Monday, August 11, 2008

Eyes Wide Shut

Hey guys,

I have more sex questions! What do you think about this old article of mine on Eyes Wide Shut? I wrote this as part of our study on subtext.

-MM

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The first and most obvious choice for subtext in this movie would be the attempt of the Hungarian, Sandor Szavost, to seduce Alice at Ziegler’s party. It began with Szavost asking her, “Did you ever read the Latin poet Ovid on the ‘Art of Love?” This was, of course, a flagrant invitation to adultery, because “Art of Love” was essentially about the art of taking on mistresses. Ovid was a dirty-boy version of Emily Post offering up rules of adultery-etiquette for Rome’s elite. It’s full of poetic advice about bribing the porters and the servants, becoming friendly with the girl’s maid, buying gifts, sending flattering letters, and basically stalking the intended target. In fact, Szavost drinking Alice’s glass is a move he lifted right out of Ovid’s manual. You get the impression that the Hungarian probably had to leave (or was banished from) his country much the same way Ovid was kicked out of Rome by Augustus.

But there’s more. The subtext I’d like to really focus on has to do with Bill and Alice’s interaction with their daughter, Helena, scenes I’m sure nobody cared to watch because they paid to see an adult film. However, I think there’s an important deeper meaning behind that interaction full of subtext unlike all of the other subtext in the movie. I have to set this up correctly first. I don’t know how well I can articulate this, but I’ll try…

We all know that Kubrick’s movies are never simply about the lead character’s journey. He doesn’t write stories like we do. He’s always thinking in broader terms and he’s making statements about mankind, history, civilization, power, etc. As
Tim Kreider so aptly pointed out, a Kubrick story should not be weighed by its psychology but by it sociology. He’s absolutely right. We went to see this movie with our eyes wide open for a wildly erotic visual feast in a normal psychological kind of story. Well, Stanley doesn't work that way. So then we (and the critics) all walked away saying, “What the hell was that all about?”

Kubrick tells us in the title that we're not going to really see what we’re looking at. And he's right, of course. We didn't see it. We still don't see it. We’re so blinded by the beauty, by the eroticism, and by that little orgy in the mansion that, like Bill and Alice, our eyes are wide shut to the deeper meaning of what we’re seeing. We’re still not acknowledging what was really going on. This is not a movie about sex and fantasy. In a way it was, but it wasn't. Kubrick’s deeper meaning here was, in fact, his condemnation of the ultra-wealthy and their devouring, demoralizing impact on society.

Consider the way Bill used his position and money time and again toward immoral ends. I’d go even further to say that the subtext of all the talk about money is really about sex. It’s also made very clear that Bill is not part of the ultra-elite in which he serves. (He has to sneak in to the orgy.) Just as Nick Nightingale is on call to play the piano wherever they tell him to go, Bill is on call to fix and cover up the things that go wrong like Mandy in Ziegler’s bathroom. Kubrick’s point was not simply to show Mandy’s perfect body so we can be titillated by it and recognize her later at the mansion, but in fact, it was to show us that beyond the façade of civilized society, beyond the beauty, glamour, and supreme wealth, there is gluttony, exploitation, and death. And yet, oddly enough, Bill wants to be a part of that club. In the opening scenes, he cares more about going to Ziegler’s party then looking at Alice and answering her question about how she looks. When he says “to be continued” to the model-nymphs at Ziegler’s party, we know that he is, indeed, tempted to go to that place “where the rainbow ends,” which coincidentally leads him to that Rainbow Costume Shop and on to the orgy at the mansion.

The orgy was not about the orgy. It was not even about reality. New York was not meant to look exactly like New York, which was a big complaint critics had at the time. For God’s sake, Stanley grew up in the Bronx. When Jon Ronson was invited to dig through the archives of Kubrick’s estate after his death, he found a box full of HUNDREDS of photos of doorways because Kubrick was obsessed about finding the perfect doorway for the hooker’s apartment. Of course, in the film, it looks no different than many doorways you’d find in Lower Manhattan. How can you not think that every detail in Kubrick’s film was not meticulously and intensely staged? Or that there was nothing in his movie that was not obsessively calculated? Stanley is not to be underestimated. You cannot disregard the work of a genius because you didn’t get it the first time you saw it.

