First Sight: Eyes Wide Shut - A compelling triumph for Kubrick, Cruise and Kidman

STANLEY KUBRICK'S over-hyped swan-song came over here yesterday - albeit briefly.

In advance of the UK opening in September, Warner Brothers rushed out a press screening, angered that Internet buffs in America were already giving away the plot.

They were angry too with US censors for outlawing a 65-second group-sex sequence with the result that it was "digitally amended". A Warner executive stood in front of critics before the screening to denounce the amended sequence as "looking ridiculous". Could an audience's appetite be further whetted? Apparently yes. Even before the title sequence, Nicole Kidman disrobed.

Kidman has spoken about the film's "voyeurism" and one wondered if Kubrick's lingering shots of her in the opening minutes would have him joining the ranks of menopausal male critics who became so excited by her on-stage nudity in London last year. It proved an unworthy suspicion. Kubrick's last film is a fitting end to his career: a charged erotic thriller, funny, suspenseful, disturbing, provocative and utterly compelling.

Cruise and Kidman play a New York doctor and wife. When she confesses to him a fantasy she had for a stranger, he is provoked - rather too easily it must be said - into indulging and exploring his own fantasies, visiting a prostitute and later a masked party where the 65-second multi-position sex scene takes place.

The film might have been stronger if Cruise and Kidman continued to explore their fear of sexual fantasy and obsessions against the humdrum of their lives, as the first half hour of the film does. Even with Frederic Raphael's taut script, the party sequence departs rapidly from reality.

But the director of The Shining and A Clockwork Orange can combine fantasy and reality, eroticism anddeviancy without losing his audience. This is the case here, though it is a great pity that, in contrast to the hype, Kidman's role is so small.

Long appreciated in Britain as a fine actress, she is excellent in the first scenes where she is drunk and overtly flirtatious at a party, followed by her dark dreams of infidelity and her inability to come to terms with them. Cruise, who is plagued by constant visions of his wife having sex with the stranger, has less range of expression. Yet the film is his. Rarely off screen, he cannot quite engage an audience or suggest mental and emotional trauma as well as his co-star.

The couple said this week that doing the film had made them talk about their own marriage and face some of its problems. Heaven help them if they ever do Macbeth.

It is better to forget the marketing and enjoy a first-rate, sexual thriller, full of menace, right up to the last suggestion of Kidman to Cruise on how they can find a cathartic solution to their problem: a final four-letter word - the last word ever in a Kubrick film.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UX Consultant

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working with a 8 st...

Recruitment Genius: Part-time Editor

£8000 - £12000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A unique opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Executive

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An exceptional opportunity has arisen for a pa...

Recruitment Genius: Kitchen and Bathroom Installers

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of designer kitch...

Day In a Page

Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border