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Brain baffled by 'Eyes Wide Shut'

Sunday, August 08, 1999

By Barbara Cloud, Post-Gazette Columnist

Please, somebody, explain "Eyes Wide Shut" to me. I wanted to see if I could recognize genius, which everybody told me was what the late director, Stanley Kubrick, exhibited in his work. And I like to be able to discuss current events when I am dining with friends. This movie certainly qualifies as a current event.

So, off I went to the cinema.

The advance teases were weird. The film has been described as "mesmerizing," "worthy," "a love story" and "masterful."

But the one quote I agree with is "it's a movie you should see a second time."

Only trouble is, I don't want to.

I didn't like it much. I want, or I should say, I need, to see it again because I was so restless the first time around. And I'm not sure if I saw what I think I saw.

I was not embarrassed. I was bored. I even left the theater briefly to report that I could hear conversations in the projection booth above me. So annoying. Or maybe I was just easily distracted.

I don't think I missed anything by leaving the theater. It takes the actors so long to say anything -- a Kubrick touch I'm told -- I got back before the sentence was completed.

Being curious but rapidly becoming bored, I began to notice little things that, after two years of filming and editing, I would have thought Kubrick and his crew might have caught or improved upon in the final draft.

The film was shot in England. The street scenes are supposed to be New York City. Anyone who has been to the Big Apple can see they are fake. I felt cheated.

Tom Cruise's hair style changes from moment to moment in a given scene, sometimes disheveled, sometimes neatly scissored, sometimes slick, sometimes tossled, even unwashed.

See what I mean by little things?

Now about the plot:

Did anybody think it strange that on the spur of the moment, Cruise goes to a costume shop late at night and selects a cape and mask, at random (a black cape with a hood, he decides, after being given a choice of red), and then when he gets to the "party," everyone there also is wearing a black cape with a hood?

And the mask! It covers the face, as does every mask at the party, and all are elaborate, some with beaks like pelicans, some like ghouls and glitter. None are pretty.

What are the odds all the thrill-seekers would choose such similar masks and capes from various shops around Manhattan?

And it bothered me when Cruise is interrogated by the three mighty "party givers" because his black cape suddenly becomes blue!

Great lighting, I guess. But the cape definitely became blue.

What was so terrible about Cruise crashing the mansion orgy? Why did it put his life in danger?

While a rich guy's guests arrive for a black-tie party and dance the night away, the host is upstairs getting it on with a gorgeous hooker. This is not polite society, but I don't move in such circles, so what do I know? Just an observation from a wallflower who doesn't get out much.

This is a nice touch: It's Christmas season during all this illicit behavior. But every tree, whether in a prostitute's cramped apartment or an Upper East Side condo, is decorated and lit the same.

Any meaning to this?

I assume there are meanings. I've just missed them. See what boredom will do? See why I must see it again?

I don't understand why the dream Nicole Kidman has is so similar to what Cruise has experienced at the orgy. I don't understand the mask on his pillow when he comes home late one night. There is a look Kidman gives Cruise after his wild-night confession which, to me, indicates she was among the masked and cloaked guests. Was she?

One thing I know about this movie: I didn't think it was sexy. Lots of sex, yes. But not sexy.

None of my buttons were pushed. I'd rather see Clark Gable carrying Vivien Leigh up that grand staircase or have Paul Henreid light Bette Davis' cigarette. And they all had their clothes on.

For now I'm talking about it, baffled, wondering, questioning, thinking of seeing it again.

Maybe that's genius.

And just maybe I'm happier with mediocre.



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