Better Never Than Late

No Late Movies Blogathon this year? I’m always late in announcing it and attempting to round up participants, and this year I’ve been pleasantly busy with three video essays for three different companies at various stages of (in)completion, so basically nothing got done. But I do hope to write something on the theme myself. It having been twenty years since I actually watched EYES WIDE SHUT, I figure maybe I should look at that — a late film, a final film, a posthumous film and a Christmas film all in one.

My previous impression of it, for the record, was that it was enjoyable and pretty but sort of inept. Long-winded, heavy-handed, unconvincing on every level. I was fairly convinced Kubrick would have tightened it later had he lived, as he did with 2001, BARRY LYNDON and THE SHINING quite late in the process (the last-named was pruned after its US release, resulting in a shorter UK version). But the news headline declaring LUCKY TO BE ALIVE would still have been hilarious. It’s a very funny film, but it’s the only Kubrick film where I can’t always decide if I’m laughing with or at it.

But I should put that opinion in the past tense because who knows, everything could change. It would be nice to think I’ve evolved. Or that the film has.

It would make sense for me to get the film watched and written up by the seventh, the usual closing date of the blogathon. And then I need to get back to Chaplin — A WOMAN OF PARIS is next, another film of would-be sophistication, decadent parties and improbably melodrama, another film whose director rather baffled his usual audience…

15 Responses to “Better Never Than Late”

  1. David Melville Wingrove Says:

    In my view, you could easily edit EYES WIDE SHUT down to a few highlights from the orgy scene and come up with a satisfyingly decadent soft-porn music video. That is the only thing in it that seems to serve any purpose.

  2. David Ehrenstein Says:

    As most Kubrick-o-philes know “La Ronde” was an eye-opening experience for him Ophuls’ adaptation of Schnitzler’s play was set in the same period as his “Traumnouvelle” — the basis of “Eyes Wide Shut” Had he done it as a “period piece” instead of an “update” we would have been spared the climactic, phenomenally silly, “orgy”

  3. It’s not really climactic, since the film trundles on for another hour afterwards…

    The story features a masked orgy also, much like Kubrick’s. Upon leaving the cinema I got into a conversation with a friend of my companion who said, “I couldn’t decide if the orgy was so banal because that was the limited nature of the hero’s imagination.” We shall ponder these mysteries in due course.

  4. David Ehrenstein Says:

    The orgy was banal because while the women are naked the men are clothed. Such sexist “modesty” is beyond disgusting.

  5. David Ehrenstein Says:

  6. David Ehrenstein Says:

  7. David Ehrenstein Says:

  8. It’s an orgy for rich straight guys, of course. But one would think they would have to get starkers at some stage to enjoy it.

  9. David Ehrenstein Says:

    But that would make it realistic. This is a fantasy I which the male presence is a “structuring absence.”

  10. Sudarshan Ramani Says:

    You know, I think I’d like to write for “Late Movies” this time. I saw “Most Dangerous Man Alive” (Allan Dwan’s last film). And I recently saw “A Lion is in the Streets” by Raoul Walsh (wrote a bit about it for Letterboxd…speaking of which you guys should get on there, it’s a cool place…but would like to write a bit longer).It’s the last Cagney-Walsh collaboration and considering that Walsh and Cagney, both as actor and director, had an iffy ’50s and ’60s, and that the film in question is pretty interesting and fascinating, I might have stuff to say about it. Will see where I can publish it though.

    Kubrick’s EWS is actually very faithful to Schnitzler’s Traumnovelle but it also makes some crucial and tactical changes, like making the hero gentile. The movie also makes the hero’s wife a more deeply etched and interesting character than in the book and much more so than her husband. So “Stanley K” (as Godard liked to tease him) became less macho on his way out.The orgy in the book is of a piece with the Viennese decadent world of the early 20thC so it has a playfulness there that it doesn’t in the movie. Because the Hapsburg era Vienna wasn’t actually at the center of world power the way NYC in the late 20thC is.

    But EWS is kind of fascinating for how it anticipates stuff like Jeffrey Epstein (a real life Nick Nightingale/Ziegler hybrid). Though I suppose the creepy secret orgies happen in tax haven islands rather than spooky mansions. And considering the revelations about James B. Harris that came out a year or so back about his relationship with Sue Lyon, I wonder if the subtext of EWS is “this kind of stuff is why I left America”. Kubrick throughout his movies satirized American power but he removed himself from it and relocated self and family to England, hermetically sealed from celebrity culture but with enough spyholes for him to follow it.

  11. David Ehrenstein Says:

    The last time Kubrick came to America was in 1962 for the premiere of “Lolita” — which was shot entirely in the UK. In “Eyes Wide Shut” 8th street in the village is meticulously recreated from Kubrick’s memory of it.

    Wim Wenders’ “The State of Things”(1982) is about an aborted re-make of “The Most Dangerous Man Alive”

  12. Hope to write all about the movie’s weird contemporary resonances.

    If you’d like to write about the Dwan or Walsh or both, anytime this month, I’d be delighted to publish them here or link to them, Sudarshan. Same for anyone else who has an urge for a spot of Late Show.

  13. The LOLITA premiere was not the last time Kubrick visited the U.S. He was in NYC soon after the 2001 premiere where he made the final cuts to the film. He also attended the world premiere a few days before this in DC.

  14. Still, I imagine there were a few changes between 1968 and 1999.

  15. Agreed. When you read about the great lengths he went to create certain NYC locales in the studio you realize how hermetically sealed his process had become. I mean he created his own Viet Nam for FULL METAL JACKET in England. As I am sure you know at one point he considered casting Steve Martin in EWS. I wonder what that might have been like?

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