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Eyes Wide Shut

Kubrick’s last film, Eyes Wide Shut is a remarkably faithful adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler’s 1926 novel Traumnovelle. The setting is moved from Vienna in the 1920s to contemporary New York, where the central characters, successful doctor Bill Harford (Tom Cruise) and his wife Alice (Nicole Kidman), attend a fancy Christmas party at the house of Victor Ziegler (Sydney Pollack), where each engages in flirtation. Back home, Alice challenges Bill’s confidence in her faithfulness by telling him a story about her sexual attraction to a naval officer a year earlier. Haunted by images of Alice’s fantasy, Bill drifts into a series of adventures consisting of sexual temptations or provocations, all of which prove abortive. Bill is similar to some of Kubrick’s earlier male protagonists, especially Humbert in Lolita. Like Humbert, he becomes lost in a maze of sexual ambiguity and frustration. The film is about the unclear separations of imagination and reality, between dreaming and waking. It’s a theme that Kubrick subtly elaborates through his stylised presentation of events. What is unusual in this late masterpiece is that the director gives almost equal weight to both male and female characters as they negotiate the threat to their relationship. The conclusion may be ambiguous, but it is the closest thing in Kubrick’s work to a happy ending.
U.K./U.S.A., 1999.
Colour.
Dolby digital stereo.
159 mins.

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