Jewish World Review July 27, 1999 /14 Av 5759
Strange love in Kubrick's last film
TRUE DEGENERACY has little to do with people taking their clothes off. Instead, it's
about corruption of the soul -- the ideas we embrace that make the world a colder and more
Stanley Kubrick's last film ("Eyes Wide Shut") is degenerate in the profoundest sense
of the word. From the director of "Lolita" and "2001: A Space Odyssey" comes a deeply cynical
look at men, women, marriage and longings of the heart. The "legendary" filmmaker, who never
had much of value to say, ended his career mired in misanthropy.
It's the serious films that shape our consciousness. "Eyes Wide Shut" is more toxic
than a dozen Mel Gibson revenge fantasies wrapped in a slew of teen sex movies.
"Eyes" opens with a nude shot of Nicole Kidman and ends with her character, whose
confession sends her doctor husband (Tom Cruise) wandering through a nightmare sexual
landscape, uttering the "F" word.
The beginning and end, and everything in between, stress Kubrick's thesis -- that
sex, even within a seemingly happy marriage, can only be raw and brutal.
The movie's moral is human relationships are about need or greed, that we use each
other, and that there's no permanence or commitment (and very little warmth) involved.
With the possible exception of Cruise, who struggles with his passions, the film is
devoid of decency. Its repertoire of the repulsive includes a neurotic woman who throws
herself at the doctor in the presence of her father's corpse, a wealthy patient who slips
away from his Christmas party to get heavy with a hooker who ODs and the proprietor of a
costume shop who pimps for his underage daughter.
Bill and Alice Harford (Cruise and Kidman) appear to have a perfect life -- glamour,
affluence, elegant New York apartment and adorable daughter. It's all a fraud, Kubrick tells
us --- there is no happiness; normalcy is an illusion.
Husband and wife are more than vaguely discontented. Each is simultaneously jealous
of the other and hankering for adventure in strange bedrooms.
In the midst of a pot-fueled argument, Alice confesses to Bob that on their last
vacation she developed an instant itch for a young naval officer (who she glimpsed but never
spoke to) so intense that she would have given up everything -- marriage, child and home --
had he but crooked a finger in her direction.
Later, to emphasize her contempt for him, Alice describes to Bill a dream where she's
at a party having sex with so many men that she losses count. She sees him watching her and
laughs at him.
The first disclosure and a phone call set Bill off on his erotic odyssey, which ends
at a rather formal orgy at a country mansion. Everyone wears Venetian masks, even when naked.
Set to menacing music, the revelry mixes sex and death, another of the film's recurrent
At the end, husband and wife forgive each other -- he her fantasies, she his near-sex
experiences -- and confess their mutual love, or is it obsessive need?
Some reviewers took the ending for an affirmation of marriage. It was anything but.
Of their relationship, Bill asks, "Forever?" Alice replies that the word "frightens" her.
Again, her last crude utterance (that she needs to copulate with Bill, ASAP) emphasizes
Kubrick's cynicism about matrimony and the human condition.
"Eyes Wide Shut" has only the insinuation of violence. The nudity is de-eroticized.
(One gets the impression that, like most moderns, Kubrick secretly despised sex.) The orgy
scene is highly stylized, with coupling couples discreetly hidden by moving figures.
The director's widow Christine says "Eyes Wide Shut" has "nothing to do with sex and
everything to do with fear." Not to mention loathing. Disdain runs through Kubrick's movies,
where people are weak, foolish and a bundle of neuroses who can't get anything right.
His cinematic leave-taking is the season's sickest film. Sick in its assessment of
humanity, sick in its skepticism about the possibility of happiness, sick in its stunted
In an era when one in two marriages ends in divorce and teens point to the president
of the United States as an excuse for promiscuity, do we need more cynicism about love and
The author of the just-published "Hillary and Bill: A Marriage" discloses that when
Clinton finally confessed his affair with Lewinsky to his wife, she slapped him in the face
so hard that it left a visible red mark. In "Eyes Wide Shut," Kubrick did the same to the
middle-class conventions he
JWR contributing columnist Don Feder can be reached by clicking here.
