Thursday, October 3, 2019

Some Notes on Trevor Lynch's Consideration of EYES WIDE SHUT by Stanley Kubrick & Frederic Raphael

Stanley Kubrick’s last and weakest movie.

Everyone has his opinions, and just about the only Stanley Kubrick films that won near-universal acclaim, at least upon release, were PATHS OF GLORY and DR. STRANGELOVE. Everything he did since STRANGELOVE divided critics, even violently. 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY had its core admirers but was widely dismissed upon release. (Over the years, it's come to be nearly universally acclaimed however.) A CLOCKWORK ORANGE still divides viewers. BARRY LYNDON was generally overlooked upon release though it had defenders. Its reputation has gone through the stratosphere since but remains an obscure work outside cinephilia. THE SHINING got mixed reviews, overall leaning toward the negative, but is now revered as a landmark in horror. It has truly become legendary. An amazing work, the final section does come apart. FULL METAL JACKET is striking but inconsistent in tone once it goes from training to combat. Kubrick was always better with design & control than chance & chaos. The random fury of urban guerrilla warfare gets the Procrustean treatment of an conceptual artist always looking for designs and patterns(even when such is nowhere to be found). Action scenes in FULL METAL JACKET are remarkable in and of themselves but don't quite mesh with the rest of the film except at the very end when strategy is key in flushing out the sniper. Overall, battle scenes are more effective in PATHS OF GLORY where the nature of combat allows more for orchestration; Kubrick's style was more akin to classical perfection than jazzy improvisation. Personally, I'd say SPARTACUS is Kubrick's weakest movie(if we exclude FEAR AND DESIRE and perhaps KILLER'S KISS as mere practice-films) despite its undeniable strengths and moments of grandeur. To a large degree, its failures owed to Kirk Douglas' insistence on Hollywood Epic than Art Film, and in that regard, the failure was a kind of success. Had Kubrick gotten everything his way, it might have made for better art but lesser popular entertainment. Douglas was correct in the sense that it won big at the box-office(something that can't be said for BARRY LYNDON, a film of far greater artistry). Anyway, the great battle scene in SPARTACUS is indicative of Kubrick's strengths and weaknesses. It is awesome as display of strategy, logistics, and formations, but things get confused and sloppy once the melee ensues. Sam Peckinpah and Akira Kurosawa were more adept in the heat of action. Kubrick's Olympian god's eye view was better suited for the forest than the trees.

EYES WIDE SHUT may seem less impressive than Kubrick's other films for the simple reason that little happens in a story led by a character who comes across as rather thin and shallow. Perhaps, this would have mattered less if it were a smaller work on a modest scale. However, expectations for Kubrick's works, especially since 2001, came to be larger than life. It's like David Lean couldn't return to modest films after the success of BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, which is why even RYAN'S DAUGHTER was blown up to epic proportions when it would have done better as a smaller and more intimate tale. EYES WIDE SHUT is a both a big film with impressive production values — but then, Kubrick's perfectionism makes even his earlier work THE KILLING into an elaborate exercise — and a small intimate tale of an 'ordinary' man and woman. There are no battles, ghosts, historical travelogue, charismatic criminals, apes & spaceships, nuclear apocalypse, or pedophilia. Indeed, if not for the lewd suggestion of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman getting it on(in the nude), the film would have been a tough sell to the public. Though Kubrick was always an Artist or 'auteur', he'd been savvy enough to work on projects that had both artistic and popular appeal. The one exception prior to EYES WIDE SHUT was BARRY LYNDON, a full-fledged art film and probably his greatest work after 2001, and it was a box-office bomb. (Its only mass appeal was Ryan O'Neal who, at the time, was at the height of popularity.) In order to remain bankable, Kubrick had sense enough to tackle projects that could be construed as 'genre': Science Fiction, War Movie, Historical Epic, Satire, Horror.

But EYES WIDE SHUT was different... unless one argues it's a kind of arty 'porn'. Little happens in the story. A couple attend a party, smoke pot, have an argument, and the guy wanders through the night. With a password, he gains entry into a secret gathering/ritual and is soon exposed & expelled. Next day, he tries to pick up the pieces of what may have transpired the night before but remains as confounded as ever. He goes home, and the couple come to some kind of emotional reckoning, a catharsis. That's about it in terms of plot. Furthermore, Tom Cruise plays the least proactive character in all of Kubrick's films. While Jack Nicholson's character was virtually alone in the Overlook Hotel, he fumed & raged and made things happen with the power of will and imagination in cahoots with ghosts. In war scenarios such as PATHS OF GLORY, DR. STRANGELOVE, and FULL METAL JACKET, characters have no choice but to take charge of things as it's a matter of life and death, kill or be killed. Criminals in THE KILLING and A CLOCKWORK ORANGE naturally play predator. Ryan O'Neal's Barry Lyndon may be most like Bill Harford(Cruise), but he has a cocky and arrogant side; indeed, he got himself into a fine mess(but also gained considerably along the way) because he was something of a rogue and gambler. In contrast, Bill Harford is someone to whom things are done than someone who does things to make a difference. The one thing he did make happen, the slipping into the mansion, proved to be a botch-up job, and it ended all-too-fast and rather pathetically. (The uber-rich guys, irritated and even enraged as they might have been, probably had a good laugh afterwards.) There is something hapless about Harford who happens to be over-his-head — this is where his height gains special significance — in personal life and realm of fantasy.

Because not much happens in EYES WIDE SHUT in terms of plot, the film has to work either on the sociological, psychological, personal, and/or mythological level. It's like one's response upon entering a cathedral or art gallery. Nothing happens except one's emotional and sensual responses to the surroundings. If one connects with the setting, it's a worthy experience. If not, it's dull and boring. On the sociological level, EYES WIDE SHUT has something to say about class, money, privilege, corruption, sexual politics, and power, but it isn't particularly interesting on that level because, after all, there have been countless critiques, in print and celluloid, about society's ills and problems of corruption.
EYES WIDE SHUT is remarkable for its intersection of the personal with the psychological bordering on the mythological. Whether it works or not really hedges on how we read Harford's mind as he undergoes the dark night of the soul, and this requires some degree of speculative work on our part with tools of empathy and identification. In this, EWS has something in common with WICKER PARK(also L'APPARTEMENT on which it is based) and MOTHMAN PROPHECIES where the central drama/trauma derives from the crossroads of the psychological and mythological. In the case of WICKER PARK, imagination creates its own romantic myths(even though the misunderstanding arose from a minor detail), and in MOTHMAN PROPHECIES, the 'spiritual' elements feed on the widower's ineradicable despair and angst. In this, EYES WIDE SHUT is also comparable to VERTIGO where the question of who-dun-it(especially as Hitchcock gives the game away before the protagonist finally fits the pieces) is far less crucial than the power of the mind to invent and weave myths, especially those pertaining to love, or lost love. It's no wonder Kubrick worked so long on A.I.: ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE where the scientist(played by William Hurt in the version finally realized by Steven Spielberg) utters these words: "David, do you have any idea what a success story you've become? You found a fairy tale... and inspired by love, and fueled by desire, you set on a journey to make it real. And most remarkable of all, no one taught you how. We actually lost you for a while. But when you were found again, we didn't make our presence known because our test was a simple one. Where would your self-motivated reasoning take you? To the logical conclusion... that Blue Fairy is part of the great human flaw to wish for things that don't exist, or to the greatest single human gift - the ability to chase down our dreams." If David of A.I. and Bill Harford have anything in common, it is the wish to be special and unique. David wants to believe that he is the special beloved of 'mommy', and Bill wants to believe that he is that special person to his wife. Love and Marriage create this myth that you are with your soul-mate, indeed as if fate ordained you two to meet and mate and belong to one another. In truth, anyone could have ended up with anyone else, but it's more comforting and home-sweet-home to think of one's spouse as the soul-mate one was meant to be with. Both David and Bill feel their minds frying when confronted with the fact that they may not be so unique, invaluable, and irreplaceable to the special person in their lives. Worse, if 'mommy' has such feelings for anyone in A.I., it's for her real son, and if Alice is truly wedded to anyone at the soulful level, it's with the naval officer, the man of her dreams.

