Friday, December 22, 2017

Top 65 Things I Love About Eyes Wide Shut (that no one talks about)

Eyes Wide Shut is second to 2001: A Space Odyssey as my favorite Stanley Kubrick film. Which is to say, it is one of my all-time favorite movies. It is also a film set near Christmas, a fact often overlooked when recalling great Christmas films. He’s my breakdown of some things I love about the movie that are often overlooked. Please be advised that five of the screenshots in this post feature nude women. My intention of using these shots was not to objectify, but rather, to break down other aspects of the film that are featured in the those specific frames.

The massive font size, “Waltz 2 From Jazz Suite” gently playing – a perfect way to begin the end.

Love how you can just barely hear Alice’s (Nicole Kidman) movements in this shot.

I love that Bill (Tom Cruise) and Alice’s bedroom has some clutter in it. Filmmakers are often so concerned with living spaces looking pristine. This lived-in set dressing feels much more authentic.

What a joy that the third shot of the movie is an intricate, 60-second long stealth oner (a single take disguised as a single take). The movie is full of these, and I love that Kubrick sets the tone with this one.

The way Bill helps Alice put her jacket on.

The extended cross fades in the film are glorious. They really add to the dreamlike quality of the experience.

I love how the movie is just a touch brighter than normal. The f-stop of the film was overexposed by two clicks. This way, Kubrick and his cinematographer, Larry Smith, could film in low light using natural lights in the scene, as opposed to movie lights hidden off camera.

The lavish set design, the flawless props, the costumed cast, the slow pull back of the camera – THIS is a Stanley Kubrick shot.

I adore how properly Bill and Alice speak to each other in these opening scenes.

Everything about this shot. Kidman’s determined strut, the way she quickly (but gracefully) nabs a flute of champagne, her insistence on downing it right away, and the look on her face at she finishes it.

Bill and Nick’s (Todd Field) college bro handshake.

Kidman doesn’t get enough credit for how well she plays drunk in this scene. Her speech, movement, and flirtation is all so believable.

Also, this actor is named Sky du Mont, and although I can’t recall seeing him in anything before or since, he kills this scene with his rich charm.

Bill playing with his wedding ring during this scene. Is he relying on it for strength, or wishing he could secretly remove it?

Victor (Sydney Pollack) quickly putting his suspenders on despite being shirtless.

Bill’s delivery of “Heroin and coke?” He says it with the subtle disapproval that only a doctor could manage.

Victor’s ridiculous entitlement in this scene. Yeah, like it’s all her fault, pal.

Also, look at this goddamn bathroom. It has a comfortable chair, a desk… I’ve lived in apartments smaller than this thing.

The cut from Alice dancing to Bill and Alice in their apartment is an excellent example of Kubrick knowing exactly when to cut out of a scene. It’s so perfectly abrupt, it feels like a punch.

Alice putting deodorant on then smelling her pit anyway.

“We should call the Ziegler’s and thank them for the party last night.” 
“I’ve taken care of that.” 
Again with the overt politeness.

Alice taking a long beat to consider getting the pot or not.

The argument scene has been a huge influence for me. In fact, it was the main inspiration for a lengthy argument in my own film, Wait. The length of the argument in Eyes Wide Shut (13 minutes), the framing of the shots, the arc from calm to hysterical to calm, the blue light in the background – I cannot express how important this scene has been to me.

Everything about the composition of this shot. Cruise’s dark wardrobe, the low lighting, the artificial background – love it all.

More blue pouring in from outside. Love the film’s visual motif of cold always trying to corrupt warmth.

Marion (Marie Richardson) getting emotional when Bill puts his hand on the head of Marion’s recently deceased father.

Marion’s awkward kiss with her fiancĂ©e, Carl (Thomas Gibson).

The fact that all of these homophobic assholes go to Yale.

I don’t know if Bill’s nose is running, or if Domino’s (Vinessa Shaw) apartment smells bad, but I love Cruise’s little gesture here.

While her husband is trying to get laid with a lady of the night, Alice is just sitting in her kitchen, watching an old movie, enjoying her munchies.