Everything was designed to be very dream-like, wasn’t it? Do you think that when Bill was sitting in the cab imagining (which we see in black-and-white) Alice’s fantasy, that his dreams ended there? It could be argued that almost the entire film takes place in Bill’s mind. “Wait, wait, Mystery Man! Just hold on! How do you explain that part at the end when he found the mask on his pillow, which led to his breakdown and confession? That was real, wasn’t it? Didn’t Alice put that mask on the pillow to confront Bill?” Well, that’s one way of looking at it. Another way is to say that the organizers of the orgy snuck into his home and put the mask on his pillow to scare him. And yet another way of looking
at it is to say that only Bill saw a mask on a pillow. When Alice woke up, she never once acknowledged a mask.

So what was the orgy really about? It was not about an orgy. The visit to the mansion was the stuff of dreams and nightmares, of myths and legends. Bill finally reaches “the rainbow’s end,” the inner sanctum of the ultra-imperial-elite only to discover that they are horrifyingly evil. Kubrick gives an allegory through dream-like imagery to show us that the ultra-elite is depraved, soulless, gluttonous, and exploitative. That’s the point of the orgy. All those people who are so supremely powerful and wealthy (that if Bill knew who they were he “might not sleep so well”) begin their feast of collective consumption with an openly satanic ritual led by a high priest in a crimson gown, a figure no less scary than the devil himself. The kissing with the masks is so sterile it robs the exchange of any real human emotion. In fact, the masks and the cloaks turned all the men inside the mansion into variations of the same thing – empty, soulless, dehumanized figures of self-indulgence. And you just know that all of the women in the opening ceremony are going to be abused and passed along from one man to the next. This place is, at its core, a living organism of evil capable of killing anyone in order to preserve itself, which is why Bill’s life was in danger for penetrating the orgy (pardon the pun). This may have also been why Mandy was willing to give her life to save Bill’s because he once saved hers, because he was in her eyes the only decent human in the mansion worth saving.

And that brings us back to Alice (which will bring us to Helena). Because of Bill’s interest in a different life, in being part of the ultra-elite, he became uninvolved and disconnected from his wife which in turn made her nothing more than an object to him to be used whenever he wanted her. And her resentment of his attitude surfaces only in her dreams and when she’s stoned. From that first opening shot, she is presented to us as an object of desire, as she casually strips off her clothes for our amusement. Everyone from the babysitter to Ziegler to Szavost praises her only for her looks. Her daily regimen is pretty much devoted to rigorously maintaining her looks. She's constantly looking at herself in the mirror. During the film’s iconic moment (pictured at the top) of her husband walking up to her and starting to have sex with her, she looks at herself in the mirror, amused at first, then aroused, and just before the shot fades, she almost self-consciously acknowledges to herself in a disturbing way what she really is or even perhaps, what she’s managed to get for herself in life.

Kubrick likes to make visual statements about a character that requires more than one viewing to notice. (Or, thank God, you could look them up on the internet.) In any case, Kubrick visually associates Alice with all the other women in this movie, and he is, therefore, making statements about Alice as the prostitute wife. For instance, she’s identified with Mandy. They are both first presented to us in bathrooms. They both have a penchant for drugs. Mandy’s final night of her life in which “she got her brains fucked out” by many men is echoed disturbingly in Alice’s dream. Alice is also associated with Domino by the purple bed sheets and the similar dressing-table mirrors, essential for any true courtesan. It could be argued that there is only one woman in this film. All the women Bill encounters are various incarnations of the one he is truly seeking – his wife.

And then there is Helena, their daughter, named after the most beautiful woman in history. The subtext of all of their interaction with her is really about her being groomed to be the same kind of high-class object as her mo
ther. During the day, she is always with her, observing her, learning from her. She wants to stay up to watch “The Nutcracker,” which is, of course, about a little girl whose toy comes to life and turns into a handsome prince. The fact that this story takes place during Christmas-time is no coincidence. This is when consumerism is at its height. Later, when Helena reads the bedtime story, she recites, “before me when I jump into my bed.” Alice mouths it along with her. In the dining room, Alice helps Helena with a little math problem - how to calculate which boy has more money. There’s a photo of Helena in a purple dress in Bill’s office, eerily reminiscent of the one worn by Domino the night before.