Now, a work such as EYES WIDE SHUT may seem rather odd from Kubrick who always came across as too cerebral, inquisitive, and dissecting for romanticism. Kubrick was clearly more like Quilty than Humbert in LOLITA, and upon hearing Kubrick's 60s interview, one can't help thinking Peter Sellers as Quilty was riffing on none other than Kubrick. Still, Kubrick was something of a romantic about power, and in this, he shared an obsession with Woody Allen who also grew up in a world when the Castle Keep was held by Wasps. (This might be said of Roman Polanski as well, and some might argue EWS is an artier version of ROSEMARY'S BABY.) As such, they were outsiders yearning for a glimpse inside, a kind of Kafkaesque fascination with the world of power and privilege.
But power can be psychological & irrational as well as social & political. Why is it that a certain something can wield such total power over us? This 'thing' can be a greater motivator than all the money and guns in the world, though to attain it one may expend all of one's money and guns, indeed to the point of losing them in the bargain. Igraine cast such a spell(though unwitting) on Uther that the latter risks all for one night with her. As king, he could have had lots of pretty women, but it had to be her and her alone. In that sense, the most powerful person in Western Mythology is Helen of Troy, not because she herself had much power but because she possessed a quality that made countless men willing to fight over her.

It's the poetics of power. Contrast General Turgidson in DR. STRANGELOVE with Humbert in LOLITA. One might say both are motivated by lust. Despite his vaunted status in the US military, Turgidson is like a man-ape who is really about fighting for food, turf, and women. He is motivated by sexuality but in the most generic way. There is nothing poetic about his appetites. He is competing for 'sperm banks'. In contrast, Humbert is totally fixated with one woman-child, and it has to be her and only her. (On this level, the film version of the story is less about pedophilia because there is no indication that Humbert has the hots for other young girls or nymphets, whereas he wants to be forever with Lolita even after she's grown into full womanhood. It's something unique about her than her age that drives him mad with love.) He has an overpowering sense about Lolita, something shared by no one else in town. Others may find her pretty or sexy(in the generic sense) and may want to date her or fantasize about her, but to Humbert, she is everything, more than all the world. She, or something about her, has power over him like nothing else.
In a way, such is both the weakest and strongest kind of power. Weakest because Lolita or people like her don't amount to much in terms of money and power; also, they have power only over those besotted with them. Strongest because, for the besotted, they are willing to do anything to attain the love of their obsessions. Consider the fate of the professor who sacrifices his status and sanity for Lola-Lola in THE BLUE ANGEL. It's the difference between the general and the personal, and the only way to approach EWS is on the personal level. In the general sense, yes, EWS has something to do with power, money, sexuality, and etc. And yet, the film is most enticing and provocative in its probing of the personal and poetic, the particular elements of obsession that lend it special meaning. It's the difference between Roy(Richard Dreyfus) and the French astronomer(Francois Truffaut) in CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND. Both are interested in extraterrestrials, but for Roy it's something more than academic fascination or a matter of science; it has become his new faith, something for which he is willing to depart even from Earth and his fellow human kind.

Eyes Wide Shut is relevant to the (Jeffrey)Epstein case because at the core of the film, Stanley Kubrick—who was something of a renegade Jew—gives us a glimpse into how a specifically Jewish financial and political elite uses sexual perversion and anti-Christian occult rituals to promote internal cohesion and control.

I'm not sure that the uber-power in EYES WIDE SHUT is specifically or mostly Jewish. It could well be an uneasy alliance of Old Wasps and New Jews. Besides, even the goy elites in modern history have barely been Christian. Founding Fathers were Deists and Masons. In a way, the Wasp-Jewish fusion has a long pedigree. Jews wanted the prestige of gaining entry into the nobility or Wasp socialite realm, and the goyim were impressed by Jewish intelligence and money. So, the 'cohesion' in the film seems less about Jewishness than about Power, and that means alliance of uber-privilege of goyim and Jews.

The Harfords have a huge, beautifully decorated Manhattan apartment, nice clothes, and a spiffy Range Rover. But the first clue that something might be amiss in their marriage is the fact that they have only one child, aged seven.

But plenty of affluent people have one child or no child at all. They tend to focus more on career, money, status, and social life than family and children.

Victor is played by Sidney Pollack. Ziegler is obviously supposed to be Jewish, so the Christmas party seems a little odd. The Harfords also celebrate Christmas, but there appeared to be a seven-branched candelabrum in their dining room. Apparently, religion doesn’t mean much in the world Kubrick is portraying.

Rich Jews throwing a Christmas party isn't odd at all, especially as Jews don't regard Christmas as a religious holiday. It's like Japanese celebrate Christmas by ordering KFC. Jews got rich off Christmas as retailers, advertisers, and carol-composers. Plenty of Jews take part in Christmas festivities, at least on grounds that it's time to have fun(and an opportunity to crassly materialize the birthday of Christ). It's like some Jewish families have Christmas trees, if only for the kids. As for Harford having some Hannukah stuff, it's further sign that the Goy and Jew worlds are merging. Consider all the white goyim who say 'Happy Hannukah' as if the Jewish holiday is part and parcel of Christmas season.

Alice gets rapidly drunk

She gets tipsy, which is not the same as drunk. Drunk would be the state that Nicholson character had once fallen into when he injured his son in THE SHINING.

Cruise spends practically the whole movie grinning in a manner that seems both smug and desperately ingratiating, entitled and needy. It is bizarre and unsettling, but I am sure theater people have a word for it, as might the DSM.

Actually, that's what made Tom Cruise so charming, lovable, and famous all over the world. That ingratiating smile beginning with his role in RISKY BUSINESS. But if most Cruise movies were star vehicles where the whole world was supposed to be turned on by his smile(which made the real-life Cruise rather smug about himself), Kubrick played a trick on the kid by putting him in a role where not everyone, especially his wife, is so gaga over him. Indeed, characters in EWS seem divided between those who swoon over him and those who see him as no big deal or a putz. Thus, EWS is kind of like an anti-star vehicle. But then, Cruise deserves credit for taking on roles in BORN IN THE FOURTH OF JULY, MAGNOLIA, and EYES WIDE SHUT where he played against his star persona.

One wonders if there is a Jungalo Factor to EYES WIDE SHUT, especially because one can see interracial couples in the background in few scenes. Besides, the head honcho at the orgy dons a mask that looks 'groidean'. One thing for sure, the film seems to have played a role in messing up Cruise-Kidman marriage, especially as Cruise allowed his wife to be used like a whore by Kubrick. To those on the set, Cruise and Kubrick would have seemed rather like Harford and Ziegler. Cruise-Harford was like a mouse toyed by Kubrick-Ziegler the cat. Also, Cruise lost both wives to Negroes. For a while, Kidman went with Jewgro Lenny Kravitz, and Katie Holmes went with Jamie Foxx. Though Cruise imagines the naval officer to be a white guy, what if she had a Negro in mind?

Then Bill is interrupted by Ziegler’s butler, who guides him upstairs. Now we see the kind of house-calls that account for his lavish lifestyle.

Harford leads a double career as a doctor-doctor and doctor-fixer. In this, he is like George Clooney in MICHAEL CLAYTON, a terrific corporate thriller, in which Sydney Pollack also had a role albeit as a somewhat conscientious(relatively speaking, of course) executive of a top law firm. The powerful need fixers, and it seems Jeffrey Epstein wasn't merely a super-pimp but something of a fixer who could get things done for a price.