Whenever I watch this scene, I’m reminded how much I want Todd Field to direct more films. In the Bedroom and Little Children are two of my favorites of the 2000s.

I love how the camera cuts to a close-up of Bill as he begins to inquire about Nick’s next gig.

Bill’s hand coming into frame to prevent the napkin from moving.

Everything about this shot. The color palette, the composition, Bill’s reaction – everything.

Milich’s (Rade Serbedzija) insistence on helping Bill out, even after Milich discovers his daughter’s (Leelee Sobieski) bad deeds.

This mischievous expression. One can only imagine what she whispered to Bill.

I’ve always wondered about the movie conceit of ripping a bill apart and using it as collateral. Like… you’ve never been able to use a bill that is ripped apart, so why is this a thing in movies?

The subtle blue lighting of the shot inside the cab. In the next shot, it’s clear that there is no natural light source to project this blue hue, but damn if it doesn’t help cement Kubrick’s visual pattern.

“Well, I suppose you’d like the password.”
“If you’d like, sir.”

Seriously, look how this mansion is bathed in blue light. There must have been a ton of lights directly off camera. What a gorgeous frame to feast upon.

Nick said these parties usually don’t get started until 2 a.m. Seems so late for such a lively event. Don’t these people have to work in the morning? Or do they all collectively call in sick? “Gonna stay home today. Still recovering from the orgy.”

The very subtle fill light on Cruise’s eyes. Perfect cinematography.

This insanely long zoom shot.

They way this guy moves his whole body to nod.

We figure out later how and why Bill was called out at the orgy, but I’ve always wondered how this woman knew he didn’t belong there. She was already in the main room when Bill arrived. What about Bill’s demeanor makes him such an obvious outlier?

The first time I saw Eyes Wide Shut, this shot made me jump. “Oh no,” I thought. “This could go very, very badly.” I love that Kubrick had that power over his audience.

The way Bill holds his mask in front of his chest, as if to shield himself.

This trademark Kubrick quick zoom. One of my favorite zoom shots in all of film. It’s so startling.

I love how theatrical this whole rescue sequence is. It feels forced and rehearsed (which, we later learn, was exactly the point).

When Bill is at his lowest point, his whole world bleeds blue.

Again, look how Kubrick uses color to inform character. Before, the bedroom was warm and the outside was blue. Now it’s the opposite.

I love that Alan Cumming gets his own cut-in close up. Right as his desk clerk character is turning in the wide shot, Kubrick cuts in with a closer, matching shot. It really helps emphasize that this is a person we should pay attention to.

Love the desk clerk’s delivery of, “Bill?” as if he’s asking for permission to call the good doctor by his first name.

Point in fact, Alan Cumming is incredible in this movie. He steals his lone scene with humor, innocence, and conviction. You really believe this desk clerk is relaying all this information for the first time, as the character naturally would in real life.

Love how quickly the people in the mansion typed, printed, sealed, and delivered this note. Bill has been at the gate for all of 52 seconds. Sure, they could’ve already had the note ready, but were they just waiting by the security monitor, hoping Bill would show up? Either way, they fired off that damn note right quick.

I also really enjoy that there is no hard return between paragraphs here.

The stalker turning the corner right as the piano cord strikes.

This is one of my favorite shots in any Kubrick film. The low frame, the slow zoom in, the dimly lit composition, Cruise’s confused face – it’s just perfect.

Victor’s makeshift bar. Nothing fancy, yet meticulously stocked and organized, I’m sure.

Sydney Pollack was a great filmmaker. He excelled in directing, producing, and, we must remember, acting. I always liked Pollack’s conviction as an actor, and this scene is my favorite work he delivered. The arc of the sequence, both in narrative and character, is so damn compelling.

“By now, he’s probably back with his family. You know, banging Mrs. Nick.”

By the way, this scene took three weeks to film, which is insane, even by Kubrick’s standards. I mention this because I would love even the tiniest bit of insight as to how you go about editing a scene like this. Filming one scene for three weeks would produce a ridiculous amount of footage. Where the hell do you even begin to assemble something like that?