In the final scene in the toy store, Helena’s carefully observed actions speak volumes. Alice said she was “expecting” them to take her “Christmas Shopping” (even though they already have piles of presents under the tree). Perhaps the trip was so Helena could shop for her friends, which is telling, because she only thinks about herself in the store. She wants everything in sight. She wants the blue baby carriage (similar to the blue stroller we saw twice outside Domino's door). Then she grabs an oversized teddy bear. Then she shows them a Barbie doll dressed as an angel, which was no coincidence, because Helena herself wore an angel costume in the opening sequence when she asked if she could watch “The Nutcracker.” Should I even mention the mound of bright red board games called “Magic Circle,” an allusion to the ritual involving the ring of prostitutes at the mansion? The red color of the boxes certainly bring to mind the carpeting in the great hall. Helena runs down an aisle full of stuffed tigers that look suspiciously similar to the one on Domino's bed...


While her parents decide to forget (and ignore) their deeper problems with a “fuck,” Helena dances around the store losing her soul. Their eyes, like ours, are still wide shut.

34 comments:

David Alan said...

This was a fucking awful, pointless movie that moves along at a breakneck turtle pace. Don’t boo me just yet. My reasoning is that nobody but us will want to read into movies. General audiences just want to be entertained. Again, I don’t think sex has ever solely sold people on certain movies. Sex can only help sell a movie. Plus, the subtext doesn’t really matter if it’s that deep and hidden. Still, I do agree the sex has to have meaning within an entertaining story. If not...well, it's pointless.

Matt said...

I think... that I should EYES WIDE SHUT again. And I mean that in a good way.

nestori said...

David Alan says: "General audiences just want to be entertained."

I get agitated whenever I hear or read that kind of argumentation and logic. So people just want rollercoasters and ice cream? Why does someone like Don DeLillo bother writing because people just want to read Tom Clancy or whatever?

I hate the idea that movies has to be just entertainment for people who want to forget their numbing jobs and the world around them. Movies can be both entertainment and art. And I really enjoyed Eyes Wide Shut, and after seeing it the second and third time I came to enjoy and understand it even more.

I quote Mystery Man: "You cannot disregard the work of a genius because you didn’t get it the first time you saw it.", or you cannot disregard the work of art because you didn’t get it the first time you saw it.

I haven't read the novel that it's based on but the title is revealing. "Traumnovelle", Dream Story in english. So it's a dream, isn't it? And the title of the movie Eyes Wide Shut. You don't sleep with your eyes open. The title of the movie of course refers to other meanings also, as MM writes.

I thought that Eyes Wide Shut has loosely similar structure as in Homer's Odyssey (I once read Kubrick's interview where he mentions the importance of myths to storytelling, so maybe it's not so far-fetched idea). The nightly sexual odyssey of Bill Harford who wanders around after hearing his wife's fantasy and encounters different "obstacles" and in the end returns to his wife after maybe unconsciously slaying all the suitors of his imagination. Every encounter of Bill is a sort of sexual possibility of a different sort. We have the prostitute, the underaged, the homosexual, the (almost) married woman, he flirts with the woman in the coffee house and so forth. Sex and possibility of sex is present in the movie in almost every scene.

Emily Blake said...

That movie was weird and I saw it from the very first row so it was also uncomfortable.

Matt said...

To throw my two cents into nestori's point... right now, the movie that has been at the top of the box office for four weeks running is a film that is deep, and complex, mature and adult, that at the end of the day is more thought-provoking than entertaining. So suffice it to say, I think david alan has a wobbly thesis.

David Alan said...

Actually it proves my point. The average moviegoer can walk into The Dark Knight and come out entertained without having to peel away its layers to get or understand it. In fact, it’s pretty straightforward.

A movie has to first and foremost entertain. Why I even have to point this out is beyond me. Movies that fail to do so will bomb. This concept doesn’t just apply to lower budget movies either. Look at Mummy 3. Nor is “entertaining” just delegated to action and thriller movies. After all, what are the most common phrases that come to a person’s mind after seeing a trailer? This looks good. It could be entertaining. That’s going to be fun. Ugh, why even bother?