Ziegler is clearly a member of the inner party of the elite: ambiguously Jewish, fantastically rich, utterly degenerate. The Harfords come from a lower, outer stratum of the elite... They might be faintly Jewish, or maybe just New York goys steeped in a Jewish atmosphere.

The difference is the Harfords of the World remain more-or-less stuck in their milieu, one of affluence and privilege but nothing special. There were Harfords of the World around when Wasps were on top of Jews, and they are around when Jews are on top of Wasps. They are the constant unter-elites of society. When Wasps were on top, the Harfords of the World served them loyally for a price. When Jews are on top, the HOTW serve them loyally for a price. The Zieglers of the world went from bottom to top. Others go from top to bottom. In contrast, the HOTW snugly and reliably stay above the middle and under the top. They are so bourgeois.

As soon as they enter the Ziegler party, the Harfords are bombarded with opportunities to cheat, but neither does so. The higher one climbs in the social hierarchy, the closer one approaches the inner party, the greater the degeneracy and the more ferocious the assault on marital fidelity.

Is this true? I think plenty of white kids at public universities look for every opportunity to indulge in 'degeneracy' ala ANIMAL HOUSE style. And lowly Negroes have their House Parties. Perhaps, there was a time when most people lived by moral conventions as dictated by church, family, and tradition, but 'degeneracy' has become so shamelessly common from top to bottom that few people will sense there is anything particularly degenerate about Ziegler's party. If anything, everything seems quite respectable on the surface in that particular occasion. The Hungarian playboy is a smooth operator, and he works his charm on Alice because he finds her beautiful. It's not like he's bumping and grinding on every woman on the dance floor. And the two dolls lead Bill Harford away because he's quite a looker. At any rate, both sets of seducers hint at slinking away to some other part of the mansion for hanky-panky. So, the party is mostly respectable, at least on the surface. Indeed, it is only when Harford is led away to some other room that he comes upon Ziegler with the naked hooker. Still, there is a clear spatial boundary between respectability and indulgence at Ziegler's party, in contrast to the later party where the main hall becomes the place of hanky-panky. If anything, we come to realize that Ziegler's party is something of a put-on, a mere prelude and appetizer to the Real Feast reserved for later in the night for insider-guests only. Ziegler's affair is one where everyone from super-insiders to lesser associates kindly rub shoulders. If one didn't know about the OTHER party, the orgy later that night, one might think Ziegler's party is the ultimate gathering of insiders, but it turns out that such notion is a facade, something that only an outsider would believe. It's like plenty of people believe that the center of power is in the Oval Office and Congress when, in fact, the real power is held by those who buy the whore politicians and game the system from behind the scenes.

In a way, the elaborate ritual orgy may be a sign of the anxiety than confidence of power. If one is confident of one's power, what need for secret societies and cryptic rituals? Consider the movie SOCIAL NETWORK where Zuckerberg isn't interested in being admitted into some exclusive club because he is so confident of his intelligence and ability to win and rake in billions. In contrast, the Wasp twins in decline seem to rely on status and connections made possible by 'secret' arrangements to hold onto their privilege. It could be that Zieglers of the world, as New Money, are on the up and up. They know how to make super amounts of money. In contrast, Old Money is in decline, and one way it can assure continued power and privilege is by creating secret orders. That way, the can sell their exclusivity to the New Rich like the Zieglers. Secret Society has nothing to sell to the public that is of any value, but it has something to sell to those with lots of money who want to be 'different', as part of a select few who get to do or witness special things beyond the reach of laws and conventions. In THE SHINING, it's the fallen Wasp elites of old who are sucking on Jack's soul for succor. All they have left is the ghostly cult of privilege. And in BARRY LYNDON, the uber-class has its rules of membership that can be bought even by a rogue like Barry Lyndon for a very steep price. But with respectability being somewhat boring in our day and age, it seems the secret society in EWS attracts Big Money with sexy rituals.

Part of Scientology's appeal has been its Cult of Secret Knowledge. In truth, the kind of people at the head of Scientology aren't the best and the brightest, not the richest and most powerful. But the 'church' has been able to attract many famous celebrities because of the cult of secrecy that portends hidden secrets of the ultimate power. It is sci-fi version of Ayn-Randianism, and people like Tom Cruise and John Travolta, who are famous and rich but not really bright, are made to feel special as favored members who are privy to the innermost secrets of the universe.

Alice is particularly incensed at how cocksure Bill is that she is faithful. Bill is a typical modern conservative. He seems to think that only men have strong sexual desires, which are still weak enough to be kept in check by vows and a sense of honor.
But women—at least the kind of women one might marry—don’t face the same temptations...
"If you men only knew,” Alice responds ominously. She then proceeds to red-pill her husband by telling him of her fantasies of sleeping with a handsome Naval officer who stayed at the same hotel as them the previous summer...
Bill understands nothing about female psychology, and precious little about male psychology, for that matter. He does not understand that part of the sizzle of marriage is the possibility of infidelity. We all value our partners more when we see that other people want them. But we also value them more if we believe that they are capable to taking advantage of these other options.
Alice feels contempt for her husband because he is surrounded by attractive women all the time and is not tempted by them... He’s sexually inert, gelded.
Beyond that, she is enraged by the fact that he takes her fidelity for granted, that he thinks of her as sexually inert and incapable of pursuing other options...

I read the scene differently. It's not that Bill thinks only men feel strong sexual desires. Sure, men feel STRONGER desires, but he is surely aware of female desires too. He just feels that evolution has made men into bigger sexual risk-takers. Indeed, this very notion has been discussed to death in the man-o-sphere(that happens to lean mostly dissident right). Because women are weaker and can get pregnant from sex, they've sought out more reliable mates. Women need men for protection and prefer those who will play the role of fathers. In contrast, men could just hump some woman and run off to hump another. He doesn't have to worry about pregnancy. Also, being stronger than women, he doesn't have to worry about some big strong woman beating him up and forcing him to stick around. So, Bill is correct in the general sense, but reality isn't only about generalities but about particularities(especially in modern affluent society where people can indulge in fantasies and desires divorced from immediate concerns of security and survival), and it is the particularity of Alice's feelings that upset the apple cart.
But then, even by general rules(of evolution and male/female differences), things have gotten complicated by modern society. First, penicillin has cured many STP. Birth control pill and abortion mean that women need worry less about pregnancy. The current Law protects women from feral men. If anything, the courts usually favor women over men. And the state provides for single-mothers. So, even if Bill is correct about evolution's impact on sexual-emotional differences, modern world no longer has much use for those differences. And once women found out they can have more immediate pleasure by acting like men, that became the new reality. Evolution depends on selective factors, and when those factors change in society, different traits come to be favored. So, even if Bill is right about how evolution shaped the respective natures of men and women, he seems willfully blind to the fact that modern society has far less use for those traits and, if anything, favors and encourages counter-traits.
Also, there is a contradiction in feminism that is supposedly anti-men but nakedly longs for 'real men'. When feminists bitch about patriarchy, they really mean they want liberation from the dull moral world of beta-males and want to run off into the world of alpha-males because they find the most pleasure having sex with top males. So, if feminism is about women pursuing happiness without restraint and if what makes women most happy are the studs, then feminism turns into a game of women putting out to 'bad boys' or 'tough guys'. Contrary to being about female empowerment, it turns into female submission to ruthless alpha male domination... because nothing makes women so happy as putting out and submitting to studs. In a way, Bill is unaware of his own contradictions. After all, if he argues from the point of evolution, he should know that evolution made women long for the alpha-males over beta-males because the former, being tough, can protect womenfolk from other alpha-males. Then, it's only natural that his wife might have more hots for some guy who seems manlier than him.