But why? Victor has just caught Bill up on everything. He’s provided reasonable explanations for the mansion, Nick, and the dead woman. Bill has no reason to not believe Victor. And Victor, in turn, has no reason to think Bill will continue to pursue his investigation. So why place Bill’s mask on his pillow? Why continue to fuck with Bill and intimidate him? Why, indeed.

Alice’s tear-soaked face after hearing about Bill’s recent adventures.

The final line of this film is many things. It is one of my favorite closing lines in all of cinema, and it is, without question, my favorite use of the word “Fuck” in cinema. It isn’t just the the word itself. It’s the context in which the word is used, and Kidman’s confident delivery of it. It’s also the last word Stanley Kubrick ever put on screen. Can you imagine one better?



  1. Yay, my favourite Kubrick movie! I absolutely love the cinematography and music too. The whole movie is completely hypnotic, and I never get tired of watching it.

    1. Hell yeah! This thing is such a masterclass from frame one to last. So happy to hear you like it as much as I do.

  2. It's a film, like many of Kubrick's films since The Killing, that gets better with every re-watch as I think this and Magnolia is Tom Cruise at his peak as an actor. After that, he would rarely have good moments such as Edge of Tomorrow, The Last Samurai, and Tropic Thunder but never really does more to display his strengths as an actor.

    There's a lot of things in that film that I like such as that shot in the taxi cab where Bill splits that hundred bucks to the cab driver which I enjoyed. It's one of those little moments I love while I also liked the way the orgy scenes are presented with couples fucking each other or those watching everything in its uncensored presentation instead of Warner Brothers did in its theatrical release.

    It really does play into the idea of marriage as that argument scene is definitely Kubrick at his finest in the way he frames Alice in her underwear while Bill sits on the bed. There's a lot of moments of surrealism as if it does play into something that is dream-like.

    The meeting between Bill and Victor towards the end is filled with a lot of ambiguity which shows the sense of immorality of Victor in how he dismisses people as just props in the scheme of things. It's a moment that definitely shakes Bill to his core as he realized he went into a world that he never should know about and probably never wants to go to again. It's probably that exclusive world that the 1% of the one-percenters that live in. That's a world that I would love to destroy.

    1. Hell yes, love this comment. Fully agree with your assessment of Cruise's career. He peaked in 1999, but what a hell of a year he had. I'm so pleased that you enjoy this film so much. One of my all-time favorites.

      Also, in an unrelated note (and I don't even know if this is worth mentioning), but someone hit back at you in my Top Things I Love About Memento post. Again, sorry if it's "uncool" to mention that here, but I thought you should know.

    2. And I've fired back. I'd suggest you delete his comments since he's really just an asshole. I'm an asshole too but I am a honest asshole.

    3. Yeah I might. Hopefully it'll end there. It's always a bit strange to me when someone comments on a blog they've never commented on before, just to pick a fight with other commenters. I guess he had an auto alert for his own name? Oh well, thanks again for this great comment!

  3. I see you like your Kubrick differently than I like mine. I absolutely hate 2001 and I didn't enjoy this one. However, I've always said I'm going to give this one another chance. This give me the impetus to do so as you've pointed out so many things I didn't notice all those years ago. I know when I watch it again, the color blue will be jumping out at me from all angles.

    1. You know what's funny about me and Kubrick... I've never loved a Kubrick film on first viewing. I was exposed to many of them too young, and I didn't initially fully appreciate his level of craft. So, basically, I totally get that you aren't a fan of this one or 2001. Maybe they would get better for you with repeat viewings (as they did with me), or maybe they just aren't for you. Completely understand either way.

      I am curious though, what are your favorite Kubricks?

    2. Delayed response, I know, but my fave SK films are Full Metal Jacket, A Clockwork Orange, and The Shining. Putting them all together here highlights that they all deal with their male angst through violence. Maybe I need therapy.

  4. Since that relay went around these past few weeks I've been trying to think of this film as a Christmas movie. lol

    This one was super weird, and it's been a few years since I've seen it. I'd like to watch it again with these things in mind.