Before learning the craft, I was just an average moviegoer wanting to be entertained. It didn’t matter what genre did so. Eyes Wide Shut failed at the basics. I went into the movie to see that great chemistry between Cruise and Kidman that I fell in love with in Days of Thunder. I didn’t get that. I was treated to an almost pretentious movie. That’s just me.

-- David Alan

On another note, I’m done discussing peoples various interpretations of what’s entertaining. This thread is about sex. It worked for you then it worked. As stated above, it didn’t work for me and wasn’t what got me to the theater.

Laura Deerfield said...

I got no problem with weird, and I love movies that make me read into them. I think that there was a lot of interesting stuff going on in Eyes Wide Shut... unfortunately the pace was so uniform that it grated on me, like the music. It was like listening to someone speaking slowly and deliberately for hours on end, punctuated with fists slamming on a keyboard.

I wondered, on seeing it, whether Kubrick would have had another go at the editing.

Christian M. Howell said...

There was sex in that movie? Where the hell was I?

LOL

I thought it ws rather disturbing for the very reasons mentioned. As he is escorted through we see women being used like toys while the men hide their "shame" behind masks.

It was also telling how the piano player knew the depths of the depravity but still went "to get paid."

Sidney Pollack was "extra-dimensional" in his portrayal of the mid range lech. I didn't think the movie was at all about sex but about hidden desires and unspoken truths.

I love a movie that will show you something new everytime you watch it. It's my favorite thing to write. I especially like it when three people se something different. That's entertainment. At least of the intellectual type.

The term entertain is very abstract because some are entertained by blood-spattering while others are entertained by a soft melody.

I always say I'd rather have 50 people who would see the movie 50 times than 2500 that see it once. Cinematic ambiguity is the sure way there. General understanding should be the same but good scenes can mean different things to different people.

I'm working on one adult movie that has about 6 sex scenes but almost ZERO nudity. That makes it rather abstract and some people watching may not even see a sex act.

JustBill said...

I cast my lot with David Alan. The concept of Entertainment strikes me as not just this or that, but a continuum. Mildly diverting might be at one end, then sort of interesting, interesting, amusing, fun, funny, hilarious, great fun, fascinating, compelling, earth-shaking, couldn’t look away from the screen – and so on, with lots of gradations in between, and different stuff floats different boats.

For some people (weirdos) “educational” and “symbolically significant” and “artistically superior” are on the entertainment continuum, for others they are over in another category (maybe those preparing a PhD thesis).

I love MM, but the detailed analysis of dress colors and toys in the attic is way too much for me. Who sees all that stuff? I’ve watched my DVD of “Blue” maybe five or six times, and I’m about due to pull it out and watch it again because I love the experience of watching that movie. And I think I do see more and more things in it each time I watch it. And I watch “Blade Runner” once a year (the rationing builds anticipation). But not WEWS.

One thing MM left out is Nicole Kidman’s narration of the naval officer and the love at first sight experience she had just seeing him in a restaurant (I think it was). She says if he’d asked, she would have walked out with him leaving everything, I think she says. For me that was the key moment and best moment in the movie. How about getting that in there, MM?

I think Kubrick got totally carried away, too many people telling him what an incredible genius he was and, finally, he believed it and acted accordingly.

nestori said...

Ok, this isn't about sex in movies, but I'll answer to the debate that I started or took part in.

I have nothing against entertainment. I enjoy movies that are only entertaining as well as movies like EWS that makes you think, or even forces you to think and feel differently (although to me EWS is entertaining as is Blade Runner etc.) I just don't like the idea of underestimating the audience, and I hate too calculated movie making. I don't want to argue about what is entertaining and what isn't, but I myself want to see movies that feels like the makers themselves believe in those movies and that those movies are important to them personally and not just financially. I also prefer people that are honest rather than people that have a need to please everyone. The same goes with movies. But if your main goal is just to make lots of money, then that's your business, but you could be manifacturing something else than movies also.

