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HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Eyes Wide Shut

Blu-ray Reviews

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#1 of 4 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

Matt Hough

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Posted November 12 2007 - 12:42 AM


Eyes Wide Shut (Blu-ray)
Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Studio: Warner Bros.
Year: 1999
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p VC-1 codec
Running Time: 159 minutes
Rating: NR
Audio: PCM 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 English, French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Italian
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Swedish, Portuguese
MSRP: $28.99

Release Date: October 23, 2007
Review Date: November 12, 2007


The Film

4/5

There was breathless anticipation for Eyes Wide Shut when it premiered in 1999. Its director Stanley Kubrick hadn’t produced a film since Full Metal Jacket in 1987. More importantly, since Kubrick had died before its release, the world knew that this would be the last film that he would ever direct. The allure of the high wattage star power of then-married Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman in a film that rumor had it was highly sexual also raised interest to a peak. Eight years after the fact, of course, most people know that the film received the most notorious set of divergent reviews of any in recent memory and did only middling business at the box-office. For every reviewer who thought the film was an enigmatic marvel, there were just as many or more who were convinced of its pretensions and bored with its pseudo-scandalous sexual forays. In short, the film has always split critics, and viewers have pretty much followed suit. I tend to find much more about the movie to admire than there is for me to criticize.

Bill and Alice Harford (Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman) watch one another flirt with other people at a Christmas party but momentarily keep their suspicions at bay. The next evening, however, under the influence of some pot, Alice turns aggressive and admits to her husband that she once had toyed with the idea of leaving him and their daughter if a handsome naval officer had given her an ounce of opportunity. Shocked and dismayed, Bill blunders into the night, first on the pretext of comforting the family of a patient who had died but later spiraling into an hours-long odyssey of psychosexual emotion and experience: a near gay-bashing in the street, a close encounter with a hooker, and eventually at a masked ball where the sport of the night is public intercourse. He’s unmasked as an interloper at the ball which leads to an even more bizarre series of experiences as he tries to piece together the weird events of the preceding evening.

As with much of Stanley Kubrick’s work (the script was worked on by many hands but Kubrick and Oscar-winner Frederic Raphael get the screen credit), the pace is deliberate, there is much that is unsaid that the viewer must ascertain and discern for himself, and the main character finds himself at the end of the film a wholly different person from the experiences we have witnessed. Raphael was responsible for two of the most sophisticated adult films of the 1960s, Darling and Two for the Road, both of which focused on somewhat unconventional and seriously troubled marriages, and the Harfords are entirely worthy to join in that designation. Both are beautiful people with longings and hungers that finally bubble to the surface during the events of the film, and their ultimate end as a couple seems cloudy and uncertain.

Tom Cruise does the lion’s share of the work here. It’s really his movie, and while he does very well by the character of the doctor shaken to his core by the mere thought of his wife’s infidelity, his work pales in comparison to Nicole Kidman’s who really reaches depths of emotion with her characterization that she hadn’t plumbed much before this film. After this astonishing series of monologues that are raw and lacerating in their earnestness, we see that there is a great deal more to this lady than a beautiful figure and a spot-on American accent. After seeing her in her Golden Globe-winning To Die For, in the skillful thriller Malice, and in this movie, I never had any further doubts about Kidman’s ability as an actress to engage me.

Oscar-winning director Sydney Pollack plays Cruise’s friend Victor Ziegler who holds several trump cards during the film that change the game for the Harfords. In smaller roles are Rade Sherbedgia as a costume shop owner, Todd Field as a former pianist friend who drags Bill into the evening’s most bizarre events, Alan Cumming as a hotel desk clerk with some answers, and the very young Leelee Sobieski as a teenager attracted to older men.

Many have found the film to be much ado about nothing, but I much prefer letting Kubrick take me for a long, leisurely ride, giving me a few startling and uneasy moments along the way, and then allowing me to judge for myself what I thought of the trip after it’s over. With the hauntingly evocative piano score of Jocelyn Pook and some grotesque sights and situations being pictured, Eyes Wide Shut seems a fitting finale to a directorial career of offbeat and provocative movies.

Video Quality

3.5/5

The film’s 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio finally comes to home video after previous full frame releases. Warners has mastered the film in 1080p using the VC-1 codec. Its video quality is schizophrenic in nature. Many of the early scenes are shot through diffused light which intensifies the grain and flattens out and softens the image. Occasionally there are interior scenes and some street scenes that have the wonderfully sharp, three dimensional look we expect from the best high definition transfers. Color can be very striking, blacks are well above average, and shadow detail is quite good. The print used is clean and free from any age related damage, but this is not reference quality material. The film has been divided into 38 chapters.

Audio Quality

3/5

The PCM 5.1 soundtrack (48 kHz, 4.6 Mbps) is disappointingly front-centric. Though the music occasionally echoes through the rear channels, there is really very little going on there throughout the film’s lengthy running time.

Special Features

4/5

“The Last Movie: Stanley Kubrick and Eyes Wide Shut is a 43-minute documentary dealing not only with Eyes Wide Shut but also features interviews with other writers, directors, and actors who worked with Kubrick down through the years. In fact, not nearly enough time is spent in this featurette on Eyes Wide Shut which, lacking a commentary, deserved a more in-depth treatment of its themes and interpretations. It’s presented in 480p.

“Lost Kubrick: The Unfinished Films of Stanley Kubrick” is a 20-minute 480p discussion of the two primary films (apart from A. I. subsequently directed by Steven Spielberg) that Kubrick lavished much time on before abandoning them: a life of Napoleon and The Aryan Papers, a Holocaust drama. Other films, notably Waterloo and Schindler’s List, beat him to the punch so he was either forced or willingly chose to go on to other things.

Directors’ Guild Award Acceptance Speech is the 4-minute videotaped speech which Kubrick made when he was honored with the lifetime achievement tribute, the D. W. Griffith Award. It’s presented in 480p and introduced by Jack Nicholson.

Interview Gallery is a collection of three interviews filmed soon after Kubrick’s death by film stars Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, and director-friend Steven Spielberg. These 480i interviews have been ported over from the first DVD release of Eyes Wide Shut and run a collected total of 35 minutes.

The theatrical trailer and two TV spots, all in 480i, run a total of two minutes and feature much of the same clip footage in all three versions.

In Conclusion

4/5 (not an average)

Eyes Wide Shut continues to be a pensive, languorous study of a marriage in trouble. Though possibly not as provocative as many had hoped, the film nevertheless features fine acting, some brilliant directorial touches, and the unmistakable imprint of one of the world’s premier directors.


Matt Hough
Charlotte, NC

#2 of 4 OFFLINE   Doug Pyle

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Posted November 12 2007 - 09:49 PM

Matt, Thanks for your review.

In addition, here is what I MOST needed to know, and am most pleased to learn - found in another thread here at HTF:

Quote:
WHV has taken steps to correct any possible misunderstanding in the marketplace by affixing to the packaging stickers stating "This package contains ONLY the Unrated Version of Eyes Wide Shut." and "Not Rated: Includes Unrated Version Only."


Finally, Warner Home Video has done right with an un-censored US release of Eyes Wide Shut. I will gladly be adding this to my collection!

#3 of 4 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted November 13 2007 - 01:44 AM

Thanks for the reminder, Doug. It had been my intention to change the rating above before I posted the review (I actually thought I had changed it), but it's changed now. This release definitely contains only the unrated version.

#4 of 4 OFFLINE   onecent

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Posted November 18 2007 - 01:39 PM

Thanks for the review, Matt. This wasn't a favorite of mine when it first came out so I think I'll skip this version.