Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut was released in 1999. At the time it was released I had just won a major screenwriting competition and was about to have a script optioned by a major US distributor.
I had been a big Kubrick fan since the early 90s and had seen all his films and read as much about the man as I could. I was a Kubrick Fanboy. Stanley died before the film was released and as I watched it in the cinema I decided I wouldn’t see a film like this again.
The film was critically bashed, as lots of Kubrick films before had been. There was a book written at the time by the screenwriter of the film. The book attempted to show that Kubrick wasn’t half as clever as he thought he was, but the book to me reflects just as badly on the writer himself and I thought Kubrick actually came off a lot better than the author.
I’ve watched the film many times since, and it contains riches. Fifteen years later it seems just as fresh. But it might be another five years before the film is seen as the small masterpiece that it is.
It’s still a very strange and controlled film. Of course, the photography and the art direction are stunning. The recreation of New York on UK soil feels dreamlike and strange and there are many theories about what the whole thing means. It’s all open for interpretation and conspiracy. It’s lovely.
The best performance in the film is by Nicole Kidman who grows and grows under Kubrick’s gaze. Tom Cruise seems to shrink further and further from Kubrick’s gaze. Of course they were a married couple at the time. The marriage didn’t survive the making of the film.
My favourite film critic David Thompson thinks Kubrick died when he realised that Eyes Wide Shut wasn’t a patch on the work of Kubrick’s great hero Max Ophuls. This is a fair point – but who else in the 90s would have the chance to take Ophuls on at his own game with the biggest box office star in the world (and his wife)?
So, this is Stanley’s last film. A great filmmaker gone. Paul Thomas Anderson shows some hope for the future, Altman is dead and Scorsese may as well be. Coppola makes wine, as for the rest…blah…blah…blah…
So, 50 films to go…
Matthew Cooper has written for Emmerdale, Eastenders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs. He was winner of the first ever Lloyds Bank Channel Four Film Challenge and the Oscar Moore Screenplay Prize. His first short film starred a then unknown Ewan McGregor and was picked up by Channel Four when Matthew was 19 years old. He’s been a script writer for hire and filmmaker for hire for over 20 years.