Eyes Wide Shut
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Screenplay: Stanley Kubrick and Frederic Raphael, from the novella Traumnovelle by Arthur Schnitzler
Cast: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Sydney Pollack
NY Distribution Status: now playing (Warner)

Grade: B+

So we know at last: Kubrick's final project -- twelve years in the maddeningly measured making/developing; shrouded in secrecy; plagued by inaccurate, sometimes bizarre rumors (it's about dueling psychiatrists; Tom wears a dress) -- is a moralistic cautionary tale, a treatise on the dangers of marital infidelity that comes across like an elegant variation on Reefer Madness (literally, at one point: the trouble begins when our protags get stoned and momentarily lose their inhibitions), or like After Hours played portentously straight. Much of it is preposterous, even silly, and yet the overall effect is hypnotic; working overtime to avoid any advance knowledge of the film, I somehow made it to the theater without discovering how long it was, and was truly astonished, when I emerged into the harsh sunlight and glanced up at a Times Square building clock (my watch has been broken for weeks; ask me the time and I'll tell you 6:15, guaranteed), to find that nearly three hours had passed. As the title of Schnitzler's source suggests, it's meant to invoke a dream state, to feel half-remembered even as it's unspooling in front of us; the sense of dislocation (enhanced by a graininess unheard of in a big-budget studio picture like this) is deliberate, and complaints about Kubrick's eerily abandoned soundstage recreation of New York City are badly misguided. Equally obtuse are those who cavil about the film's notable lack of eroticism -- it's a nightmare, people, it's not supposed to turn you on. (There's plenty of nudity, but it's Greenaway nudity, more often sinister than sensual.) Kidman, in a surprisingly secondary role, is magnificent, delivering two difficult monologues with unguarded aplomb, but the movie's emotional weight is placed firmly on Cruise's shoulders, and if he doesn't bear it quite as gracefully as one would hope, neither does he collapse; it's a good, solid performance in a role that required something extraordinary. Still, the main attraction, now as ever, is Kubrick's formal mastery, his ability to transport us to a peculiar, distressingly beautiful world of his own devising; it's a testament to the man's virtuosity that no matter how impatient I became with his almost self-parodic solemnity and his (perhaps Schnitzler's? I doubt it) prudish worldview, there was always a part of me that hoped his movie -- not to say his career, his life -- would never end.