7/21/99: Apology craze hits the Crusades
7/19/99: Bob Smith makes a principled exit
7/15/99: Now it's NATO's allies doing the ethnic cleansing
7/12/99: All war criminals not indicted yet
7/08/99: Greece could be key to Balkans stability
7/06/99: How the 'Net ruined a marriage
7/01/99: What made our revolution different?
6/28/99: Michigan lowers the boom on swearing
6/23/99: Politicians think we're fools -- they're right
6/21/99: Gambling commission issues report, rolls dice
6/17/99: Why Right went cuckoo over Kosovo
6/14/99: America will be ultimate victim of war on Yugoslavia
6/09/99: Call a moratorium on Clinton judges
6/07/99: Public schools will muck up character education
6/03/99: Don't think, just vote
5/28/99: An American credo
5/26/99 :Do we really want peace in Yugoslavia?
5/24/99: Gay 'marriage' -- don't pass go
5/19/99: Little Bill, you had a busy week
5/17/99: Gun control, campaign-finance reform -- two liberal illusions
5/12/99: Watch Quayle go from "incredible" to quite credible
5/10/99: Conservatives excluded from academic diversity
5/05/99: Expecting the impossible of parents
5/03/99: Gore race-baits with impunity
4/29/99: Why Kosovo? Oh, just because
4/27/99: The president's pro-parent claptrap
4/22/99: McCain plays to the media
4/19/99: NATO would have favored the confederacy
4/14/99: Before we march into Kosovo
4/12/99: Taiwan more worthy of U.S. support
4/09/99: Bauer and Forbes --- Main Street vs. Wall Street
4/05/99: Bubba and Maddy lit Kosovo's fire
3/29/99: At Passover, Egypt is a state of mind
3/29/99: Could the GOP stand Pat in 2000?
3/17/99: Hollywood's party line in 1999
3/15/99: All bow, the court is in session
3/11/99: In praise of negative campaigning
3/09/99: Day-care study defies common sense
3/04/99: Starship Clinton orbits Kosovo
3/01/99: Public will blot out Broaddrick's accusation
2/25/99: Slick Hillie for Senate would be fun
2/23/99: Fascism in the name of fighting fascism
2/16/99: Was anything learned from the impeachment trial?
2/12/99: Educating the democratic voters of tomorrow
2/10/99: First Amendment doesn't apply to pro-life cause
2/08/99: Dems' triumph over Constitution complete
2/03/99: Blood of victims will drown out breakfast prayers
2/01/99: Without a home the heart knows no rest
1/29/99: Poster boy for term-limits
1/27/99: The 'so-what' defense in the City of Saints
1/25/99: Whose choice?
1/21/99: Censure worse than nothing
1/18/99: Words can`t dignify a dishonored presidency
1/13/99: Conservatism "with a heart" is conservatism without a head
1/11/99: If he isn't removed, watch out for Bill!
1/07/99: We can learn a lot from Teddy
1/05/99: Monica and a call to modesty
12/30/98: Will Bubba get away with it again?
12/28/98: Zionist dream alive and well on West Bank
12/18/98: Impeach or abandon the Rule of Law
12/16/98: Clinton moves Middle East closer to war
12/14/98: Why we lost interest in the homeless
12/10/98: No place at table for conservatives
12/07/98: The day America lost its innocence
12/02/98: Pilgrims Pilloried in streets of Plymouth
11/30/98: Caribbean dogpatch not a good candidate for statehood
11/25/98: Will Vermont force gay marriage on the nation?
11/23/98: The ACLU wants your kids to get a love life
11/18/98: Why liberals hate tobacco and guns more than drugs and crime
11/16/98: "Pleasantville" a countercultural morality play
11/13/98: Ads are a tough sell for abortion
11/09/98: Why gutless Republicans lost
11/06/98: Historians against the Constitution
11/02/98: Loving response to a hateful conference
10/28/98: Professor Death will fit right in at Princeton
10/26/98: Plymouth caves to Pilgrim foes
10/21/98: On '98 election, keep a critical eye on polls
10/19/98: Clinton could yet be 'prosperity president'
10/16/98: Working families -- Dems love 'em (stuffed)
10/09/98: Majoring in 'weirdness'
10/07/98: Friends of Billy Clinton
9/29/98: Letter from ex-soldier highlights defense peril
9/28/98: Answering arguments against impeachment
9/18/98: The nation that doesn't exist
9/14/98: Bubba isn't the only one who should be ashamed
9/11/98: Resolution of Clinton crisis will define national character
9/09/98: We're still just wild about Harry
9/07/98: Mexican banditry didn't end with Pancho Villa
9/02/98: Clinton forgives us!