Still, when Alice's nasty rebuke turns into dreamy confession, it's obvious that the argument was not really about generalities. Indeed, it's telling that Alice's words are most devastating not when she is most combative and bitchy but when she is most yielding and yearning. When she was nagging him, he held his own and shot back with counterpoints. What truly unsettles Bill is when she stops being nasty, calms down, and relates a memory of how she was so willing to surrender herself to a man... but to another man. So, Bill could handle combative and bitchy Alice but is lost for words with pacific and romantic Alice because the deepest object of her desire is not Bill or 'other men'(a generality) but one particular man who's been like a god in her memory and imagination. Though Trevor Lynch says Bill was 'saved by the bell' by the phone call, Alice was going down along with him. She wasn't winning the argument because her evocation of the naval officer went off the script(and off the deep-end) about men-and-women in general and instead became a personal confession of an obsession that is entirely her own. It is as self-annihilating as annihilating of Bill's ego.
Though Alice started out by bitching like a typical feminist brat nagging about 'emancipation' and 'equality', she falls into a hypnotic state while recalling how she was utterly mesmerized by a god-man. This man's very presence cast a magic spell on her. So, it's really about him in particular than anything else that really triggered Alice into starting an argument for a chance to finally release her dark secret(and it seems to have partly cathartic effect on her). It is therapeutic to let it off her chest albeit without realizing what effect it would have on Bill. Though a modern couple, her confession sounds like something out of Greek mythology where the greatest honor for a woman was to be visited by a handsome god like Apollo. Seduction by the Hungarian playboy at Ziegler's party was significant insofar it evoked her state of mind when her gaze had fallen on the naval officer. Time isn't just about quantity but quality, like an ounce of gold is more precious than a ton of steel. It's like the scene in CITIZEN KANE when old Bernstein says a glance at a certain girl in his youth has remained with him still and not a day goes by without him thinking of that moment.

So, the reason why Alice got so upset was not over generalities of presumed differences between men and women or Bill's lack of jealousy. Generalities are for dogs, particularities are for cats(that are finicky). Broadly speaking, she might even agree with Bill on general facts about men and women. What really vexes her is that she can't purge that particular man out of her mind as the one True Love who could have brought her to greatest happiness, both physically and spiritually. There is a duality to the meaning of fidelity. Fidelity to duty and fidelity to passion. Unless the object of one's duty and passion happens to be one and the same, everyone is both loyal and disloyal in his/her love life. Alice has remained loyal to Harford out of sense of duty, convention, affection, and/or comfort, but she has been disloyal to her truest desire. Even though she opted to remain with Bill, she has 'cheated' herself out of romance with the man of her greatest dreams.
Indeed, had she never seen this person, she would have been far more content in her marriage as Bill is quite a catch, generally speaking. To most people, Bill would be an ideal hubber. He's a doctor, makes good money, has a nice place, and is a handsome guy. To most women, he would be the Perfect Man(apart from his unspectacular height). He seems to have it all. In contrast, no matter how rich Ziegler is, the ONLY reason women go with him is because he got money. He's no looker. If some guys have looks but no brains/money, some guys have brains/money but no looks. Bill has money(though not super-amount), a prestigious job, and also the looks. So, if Alice's eyes hadn't met those of the naval officer(who must have been godlike in beauty), she probably would have had little to complain about(and in her sober state, she doesn't). But the navy guy had such an effect on her that even her ideal marriage seems lacking.

Kubrick was fascinated by the conundrum of More of More. In LOLITA, Humbert comes across as a smart, urbane, and witty man, especially in comparison to Shelley Winters the gross philistine. But compared to the dazzlingly and perversely brilliant Quilty, Humbert is pure boy scout. In 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, humans of the future(now past) have superb and amazing technology, but compared to extraterrestrials, it is kid stuff. Likewise, Bill Harford to most women is an ideal catch, but there is the More of More. As handsome as he is, he can't hold a candle to the naval officer, at least to Alice. So, little in EWS makes sense unless we take into account the particularities that deviate from generalities. It's like generalities about sexuality and age, even if broadly true, can't come close explaining what happens to Humbert in LOLITA. When his eyes were transfixed on her on that afternoon, his fate was sealed. For him, that moment was the infinite(and beyond). Henceforth, he couldn't conceive of his life apart from Lolita. Had he never met her, he would likely have been content living anywhere with a decent job and modest comfort. Just like everything changed for Christians with the coming of Christ — what with everything before Him having being relegated to B.C. or Before Christ — , Humbert's entire life becomes divided between BL and AL, or Before Lolita and Anno Lolita. (Then, the Christmas allusions make a bit more sense in EYES WIDE SHUT.) Alice's feelings for the officer must have been just as strong as Humbert's for Lolita. But then, she had to walk away because she had no 'in' with the officer, whereas Humbert gained entry into Lolita's life as lodger in her mother's house. Anyway, just like Humbert's 'madness' cannot be explained in terms of generalities, Alice's romantic agony or love sickness cannot be reduced into a 'political' lesson. The argument about men/women in general was merely a pretext for Alice to finally confess what's really been eating away at her. It was never about Men but that one-and-only particular Man. In other words, Bill's confidence that Alice would never cheat on him would be true IF NOT for the fact that she was totally dazzled by that one man, the naval officer.

In a way, Bill's emotional state in that moment is a counterpart to Shelley Winters' response in LOLITA upon reading Humbert's diary. The truth slams her in the face, and she's at her wit's end. She realizes Humbert never cared for her and was really in love with her daughter. Bill discovers that Alice, at least since the day she saw the officer, was really in love with the other man and was only playing wife than being wife with him. (Granted, it's much worse for Shelley Winters' character because Humbert really holds her in contempt, whereas Alice still feels affection and warmth for Bill.) Now, if Bill were an ugly guy who got a hot wife purely with money, he might have taken it better. At least he would understand why his wife feels the way she does. But he's a good-looking guy who attracts women from all sides, so he's flustered that Alice is totally head-over-heels with some other guy. But then, in traditional society, aristocrats were the warrior caste. Doctors were the servants of the warrior class. In modern society, businessmen are the top, and doctors/professionals, with their special skills, are above the warrior class(unless warriors happen to be colonels and generals). And yet, in evolutionary terms, women like killers than healers. Besides, it seems the officer wasn't merely a warrior but the most handsome guy imaginable.

In a way, Bill's explanation for his own fidelity and that of his wife is a form of narcissism. After all, even if he rebuffs other women, he knows he's married to a gorgeous woman. He has someone special to come home to every night. And he probably assumed that Alice feels the same way about him. He doesn't spell it out, but he figures one big reason why Alice is loyal to him is because he's a good-looking and successful guy. Now, if Bill was married to someone like Lena Dunham and if Alice were married to someone like John C. Reilly, one might think infidelity would be a greater possibility. But what need for infidelity when both husband and wife are such lookers? And yet, there is always the problem of More of More. While Bill is handsome, there is More Handsome... just like there is Ziegler's Party for the Rich and Privileged and then there is the Haute Orgy for the super-duper uber-privileged. Just like Bill isn't satisfied with Ziegler's party once he hears about the super-secret orgy, Alice could no longer be content with Bill once her eyes fell upon the god-stud in the form of the naval officer. It's like once Scotty becomes besotted with 'Madeleine' in VERTIGO, he's like that song, "I Only Have Eyes for You". He even loses his sense of humor when Midge plays a little joke on him.

So, the problem is not that Bill understands nothing about female psychology. He understands plenty, and he's more-or-less correct on the dog-general level. But just like dog-realities don't apply to cats, Bill's ideas about Women-in-general isn't enough to understand the particular power of poetry, myth, and romanticism that has taken hold of Alice. Beauty has that mysterious kind of power. It's like John Hurt's odd obsession with some third-rate teen-flick actor in LOVE AND DEATH IN LONG ISLAND. His personal 'madness' cannot be explained in general terms of age, sex, class, and/or homosexuality. After all, plenty of middle-aged homo men might have seen the same thing and not reacted so powerfully. But for him, the actor meant everything.

