Sunday, October 9, 2011

Dueling Blog Posts: Eyes Wide Shut

So, our good friends over at Dirty With Class continue to pester me with incessant requests for a blog entry, specifically on cinema. Here at the Holiday, we aim to please - no matter how long it takes us to get around to thinking about it. I should note here that DWC and I watch a lot of films together. We do tend to agree on most movies, with a few notable exceptions. He takes what I think to be a more writerly view of films, focusing on story, character and plot notes while I take a more expansive approach. Kind of micro versus macro thing. I note DWC's Eyes Wide Shut post, and herewith begin my own.

I find it interesting that DWC likes this movie so much, mainly because I see it as an "old man's movie".  Stop groaning... By this I refer to movies like Kurosawa's RAN, Louis Malle's Au Revoir les Enfants or more recently, Coppola's Youth Without Youth. I guess that I mean that I think one has to have done some living in order to appreciate them.  EWS has, it seems to me a special connection to baby boomers like myself.

Eyes Wide Shut?

Consider this. Have you ever found yourself on a track, a trail, a street that you knew you shouldn't be on? Every little bit of intelligence and sense telling you to stop, turn away and save yourself? And yet, you simply cannot stop putting one foot in front of the other closer to the darkness. What is this about? Aren't you intelligent enough to see what's going to happen? Is your attraction to that man or woman to strong for you to see that they are just leading you to bad end? Can't you see beyond the psychedelic lifestyle and give up the drugs? This what the title Eyes Wide Shut refers to.  After all, Dr. Harford (a kind of American everyman. Harford is a distillation of Harrison Ford) is pretty smart individual. A doctor, seems pretty successful, well educated. Why can't he see that running off into the night, cavorting with prostitutes is not a good idea for him? I don't know but I understand, somehow.


Masks appear often enough in Kubrick's work to remark about them. In The Killing, masks are worn by the gang as they rob the racetrack, Alex and his droogs wear masks during the rape scene. The helmets worn by Poole and Bowman in 2001 qualify as masks, as do the various disguises worn by Clair Quilty in Lolita. A Kubrickian irony is that it is a mask that actually force's Bill to tell the truth - rather the opposite of the typical function of a mask.

The Password

Nick tells Bill the password; it is "Fedelio". Hmm. Isn't that Italian for Fidelity? Well yes, but is also the title of the only opera of Ludvig van Beethoven (Shades of A Clockwork Orange!), a two act affair that involves a man wrongfully imprisoned who is rescued by his wife. Ultimately, isn't this what happens to Bill? If it weren't for his wife, he would have slept with Domino and possibly caught her disease.


I know that its common for people to remark on Alice's last words in the movie as it's summation:

I do love you and you know there is something very important we need to do as soon as possible... Fuck. 

I know it seems appropriate since, of course that's what he's been looking for pretty much the entire flick. But, I prefer something Alice says a little earlier.  It's not quite as simple or succinct, but it is the entire movie in a phrase, if such a thing is ever possible, particularly in a piece as densely textured as this one. Bill has just told his entire story to Alice and he is looking for forgiveness and understanding.  By this I mean he himself doesn't understand what it was all about.  She tells him that she doesn't know what it means either, but:

I think we are all fortunate to survive our fantasies... whether they are real or imagined.