faint-hearted but manages to hold onto a modicum of decency with a rich and rewarding resolution. Now that it's showing on Netflix, it's probably being discovered by a number of people who may be more at liberty to watch the film, whether it's for Kubrick, its stars or the kinky sexual stuff. Still, as much of an honour as it is to work with one of the true great and influential film directors, it would be interesting to hear what Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman think of their choices in retrospect - so many years later.