To me movies are not just about entertainment in that empty sense that maybe roller coasters are entertaining. Roller coasters make you feel overwhelming sensations and then you leave the amusement park with nothing gained. But I'm not a fan of "educational" movies either. I don't like movies that try to teach me something, but I enjoy movies that try to ask me something. I prefer experiences that enrichens to empty entertaining sensations. I still do, every now and then, enjoy those "empty sensations" or just entertaining movies, as I like to eat hamburgers and french fries every now and then instead of food with real nutritional value. But I cannot live on hamburgers only. I really NEED movies that makes me think, otherwise I feel numb and empty. As a human being I have a need to think, to feel and to use my body and to improve or maintain all those aspects of being human, and not just in hedonistic sense. I don't want to indulge in just one aspect of being human.

I also believe - that's just my theory - that the so called general audience is ready for more than just "popcorn flicks". Making people watch your movie has a lot to do with marketing and the images that media makes, not just the entertainment value of the movie. I know a lot of people from the so called general audience that are left unsatisfied with those much-hyped blockbusters that everyone wants to see because the media has been buzzing about them. They thinks it was "just ok" or it didn't live up to the expectations that the media had generated, but still they bought the ticket because of the hype, and the money goes into the pockets of the producers. That's the easy way of making movies, but unsatisfying in the long run. My conviction is that filmmakers should take risks, because without taking risks you don't get to make those movies that will still be watched and enjoyed and discussed 20 or more years later. I believe that being a talented screenwriter or filmmaker has more to do with taking risks than knowing how to please the audience. That doesn't mean that you don't have to know the craft. (Now you can see: I'm an idealist, a rare species and maybe not the most adaptable).

I understand that movies like EWS are not for everyone, but still there are people that really need those movies, and people that will go to watch those movies. And I do believe that a movie has to be somewhat entertaining (or at least interesting) to make you want to watch it from beginning to end. But I also think that cinema is too rich form of expression to be left solely to the hands of entertainers. Movies like EWS are maybe not the biggest money makers, but who wants to make movies just for money and to please audiences anyway? You want people to see your movie but you don't want to be a kiss ass, am I right?

Let all the flowers bloom, I say, and keep those entertaining as well as thought-provoking movies, for PhDs and other people who wants their brains poked, coming. Peace out.

Anonymous said...

I thought the movie stunk. Seriously. Pure trash.

Mystery Man said...

David - Hehehe... I disagree. People delve into the deep meaning behind every little detail in "Lost", the TV show, why not a movie?

Matt - Yeah, keep an eye on those details.

Nestori - Great post.

Emily - All I can say is, it totally befuddled me when I first saw it, and I'm just happy I have some answers now.

David - I do agree that movies have to entertain on some level, certainly. But how do you define that? Kubrick fans found themselves entertained by EWS, did they not?

Laura - The pacing still bothers me, and frankly, pacing is an issue with me for most Kubrick films.

Christian - Sidney Pollack and Kidman made that film for me. They were fabulous to watch. Good luck on that story.

JustBill - great points. You won't find me defending EWS too passionately. I just felt that, in a two-part series on Sex in Screenwriting, there's an expectation that I should say something about EWS, and that's all I have to give on that film. Great point about Nicole's monologue, but I wonder, how it fit into the overall story? I think it supports the ideas that it's really about affairs of the mind, the possible consequences of sharing that. She just knocked him on his ass with that speech, which is one of the high points for me. I think Kubrick truly was a genius. I just posted that vid about all of his boxes. The man was insanely brilliant.

Nestori - What a fabulous post. I really loved that.

-MM

David Alan said...

MM -- "I disagree. People delve into the deep meaning behind every little detail in "Lost", the TV show, why not a movie?"

Man, you’re talking apples and oranges. Thanks to the DVR, or digital video recorder, people have the ability to record programs like "Lost", watch and re-watch them as much as they like, and skip through all the commercials for free. People don’t have that ability in a theater.

But regardless, people certainly don’t drive through traffic, purchase a ticket, popcorn and a coke to NOT be entertained, and then go back and purchase another ticket to understand why they weren’t entertained! If so, I think they need help.

MM -- "I do agree that movies have to entertain on some level, certainly. But how do you define that? Kubrick fans found themselves entertained by EWS, did they not?"

To quote a great man...

"I would rather entertain and hope that people learned something than educate people and hope they were entertained."

