Eyes Wide Shut

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Stanley Kubrick took on the erotic thriller genre and polarized audiences one last time in this chilly and perverse meditation on a couple in psychosexual crisis. Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman’s real-life status as a married couple (at the time) gives a unique frisson to what turned out to be Kubrick’s final film, completed just a week prior to his passing. Since the early ‘60s, Kubrick had wanted to film Arthur Schnitzler’s novella “Traumnovelle,” about a young doctor contemplating various forms of adultery and debauchery after discovering that his wife has entertained similar notions. Fully exploiting and amplifying the story’s Kafkaesque elements of paranoia and dream/reality slippage, Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut begins as Kidman’s confession of a long-held sexual fantasy drives Cruise into a furtive, obsessive pursuit of extramarital thrills on the streets of New York (among other places); eventually things take a turn for the bizarre when the no-nonsense Manhattan doctor discovers that people he knows are involved in a dangerous demimonde of secret sex clubs, leading to one of the most infamous (and deeply unsettling) masked orgies in movie history. Initially met with critical hostility, Kubrick’s final, haunting exploration of humanity’s darkest recesses has, over the ensuing years, become the object of renewed interest and critical re-evaluation. (Dir. by Stanley Kubrick, 1999, USA/UK, 159 mins., Rated R) Digital