8/31/98: Ashcroft's plain talking touches responsive chord
8/26/98: Public opinion be damned
8/24/98: Why liberals condone Clinton's lies
8/20/98: Time to move on -- to impeachment
8/12/98: With Bubba in the sexual privacy zone
8/10/98: The truth won't set Clinton free
8/06/98: Truth about Hiroshima is incontrovertible
8/04/98: Clinton not the first hollow president
7/30/98: "Small Soldiers" -- a fractured Vietnam allegory
7/27/98: Crime wave hits hometown
7/22/98: Love in an Internet fishbowl
7/20/98: Ads bring ex-gay movement out of closet
7/15/98: Brian and Amy -- the children of Roe
7/13/98: Why are we scared of obnoxious 'activists?'
7/6/98: Fonda still resists reality
7/1/98: New York blesses domestic partnerships
6/29/98: Teddy and Calvin stood for virtue
6/24/98: Will Clinton betray Taiwan?
6/22/98: Big tobacco? What about big casinos?
6/15/98: Religion -- God for what ails you
6/10/98: Planning Clinton's China itinery
6/8/98: Republicans' Custer offers advice
6/4/98: Oh, Dems Christian-bashers!
6/2/98: Goldwater did conservatives more harm than good
5/27/98: A Clinton-hater confesses
5/15/98: Giuliani's assault on marriage
5/13/98: Hillary knows what's best for everyone
5/11/98: To honor her would not be honorable
5/6/98: Conservative chasm: pragmatism vs. worship of marketplace
5/4/98: Anglo-saxon me
Needle exchange programs are assisted-suicide
4/27/98: Chretien's mission of mercy to Fidel
4/22/98: School-choice is a religious freedom issue
4/20/98: Corporate execs deliver body parts to Beijing
4/14/98: National sales tax --- looks better all the time
4/13/98: The U.N. sinister? Hey, where did that idea come from?
4/8/98: Unions fight workers rights in 226 campaign
3/30/98: Africa's leaders should apologize
3/25/98: GOP shouldn't look to media for advice
3/22/98: You should care about Clinton's 'private life'
3/19/98: Color-coded reading, product of obsessive minds
3/16/98: Amendment will end exile of G-d from our public lives
3/9/98: Havana will break your heart
3/2/98: Vouchers Terrify Teachers' Union
2/25/98: Presidential politics starts at a resort hotel
2/23/98: Hillary's support comes at a price
2/18/98: How many times must we say "no" to gay rights?
2/16/98: Enoch Powell spoke the truth on immigration
2/11/98: Bubba behaving badly
2/9/98: A conservative dissent on the flag-burning amendment
2/5/98: We get the leaders we deserve
2/2/98: Send a signal that could penetrate boardroom doors
1/27/98: State of the president: hollow rhetoric
1/25/98: For Monica's playmate, we have no one to blame but ourselves
1/22/98: At Yale, bet on yarmulke over gown
1/19/98: Commission tackles America's fastest-growing addiction, gambling
1/15/98: Capital punishment and the hard case: no exceptions for Karla Faye Tucker
1/12/98: Partial-birth abortion and the GOP's future: the "big tent" meets truth in advertising
1/8/98: IOLTA: the Left's latest scam to crawl into our pockets
1/5/98: Connect the dots to create a terrorist state
1/1/98: The Unacceptables of 1997: Long may they rave
12/28/97: Hypocrisy is a liberal survival mechanism
12/23/97: Chanukah is no laughing matter
12/22/97: No merry Christmas for persecuted Christians around the world
12/18/97: Bosnia, Haiti, and how not to conduct a foreign policy
©1999, Creators Syndicate