-- Walt Disney

True, Kubrick fans were entertained by Eyes Wide Shut, but it is a niche movie, and like most QT movies, people will go out to see them simply because it is a QT movie. With that said, I believe a movie’s primary obligation is to entertain from the lowest common denominator to the highest common denominator, and when they do, they are simply entertaining and have significance.

Examples:

...Back to the Future...
...Romancing the Stone...
...Star Wars...
...Indiana Jones...
...The Abyss...
...Terminator...
...Titanic...
...Ghostbusters...
...E.T. ...
...Jaws...

...and these kinds of movies are also very commercial and make a lot of money. My point, you don’t write a movie to make a lot of money, you do it to entertain your audience, and it just so happens that the byproduct of an entertaining movie is that it makes a lot of money.

Now, I’m not saying you have to dumb down movies, mess with the point you’re trying to get across, or strip away the layers of subtext embedded in a movie to entertain the audience. Look at Star Wars, it’s layered in all kinds of mythology that most people have never come to realize, but that realization isn’t needed to enjoy or understand the movie.

Arguably Kubrick’s greatest works -- The Shining, Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey -- are also the most entertaining and commercial. Anybody can watch these movies and be entertained...unlike Eyes Wide Shut...in which 95 percent of the audience didn’t get Kubrick’s message, so what was the point? Self-fulfillment? The average moviegoer isn’t going to dissect the different layers of a movie for entertainment. I guess Eyes Wide Shut wasn’t meant for the general audience...and it certainly didn’t appeal to the general audience.

-- David Alan

AUi said...

I'm surprised nobody mentioned the trainwreck appeal of seeing the Cruise/Kidman chemistry in a film about infidelity, made right before they separated. One has to wonder if Kubrick mined their relationship drama or worked in irritating aspects of their celebrity/personalities--it definitely helped sell tickets.

In an inverse way, the Pitt/Jolie movie Mr. & Mrs Smith also mined this personal chemistry--but of a relationship developing between the actors.

There was little notice in the comments--that MM's primary thesis was about the director's focus on elite decadence. The Cruise/Kidman relationship has always had a weird chemistry, and they can seem pompous and irritating much like the bad guys.

One was forced to wonder if they might be a little off in real life, like they were in the movie, and what were the motivations that led to their choice in the casting.

colquisp said...

Eyes Wide Shut is the best movie ever made -- I watch it constantly and every time I see new things.

Triangles (Christmas Trees) reflect Masonic imagery....

Circles = eyes watching

There's an eye projected on Bill's back as he re-enters his apartment after the orgy.

I could keep going but instead simply direct you to read this analysis:
http://www.rigorousintuition.ca/board/viewtopic.php?t=8575

colquisp said...

http://www.rigorousintuition.ca/board/viewtopic.php?t=8575

edited -- this is the correct link.

OK - this is weird...As I was posting my comment, the song on my Zune that came up was the theme to Lolita. I have over 6,400 songs on the Zune. Why did THAT one come up?

colquisp said...

http://www.rigorousintuition.ca/board/viewtopic.php?
t=8575

for some reason the link is truncated.

it ends in t=8575

Mystery Man said...

David - I had to think about your comment and email. I agree with you. I think I was equating "being entertaining" with dumbing down today's cinema, which unsettles me, because I think people can be very satisfied when a film goes deeper and they are able to go along with it. I don't know how to articulate. People respect excellent standards. But being entertaining is certainly a part of that. I can't articulate it.

Colquisp - "There's an eye projected on Bill's back as he re-enters his apartment after the orgy." Are you kidding me? I didn't notice that. Now I have to see it again.

-MM

MM said...

Nice article, MM.
EWS has grown on me over the years, with something new to discover in every viewing.
Take note sometime of the paintings done by Kubricks wife Christiane, that appear as set decoration throughout the film. (You can find several available in print form here)-
http://www.christianekubrick.com

You can make what you will of the symbolism of the subject of the artwork to the scene, but it adds yet another facet to viewing this film.

I noticed the repeating "illuminated pyramid" motif showing up quite subtly in the painting "Seedbox theatre" (http://tinyurl.com/56cto2)
displayed in the characters apartment, and will always wonder how much of a collaborative effort those paintings were in reinforcing some of the symbolism you described.