The visit to the Nathanson apartment is the beginning of a series of temptations—an implausibly long series of temptations that comes to resemble an allegory like The Pilgrim’s Progress. In an intensely awkward scene—one of many to come—Marion kisses Bill and confesses her love for him only a few feet from her father, lying on his deathbed.

This scene is significant because Marion is to Bill what Alice is to the naval officer. Alice is married to Bill but was willing to sacrifice everything for a night with the officer. Marion is engaged to some guy but is willing to throw away everything to be with Bill. Even the grief over her father's death is secondary to her sadness that she might never see Bill again. Indeed, it's likely she merely used her father's death as pretext for getting to see Bill once again. After all, he's not really needed there as he's a doctor, not a mortician.
So, it's perversely amusing that Bill himself becomes the object of obsession not unlike the one that stole his wife's heart away. Does he realize this irony in the moment? Maybe, maybe not. But one thing for sure, Marion isn't as pretty as Alice. To Marion, Bill is the tops. But Alice, who is equal to Bill in the looks department, can conceive of a higher beauty.

...he is taunted as a faggot by a bunch of drunken frat boys. (All of them taller.). Next he bumps into a beautiful prostitute, Domino (also taller than him), who takes him back to her apartment. But Bill chickens out, pays her for her time, and flees.

Encounter with rowdy boys is significant as a wake-up call from his bout of self-absorption. Emotions work like a black hole sucking all awareness and consciousness into one's darkest pits(as if one's self-pity or self-aggrandizement is the end-all of the universe), and therefore, as unpleasant as the encounter is, it shakes Bill back to reality that doesn't care about your feelings. Also, even though the rowdy boys are lowly creatures, they are warrior types like the naval officer. Bill comes across as someone who's never known fight except in gym class.
And, as different as Alice and the Rowdy Boys are, both have one thing in common in having 'sucker-punched' Bill with hard truth. Alice's is a poetic dream of the romantic warrior whereas Rowdy Boys' is the prosaic drumming in the streets, but they are one and the same at the source. Whether it's knight in shining armor or thug with a hammer, it's the killer who has the most immediate impact on our psyche.
And yet, surprises can be as pleasant as unpleasant. Life is like a roll of the dice. That night, Bill was unfortunate to have walked the part of the street where a bunch of guys knocked him over. But later in the film, he discovers how lucky he was not to have had sex with the prostitute who turns out to be HIV-positive. Who knew? It's like what Ziegler says about life. It's got ups and downs, you win some, you lose some, and that's that. You can be sucker-punched by life, but also sucker-hugged.

As for the prostitute, he doesn't chicken out. Ironically, he is 'saved by the bell' once again. Phone call from Alice interrupts a torrid night that might have been. The call reminds him of his duties, and he does the right thing... just like Alice did the right thing when she didn't give herself to the naval officer. But there are key differences as well. Alice was truly infatuated with the naval officer, whereas Bill is merely attracted to the prostitute on the carnal level. He could walk away without regrets, something that was impossible for Alice who never stopped thinking of the officer(though the cathartic confession may have relieved her torment somewhat). Also, Bill isn't sure what he wants or why he is there with the prostitute. Was her kindness welcoming and therapeutic? Furthermore, she seemed genuinely attracted to him, thereby stoking his ego as a lady killer. Was his power of money(to afford such a woman) assuring of his own status? Was it meant as revenge against Alice? But would it have been justified as revenge when Alice didn't give herself to the naval officer? He walks away too, which would suggest he ultimately did the right thing as Alice had done. But then, Alice walked away from a true desire, whereas he walks away from a mere dalliance involving dollars.
There is also the contrast between Bill & the hooker and Ziegler & his hookers. Bill's willingness to pay her the money despite the lack of service suggests generosity and concern, soft and warm qualities. It also suggests naivete and weakness, as if he's eager to win respect with money. In contrast, Ziegler is far colder with his use of money and women. Granted, Ziegler can act 'warm', as when he gives friendly advice to Bill near the end, suggesting that Bill too is just a whore to him.

Over drinks, Nick tells Bill of a party he is going to play at starting at 2 a.m. It is a masked ball/orgy, where he plays blindfolded. But the last time he played, the blindfold was not secured, and he caught a glimpse of “such women.”

That one glimpse was so electrifying that Nightingale just had to spill the beans to Bill. Just one look. Just like just one look at the naval officer profoundly affected Alice, that one glimpse gave Nightingale a sense of what's really out there but hidden from view of mortal eyes. And both Alice and Nightingale had to tell someone about it. They both told Bill.
It's also Nightingale's way to compensate for his fallen status. Once a medical student, he now works as a piano player in various clubs. So, when they first meet, Bill has the edge, but when Nightingale says he plays music for the uber-rich, he reveals an edge over Bill, and soon, Bill is pleading for the information that will get him into the orgy(just like kids were clamoring to be allowed into Joel's brothel-for-a-day home in RISKY BUSINESS). That glimpse sounds so tantalizing to Bill that he's willing to risk all to be there. In a way, it's psychological compensation for his inability to penetrate Alice's fantasies. What did Alice really see in the officer? All his mind could muster was b/w crude porny images of sex between Alice and the officer. There is a blockage. He can see the sex but not the mythology. But perhaps, entering the secret ritual will be akin to cracking the barrier of the forbidden zone. Thus, the mansion has both physical and psychic presence, like the Overlook Hotel in THE SHINING.

The rich have the means to materialize their fantasies. Even a hick like Elvis Presley, upon making millions, built himself Graceland. And Michael Jackson had his Neverland. Reality and dreams are opposites, but with enough riches, people can shape reality to conform to their fancies, much like Ludwig II did. And the scene when Harford walks through the mansion is dreamlike.

Bill then rushes off to the Rainbow Costume shop and rouses its owner, Mr. Milich, from his bed to rent a tuxedo, hooded cape, and a mask. The scene is overlong, padded, and excruciatingly awkward

I found it hilarious. Kubrick was superb with character-actors, like the Russian wrestler in THE KILLING and prison officer in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. Milich is quite a character.

The ball/orgy is the most famous sequence in Eyes Wide Shut. The scene, like the story as a whole, is based on Austrian-Jewish Decadent novelist and playwright Arthur Schnitzler’s Traumnovelle (Dream Story).

I'm not a big fan of decadence myself, but didn't Greg Johnson discuss with 'Pill-Eater' about recruiting young men for homosexual trysts at white nationalist meetings? It seems decadence and degeneracy are too pervasive to be pinned to any particular group.

In the movie, the ball is before Christmas, but there’s nothing Christian, or even rebelliously Christian, about this event. Indeed, it is most definitely anti-Christian, a profanation and inversion of Christianity.

But then, how Christian was the history of Christianity, with all those perverted Popes? And with the Catholic Church patronizing all those homosexual artists who created neo-pagan paintings and sculptures of naked men and women doing who knows what?

And didn't Christianity begin with a 'cuckold' myth of Joseph discovering that his wife Mary was impregnated by another... who, according to an angel, happened to be God, which is why Joseph didn't have her stoned to death, I guess. In pagan myths, women were visited by gods and gave birth to semi-gods, but somewhere along the line, paganism and Judaism fused to create Christianity, a very contradictory faith.

And while the orgy isn't very Christian, the whole drama about a woman who chooses to sacrifice herself for Bill carries quasi-christian undertones.

Kubrick... considered adapting it with Woody Allen as the explicitly Jewish protagonist... He even considered casting Steve Martin in an explicitly comic adaptation. But when he finally made the film... Bill would be played by a non-Jewish actor, and that the ball would be a gathering of America’s specifically Jewish elite.

How times changed. When Kubrick first read the book in 1968, Wasps were still on top, and Jews were still climbers. By 1999, Jews were masters of the world, and EWS reflects this reality.

