First Sight: Eyes Wide Shut - A compelling triumph for Kubrick, Cruise and Kidman
A founder member of The Independent David Lister joined the paper in 1986 as Assistant Home Editor. He became the paper's arts correspondent in 1988 and is now Arts Editor and writes a column each Saturday. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
Thursday 15 July 1999
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.
Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
Ukip founder Alan Sked and Nigel Farage 'begged Enoch Powell to stand as a candidate'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...
£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...
£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...
£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...