Thursday, June 2, 2011

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

After his wife (Nicole Kidman) makes a startling confession, Dr. Bill Harford (Tom Cruise) descends into the dark and dreamlike world of New York after dark.

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As much as I love early Kubrick (especially The Killing and Dr. Strangelove) it is the later films that I find myself returning to for visual inspiration. Up through Strangelove, Stanley covered scenes in a fairly conventional way. Of course the lighting was always beyond reproach, but his framing and angles were still very much in keeping with other filmmakers of the time. But after 2001 all bets were off. From that point on there is a distinct visual unity to his work that is uniquely his own. Very few set-ups, a taller ratio, symmetrical compositions, zooms and natural/source lighting. All the fat is trimmed away.

Regardless of genre, this visual style remained consistent through the remainder of his career. Sci-Fi, War, Horror, Costume Drama all received the same treatment culminating with the unfairly maligned Eyes Wide Shut. This time out there was no genre tropes to hide behind. No crazy costumes. No special effects. No blood. Just Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman and their relationship blown up to the size of a cinema screen. Stanley the minimalist working at his most minimal, and the result is absolutely fascinating and gorgeous. Definitely worth another look.

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