"...why would the power-elites of a society engage in group perversion? The richer a person is, the more opportunities there are for self-indulgence. After a while, though, such people get jaded and hunger for exotic pleasures, including ones that violate the rules of morality and the laws of society."

This would be true in a generally moral society, but ours isn't such. The hoi polloi have been hooked to Jerry Springer and worse. Howard Stern has been the hero of millions. Since the advent of the internet, kids got access to pornography. Miley Cyrus and Lena Dunham are part of mainstream. Rap is the biggest musical genre. So, one could be an average Joe and indulge in all kinds of perversion without shame or opprobrium.

In the end, what is striking about the orgy isn't its degeneracy. Rather, it's the quality, exclusivity, and secrecy. It's not so much what happens but by whom and where. In other words, if Bill came upon a bunch of regular guys and gals screwing each other in some dumpy part of town, it wouldn't have been anything special. It's like the appreciation of Art isn't merely about the pictures but the context. The same painting has infinitely more allure in a great museum or in a mansion than in a junk shop or garbage dump. When people attend operas or classical concerts, it's not just for the music but to be in the right place with the right kind of people. One could take the exact same class in a community college or Ivy League college, but it feels more special to be in the latter because of the pedigree of being part of haute education. So, in the end, the main allure of the 'ball' isn't really the sex but the fact that it's closed off to all but a few. It's like Jack entering the gold room in THE SHINING. People aren't boffing each other there but merely sitting around sipping drinks, but it seems special because it's the Jet Set in a world of their own. It's like the saying 'location, location, location'. Two exactly same houses could be built in a small town and in the fanciest part of Manhattan, yet the one in the small town isn't regarded as much while so many swoon over the one in the center of metropolis.

Beyond routine degeneracy, elites also use sexual perversion as a tool of control. Just as street gangs require prospective members to sully themselves with crimes to join, elites have similar rituals, the more morally repulsive the better. Pedophilia and cannibalism probably top the list.

Pedophilia seems to be common among the lower orders. Many women who become hookers, junkies, or porn performers were molested by 'white trash' or 'black trash' men. As for cannibalism, it is the national sport of Negroes in Africa.
All this Alex-Jonesy fantasies about elite perversion misses the point. It may be that some very rich people love to dabble in such stuff, but it's not what the real power is about. In THE GODFATHER II, Hyman Roth has no time for such nonsense. Neither does Michael Corleone. It's the Gearys, Johnny Ola's, and Fredo's of the world who get all Beavis-and-Butthead-ish about the 'boing' stuff.
From top to bottom, there will always be perverts. Whether it's the upper classes in LA DOLCE VITA or the lower orders in Pasolini's ACCATONE, there will be people looking to get off on 'boing'. But when it comes to power, it's neither here nor there. While the powerful can be pervy, perviness doesn't guarantee power that is really the product of intelligence, cunning, ruthlessness, and connections. But of course, people would rather see a movie about rich people doing decadent stuff than working hard at gaining power because the former is more fun and sensationalist.
When people like Alex Jones focus so much on the perviness of the globalist elites, they are missing the point. Even if all super-rich people acted totally respectably in their personal lives, they could still do a lot of evil. Even if George Soros never did any hanky-panky in his life, the fact is he destroyed entire economies. Even if it's true that Mitt Romney has been a loyal family man, he was a corporate raider who hurt entire communities. For all we know, the intrigue-obsessed general in PATHS OF GLORY is respectable and dignified in personal life, but his way of politics is truly devious, demented, and vile. Of course, the perviness adds an extra kick to evil, but it's the gravy, not the meat.

One woman takes up with Bill... Then things stop making sense. Immediately, she states that Bill does not belong there and warns him to leave... But there’s really no way that she could know this. When Bill entered, she was engaged in the ritual. There was no time for anyone to figure out that Bill was an interloper, and no way to communicate this to the woman. There was also no way that she could have figured this out on her own, for he was masked like the rest of them.

It seems they figured out he was an interloper soon enough and probably told the girl to scare him off with some cryptic threat. All it would have taken is for someone to whisper the instructions into her ears. "Say something to make him leave." The other possibility is that, even though he was masked, she was so familiar with the setting and the people usually in attendance that she sensed right away that he didn't belong. Or, maybe there was a scent about him that alerted her that he is the man who saved her life earlier in the evening. In the Christian mythology, Jesus saved Mary Magdalene from stoning, and in turn, she devoted her life to Him, and there seems to be a similar dynamics between Bill and the girl. I can see Lynch's point about the abruptness of her alerting him, but it's not outside the realm of possibility that she was told to warn him away.

When he checked his coat, the pocket contained a costume rental receipt made out to someone who was not on the guest list. But this still does not explain how the woman could have known who he was. Nor does it explain how the whole party could instantaneously gather back in the ritual chamber to unmask him.

It doesn't matter if she knew or didn't know who he was. What matters is someone probably told her to warn him to leave. And she did just that. It appears as though she's risking her own well-being by taking the initiative to warn him before others find out, but more likely, they told her to warn him so as to shoo him away without making a scene.

How did so many people gather so fast in the main hall to ritually humiliate him? Hive mentality. When bees or ants feel threatened, they drop everything and form a united bloc. What matters most to these people is their power, privilege, and secrecy. The fact that some outsider intruded into their space is deeply upsetting to them. It's the opposite of what happens in WICKER MAN, in which a man is goaded into the community to serve as human sacrifice. In contrast, Bill really sneaked into a place he didn't belong. Also, it's possible that not all(or even most) of the men engaged in sex with the models were members of the uber-rich. Just like the women were hired, it could be the men were hired to serve as studs, with the rich folks mainly serving as voyeurs.

There are layers of irony here. The uber-rich have built for themselves a grand palace of wonders but use it for profanity, but then act as though their 'sacred' place has been violated by a filthy usurper, one who actually kept his clothes on. But then, if ultra-beauty can be afforded by the wealthy and if wealth often comes by dubious means, it's only natural that beauty and perversion would sit side by side. (It seems casino mogul Sheldon Adelson is the biggest donor to the GOP, the 'family values' party.) Also, considering that homos have been so closely involved with arts, culture, and design, there is an added layer of perversion + beauty.

Alice is giggling in her sleep. He awakens her, and she tells him about her dream... The Naval officer emerged from the words, looked at her, mocked her, then made love to her. Because he knows what to do with a naked woman. Then they were surrounded by couples coupling. Then Alice began to have sex with countless other men. She knew that Bill was watching her and started laughing at him. Then he woke her.
Dr. Bill has been through a rather long day, and I can’t imagine a more humiliating bit of news to cap it all off. In a normal man, millions of years of evolution might have led to anger, even violence. But not our Bill.

Alice's dream is like HAL computer's singing "Daisy" as it 'dies' in 2001. The song goes from dreamy to grunting animal noises reminiscent of the apes in the beginning of the film. As in the movie ALTERED STATES, the root source of all things is the brutish and animal. So, even though Alice had the most romantic dream about the naval officer as a god-man, her passions when-push-comes-to-shove turns into an animal lust without rhyme or reason.
The reason why Bill may feel especially perturbed is he's not sure if she's telling him the whole truth. She said things got really dark and ugly in the dream, and she began to panic and felt afraid. And yet, when he woke her up, she was giggling and seemed to be having a good time. So, maybe she liked the dream a hell of a lot more than she let on.
Bill and Alice are so close and have shared the bed together for nine years, but through Alice's confession and dream, Bill truly realizes what vast differences exist within the realms of the mind. Their bodies are so near and even co-mingled in sex, but their minds are separate universes with their own cosmos of secrets, real or fantastical. It's like FISHER KING where Jeff Bridges' character finally does what he can to unlock the secret that is haunting the Robin Williams' troubled soul. It's so difficult to bridge the gap between mental universes, especially when someone develops a mental black hole that sucks in and holds so many secrets.