The "eye" projection is one of many deft bits you'll find if you watch this film with a sharp eye...so to speak. Like the appearance of the death head shape jumbled into reflections on an iron gate when the jealous rage begins to build in Bill when he's walking down a dark street with a head full of adulterous visions of his wife.

"breakneck turtle pace"?
Maybe Stanley wanted us to take a really long look at some things that make us uncomfortable.

I'm sure ready for an entertaining adventure flick to distract me from examining the often-distressing state of relationships in our world, both personal and social.

MM (different one)

MaxBro said...

Firstly, just discovered the great blog you have going here, MM.

I remember seeing EWS right when it came out and thinking that it had a deeper meaning, but I had no idea what any of it was all about at the time. Your essay helps shed a lot of light on an otherwise confusing piece of cinema that was panned mostly because critics were expecting another Shining or Clockwork Orange from Kubrick rather than the erotic thriller he gave them.

My only problem with EWS is that there is such a thing as too much subtext. The Shining had plenty of it, but it was all mostly understandable if you paid attention. I'm thinking of the scene between Mr. Hollarann and Danny, where you can tell Mr. Hollarann has the shining also and he knows of horrors in the mansion but he can't quite articulate them to Danny like he wants. It's a strange, surreal scene similar to the bathroom scene between Jack and the bartender later in the film.

My point is that those scenes are understandable. But even if you don't understand them, you feel the effect--horror, disorientation, and other feelings that accompany a good ghost movie.

But with EWS, not only is some of the meaning so hidden, it fails to even affect you how it should. Should I feel dismayed at the abuse of power by the elite? Do I even know the elite are the enemies in the film? What the hell is even going on anyway?

If you're right about EWS being some kind of treatise against the elite, doesn't it contradict itself by making itself so hard to understand only elite critics can understand it? Wouldn't that just make it the equivalent of one big inside joke among the elite themselves?

Anonymous said...

I dunno if you still read these MM, but I enjoyed this blog on Eyes Wide Shut. I can tell you've read the Kreider essay, heh. I love the film and have found a bunch of write-ups on it over time. Here's a link to a great, albeit long, analysis I stumbled upon:

http://www.starpathvisions.com/eyeswideshut.html

P.S. Fuck David Alan ;)

Mystery Man said...

Anon - the link didn't work for me. But thanks for the comment.

-MM

Anonymous said...

Oh, whoops. You have to capitalize the title.

http://www.starpathvisions.com/EyesWideShut.html

Mystery Man said...

Anon - fabulous! thank you! I'll definitely read it.

-MM

Dillweed said...

I didn't read the article, but the next time you watch the film, pay very close attention to the character of Sally, Domino's roommate. Domino was the prostitute Cruise meets on the street, goes to her apartment, and pays but does not shtup.

Cruise returns the next night, but Domino is gone and Sally invites him in.

The actress conveys more subtext in a four minute scene, and was sexier than anyone else in the entire film, and she never shows skin.

Fwap city.

Mike said...

Something that has always bothered me about analyzing a film or almost anything else for that matter is when people argue about what they think. Don't get me wrong I love reading all the insights on here, but I just feel that what you take out of a movie is never wrong. I definitely don't feel the way David Alan felt, but if that's what he got out of this movie then that's what he got.
A movie example that comes to mind to illustrate my frustration would be the scene in "American Beauty" where the character Ricky describes the bag blowing in the wind as a little kid begging to play and the most beautiful thing he has ever filmed. Well if David Alan walked by and said the bag to him was just a reminder of all the trash and pollution in the world then that would just be another insight. To watch these two argue about who was right would just frustrate me. Nobodies wrong when explaining what you took out of something. Just shed some new light or another perspective and leave it at that.
I figure no one is going to read this because this post is so old but I just watched EWS for the first time and got my own interpretations of what happened and wanted to look for more insights to further my understanding so I read this post. I really enjoyed a bunch of these things that everyone one put on here. I personally felt like the further that Bill went down the road of the rainbow the more it destroyed the people around him. Just like it would a married man's family as he went further down that path. Also the last scene of the movie to me was a married couple trying to continue living with each other in spite their mistakes and adventures. After reading Mystery Mans post I think I have missed what Kubrick was actually going for but I don't think that makes what I took out of it wrong. By the way I'm excited to watch it again.

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