    1. Have you seen Eyes Wide Shut more than once? Again, as I said to Dell, it's totally understandable if the movie just isn't for you. But it got much better for me on repeat viewings. Just curious!

  5. Flawless breakdown of a flawless movie. Good work, Alex.

    What kind of font does Kubrick use? It's awesome.

    The second I heard that waltz music play over the credits, I knew I was going to like this movie. The second I saw that stealth oner in the beginning, I knew I was going to LOVE this movie.

    I was wondering how Kubrick made this movie so bright. Now I know! His lighting's perfect. That's to be expected from Stan the Man, but still, perfect.

    I never got why so many people say Cruise ruined this film, because like thevoid99 above me, I think this is one of his best performances.

    Funny, you and I seem to have different interpretations of Ziegler's explanation. Personally, I never believed a single word he said. Just another ploy to get Bill to stop snooping.

    Also, I always assumed Alice found the mask.

    I'm noticing an interesting bit of subtext here. The homophobic frat boys, the effeminate desk clerk, the almost flirtatious conversation with Nick Nightingale. Perhaps Kubrick's making some sort of statement about society's repression of homosexuals? The movie's more about repressed sexuality in general, but that may be a facet of that.

    And last but not least, the Illuminati made Kubrick fake the moon landing.

    1. Thanks man! I believe the font is Futura Extra Bold. Kubrick loved Futura.

      Lot to unpack here. VERY interesting that you think Ziegler is bullshitting Bill. I've always believed that Ziegler was on the level, but hell, who knows.

      Alice doesn't strike me as the type of woman who would find the mask then go to bed. I can see her calling Bill and saying, "What the fuck is this?" But, again, who knows.

      Back when Bret Easton Ellis tweeted non-stop, he went on a long rant about how Eyes Wide Shut is actually about homosexuality, and posited that Kubrick was a closet homosexual. Ellis was on another level back then, but there is something to his assessment of Eyes Wide Shut (which compliments what you're saying as well). I agree with you, the movie is about sexual frustration and repression, and Kubrick was commenting about homosexual repression as well, even if it was subtle.

      Christ, I love this film.

    2. I doubt that Ziegler is entirely on the level. I think he's honest to a point, but twists the truth when he needs to. Why else would he use a veiled threat against Bill? "Life goes on. It always does. Until it doesn't", followed by a slightly too cheerful "But you know that, don't ya?". I think he gives Bill just enough of an out to convince him not to investigate any further.

    3. Very fair point, and I love that we never really know. It's great that we're still picking this film apart nearly 20 years later.

  6. Wow! I love this post, especially the way you highlighted cinematography techniques here. Now I want to rewatch this film.

    1. Thanks so much! I always enjoy rewatching this one. Such a trip.

  7. This post is amazing! I always love those "things I love..." that you make. Tipsy Nicole is everything. I also love the 'argument scene' a lot. Funny you mentioned that influence (now you've talked about it, I can feel it on WAIT) because I do have a screencap of that scene between some images I've saved to influence my writing. There is a particular scene I wrote that is very much influence by it... I didn't realize about the colour changes! I definitely want to rewatch it asap, this film is so special... I love it. So thanks for making this post and pointing out all the beautiful details of it!

    1. Thank YOU so much for reading and leaving such a great comment. It's funny, some films influence my own work so overtly (like McQueen's Shame), others, like Eyes Wide Shut, have a profound impact on my work, but I didn't realize it until much later. Love this movie, and I'm so happy you like it as well.

  8. What an amazing movie. This is my second favourite Kubrick after 2001 too. Such a well-considered and insightful post, as always. This series is definitely one of my favourites of yours, Alex. I love the way you are able to pick out such minute details (some of which I've never noticed, despite having seen this film at least 6 times) and describe so effortlessly why they are brilliant. Awesome work!

    1. Man, Tyler, your comments... thank you. I really appreciate your kind words. I'm so happy you liked this post (and the others in this series)! I love doing them but they take a looooong time.