While Bill had long day(or long day's journey into night and night into day), the reason why he isn't particularly angry with Alice is because where he's been isn't all that different from where Alice has been. If anything, he is more guilty. While Alice acted out her fantasy in the private world of dream, Bill actually got very close to a hooker and then attended an orgy where men and women were really doing what Alice only imagined in her sleep. The difference is Alice had sex in non-reality whereas Bill had no sex in a reality full of sex. Thus, both were faithful and unfaithful. In body, Alice didn't commit adultery but did so in soul. In contrast, Bill physically entered a world of debauchery but didn't take part himself.

Also, upon confessing her dream, it is Alice who feels dirty, ashamed, and apologetic. She breaks down and cries, while Bill remains stolid. Earlier in the night, she spoke of romantic yearning for a beautiful man. But now, she awoke from a dream in which she was little more than a skanky whore who allowed herself to be passed around like a piece of meat. Especially as Alice knows NOTHING of Bill's late night sojourn — she thinks he was at the dead man's bed through the wee hours of the night — , she feels especially guilty as she is not without conscience. While Bill was presumably putting off sleep by being the good doctor, Alice lost herself in revelry of sexual fantasies. At this point, she is weeping and feeling apologetic. She feels Bill has the right to judge her. So, it's as if Bill really won the evening... though, given the nature of her confession, he can't be too happy the way he 'won'. It is on the next day when Bill breaks down in tears and confesses what he'd been up to that both are on equal footing again.

If this is starting to seem like a very long story to you, don’t worry: There’s only one hour left.
The next day, a very tired Bill runs a bunch of errands. He tries to locate Nick Nightingale, using his grin, doctor card, and lies to wheedle his hotel out of a waitress, but when he gets to the hotel, the creepy gay desk clerk describes how a visibly bruised and shaken Nick checked out in the wee hours in the company of two burly men...These scenes are all annoying padded and awkward, with plenty of Cruise’s cringy grinning.

It might seem long if one focuses only on the physical action, but it holds interest for those who are on Bill's psychological wavelength. It's a new day, and Bill could just put it all behind him. After all, couples do argue, and oh well, Bill and Alice got into a tussle the night before. And Bill escaped from the mansion unscathed. He could just forget it all as if it were a dream and move on. And yet, there are traces from the night that linger, and he just can't let it go; he has to play the amateur sleuth.
In this, he has an easy time with the civilians, the social inferiors who are impressed by his good looks, good teeth, charm, and credentials. To them, he is a prince, and they offer up whatever tidbits of information to be in his good graces. As inferiors generally want to get near and/or impress superiors, they give into his inquiries. The hilarious homo clerk is especially taken with him. But if social inferiors open up to Bill, his social superiors shut him out and want to keep him out. One wonders if their evil is greatly exaggerated, and they're merely trying to scare him off because they themselves are scared of scandal. If they truly feared him and Nightingale, why not have them killed? But are they really killers? Or did they want to kill him but didn't do so at the behest of Ziegler who might have interceded on his behalf as a good whore/soldier.

Anyway, all of us had an experience so intense, strange, or weird that the next day, we had to revisit the 'scene of the crime' to get a sense of what really happened and why? And Bill goes through that kind of emotions as he realizes that he just can't let this go. What happened, from his wife's confession to Marion's declaration of love to the hooker to the orgy to Alice's dream, was a succession of events that he simply cannot digest and flush out of his memory. It was a terrible night but also a wondrous one, truly extraordinary for a doctor who's been used to the routine life of the neo-bourgeoisie.

he drives to the estate, where a bloodless, vampiric looking butler hands him a threatening note.

Was it the butler? Or was it the owner of the mansion? He seemed too grim, somber, and old to be a butler or mere servant of the house.

But then Victor tries a strange gambit. What if everything that happened that night—the warnings, the threats, etc.—were just a charade to scare Bill into silence. This is impossible, of course, for reasons explained above. Beyond that, Bill asks what kind of charade ends up with someone being killed. Victor replies that Mandy simply had her brains fucked out and was sent home. The overdose was her doing. The door was locked from the inside. The police were satisfied.

As sinister as Victor and his sort can be, his explanation is probably the truth. It was likely all an act. She was coached to say those things, and she probably died of drug overdose. If she was killed, it was part of a sick ritual than to silence anyone.

The reason why this explanation upsets Bill isn't because he suspects Victor and his crowd are a bunch of cold-blooded killers who are capable of anything. It's because it undermines the myth that finally filled his heart with meaning and something akin to mythic love. As he'd connected the dots, he surmised that the mystery woman at the orgy was so taken with him and felt such love that she willingly offered herself as sacrifice to save his life. After all, the whole dilemma began when Alice told him that she loved a man so much that she was willing to sacrifice everything — her marriage, her sanity, and even her child — just to be with him. Bill's neo-bourgeois mind had never conceived of love so powerful and passionate, verging on the mythic. All night, he wasn't sure what he was looking for, but the next day, as he pieces the puzzle together, he comes to believe that the Mystery Woman(Mandy) loved him as much as Alice loved the naval officer. She loved him to the point of giving up her life for him. So, even as he is distraught over the news of her death, he is also deeply moved and inspired that he could be the object of such love, thus becoming the mythic equal of the naval officer.
And that is why Ziegler's rather prosaic explanation is so threatening to Bill's poetic reverie. It deflates the myth that finally gave so much meaning to his life. It was all just an act? What a bummer. She was just another hooker paid to play some stunt, and she didn't sacrifice herself but just died from self-indulgence.

If that was Kubrick’s intent, then we have to judge this movie a failure. The first time I heard Nichole Kidman say “fuck,” fade to black, I felt such revulsion and rage that I would have pushed a button and blown the whole film to hell.

Sometimes, take the advice from another Cruise film, RISKY BUSINESS. Sometimes you just gotta say, "What the fuc*."

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Was "Eyes Wide Shut" a Cultural Watershed? by ROBERT S. GRIFFIN

I found it stunningly bad. Words that come to mind include artless, coarse, contrived, sophomoric, undisciplined, and vulgar.

Actually, it's artful and vulgar, which can also be said for LOLITA and BARRY LYNDON. And THE SHINING. Kubrick was a cinematic master, and everything he did was artful. He was fascinated with things of beauty, and the palatial world in BARRY LYNDON is amazing in terms of what humanity could achieve in aesthetics. However, Kubrick was also an artist, a truth-seeker, and he pondered the timeless theme of the divergence between man-as-aspiration and man-as-ape. Icarus with wings, Icarus fallen back to earth. Through art, people create 'perfect forms' of beauty and grace, as among the Ancient Greeks.
But people don't measure up to such standards. Also, even those gifted with beauty could be dumb, stupid, monstrous, and/or pathological. (Tom Cruise is a looker but dumb. So is Brad Pitt.) And even if they're virtuous and noble, they must compromise with the corrupt world, and the compromise corrupts them. And even if they lead exemplary lives, they are nevertheless animated by primitive urges(as man is the hairless ape).
And, even sound minds deteriorate into senility, and even the greatest beauty wilt and wither with age. In the post-Stargate scene in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, the one in the bedroom, Kubrick was maybe making this point. The extraterrestrials created an artificial space modeled on man's highest aspirations of art and dignity. But natural man is far below his ideals. Man dreams of heroes and saints, but he is neither. He is a thinking ape driven by urges not much different from those of chimps. It's like DR. STRANGELOVE is about important men, the best and the brightest, of two great nation-states. Both claim to high aspirations, either freedom & democracy or justice & socialism. But the contest of egos and obsession with dominance betray their inherently apelike nature. If mankind seems doomed to remain mired in apedom in DR. STRANGELOVE, the next film 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY imagines a dream where wiser extraterrestrials can remold at least one man, David Bowman, as the prototype of the New Man who can transcend apehood and reach the level of man's higher aspirations of art, philosophy, and spirituality.

Vulgarity in Kubrick's films is not gratuitous. If anything, it reveals the contradiction between beauty and ugliness at the center of power. In fairytales, beauty rules. Beauty is goodness and ability. The handsome prince defeats the dragon & ugly villains and lives happily ever after with the beautiful princess(and they have beautiful children together). In reality, power is attained by intelligence + cunning + ruthlessness, and an ugly and devious person could be the most intelligent, strong-willed, and resourceful. The result is so much of beauty ends up in the hands of the ugly and ruthless. Ideally when we see a grand mansion, we would like to think the owner/inhabitant is the human equal of the impressive architecture. But many kings and noblemen were idiots through history. And capitalism meant that most wealth would end up with the business class. While capitalism was more meritocratic than hereditary aristocracy, there was no guarantee that the most scrupulous and principled, let alone the most handsome and beautiful, would make it to the top. Rather, winners are guys like Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos.
In BARRY LYNDON, we are dazzled by the mansions, sculptures, gardens, and art, but we also notice that the elites are far from angels and tricks up their sleeves. Humanity is unworthy of the best of humanity. Also, they will even allow a rogue like Barry into their domain AS LONG AS he is willing to pay to play. So, even as they're dignified in dress and manners, they are really vulgar about power. Over the table, it's all fancy and clean, but under the table, all kinds of shenanigans go on. It's the same with democracy. We are told it's about the Rule of Law and 'liberal values', but who writes the rules? Who gets to define the values? The rich and powerful and their minions.

Furthermore, vulgarity serves two functions in Kubrick films, which distinguishes him from David Lean(much admired by Kubrick). Both Kubrick and Lean presented vulgar characters — performances by Anthony Quinn in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and Rod Steiger in DOCTOR ZHIVAGO come to mind — , and Lean wasn't without irony and cynicism. Still, vulgarity could be idealized, especially with William Holden's character in THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI: An American who cuts through the bull, especially in contrast to the snobby British and stuck-up Japanese. And with Quinn's character, vulgarity = valour and virility. Though Steiger's character(as a man of privilege with crude ways) in DOCTOR ZHIVAGO is contemptible, he is not without a certain romanticism and possibility of redemption. Furthermore, there are genuinely noble characters or moments in Lean's movies. Holden plays the cynic who becomes a real self-sacrificing hero. Lawrence the troubled soul is a true poet-warrior. Zhivago is pure of heart, and Lara is a dream. They all rise above the vulgarity around them. They are pearls among the swine.
Kubrick's nihilistic view is the opposite. Not only is there a vulgar underbelly to the opulence of the rich, but all men are part of apehood. There are no noble souls or salt of the earth. The noblest character in Kubrick's films is Kirk Douglas' in PATHS OF GLORY, the one that comes closest to the humanist message, but on some level, we can't help feel that Kubrick agrees with the devious general. Idealists are fools delusional not only about the world but their own moral character. It's like a fish pretending it can be dry. So, unlike leftist social critics who tend to believe that evil is concentrated in the power and that the average person is a fine fellow, Kubrick believes the stain of apehood is part and parcel of every man.

For all its sex talk, sexual situations, and nudity and couplings, this film curiously lacks eroticism.
Some people might say there is a kind of coitus-interruptus at work in EWS as Bill Hartford fails to fuc* anyone after his wife's confession. But he's not really seeking sex or physical contact. He wants to enter into the secret realm of sexual dynamics. He wants to remain a voyeur. When he's with the hooker in her apartment, he seems only mildly turned on. Earlier when the daughter of the dead man made advances, he walked away. If he only wanted sex, he surely could have called up any of his female acquaintances. He's no 'incel'. Nor, is he looking to GET EVEN with his wife. After all, despite Alice's confession, she didn't cheat on him and remained faithful in body. But not 'spiritually'. He wants to enter her mind, but of course he can't, so his wandering through the night is a subconscious search for something approximating the the secret temple of sex and love. It explains why he's so insistent on gaining access to the secret ritual within the mansion. It'd be like walking into a lucid dream. To better understand EWS, try MOTHMAN PROPHECIES in which a man who loses his wife subconsciously seeks roundabout ways to reconnect with her somehow. His quest is as futile as Hartford's — one cannot reconnect with the dead, and one cannot enter someone else's soul — , but an obsessed soul simply can't let go and wanders into mythic territory for an answer. Whether it's Scotty recreating Madeleine in VERTIGO or Klein(Richard Gere) trying to save lives(as compensation for his inability to prevent his wife's death) in MOTHMAN PROPHECIES, there is more going on than what meets the eye.

Why all this attention from me to this bad film? Because I speculate that “Eyes Wide Shut” may have been a watershed in our collective life... It may have set the stage for... what is going on now in center-stage mass entertainment taken seriously by critics and the... public... the last word in “Eyes Wide Shut,” and thus the last word in Kubrick’s directing career, is “fuck.”

Yeah, I guess he didn't say 'fudge' and deserves a soap in his mouth. At any rate, where have you been? EWS as a cultural watershed, especially because someone said 'fuc*'? What about THE LAST TANGO IN PARIS? During Watergate, everyone was wondering about 'deep throat'. The word 'fuc*' must have been uttered a million times in movies since the early 70s. Quentin Tarantino himself used it at least 100,000 times in the 1990s.
Besides, despite the cult following, EWS hasn't been much discussed by critics and scholars. If you want to talk about watersheds, Tarantino is your man. PULP FICTION was a real game-changer in film culture as it profoundly altered the meaning and purpose of Art Cinema and Indie Film. Another game-changer was JUNGLE FEVER by Spike Lee. While interracial stuff had been around, Spike Lee brought it out in the open, along with madonna the skank. EWS had no impact on culture. Had it never existed, the overall culture would be the same. Besides, in a culture that is most obsessed with superhero movies, how is EWS relevant?

I found “Belle de Jour” the opposite of what I later found objectionable about “Eyes Wide Shut”: it is artful, refined, true, mature, meticulous, and tasteful. Without any nudity at all, it was highly, and appropriately, erotic.

Luis Bunuel was one of the most wickedly vulgar directors. Intellectual and sophisticated but anarchic, irreverent, and subversive. He really loved to stick it to the Catholic Church and the bourgeoisie. Also, the 'refined' quality you find in BELLE DE JOUR is a put-on. Bunuel was a master, but I wouldn't call his art 'mature'. He remained a mischievous child to the end. Many of films are the equivalent of anarchist bomb throwing or stuffing a frog down someone's back. And, BELLE DE JOUR is a comedy. EWS had funny moments but operates on a different level. BARARELLA is closer to BELLE DE JOUR.

This kind of thing, which pervades Raphael’s book, got me thinking about whether the fact that Kubrick and Raphael were Jewish and Buñuel and Carriere were Gentiles contributes to an understanding of the differences between “Belle de Jour” and “Eyes Wide Shut.”

This reads like 'woke' criticism in the pages of NYT and elsewhere. It's one thing to ponder the role of Jewish mindset or personality in arts and expression, but the above query comes close to saying "Goy good" and "Jew bad". Art has no such rules. Commie Eisenstein was a genius. Anti-Jewish Wagner was a great artist. And it's especially hilarious in relation to Bunuel, one of the most wickedly perverse, irreverent, subversive, mocking, and anarchic directors. Bunuel makes most Jews, even the perverts, seem rather staid by comparison. Bunuel relished being the enfant terrible. And as a swarthy Spaniard, he was hardly the 'Aryan' type.
If one wants to contrast Jewish Sensibility vs Gentile Sensibility, maybe it's possible pitting Billy Wilder against John Ford or Roman Polanski against Christopher Nolan(or Veit Harlan). But Bunuel of all people? He out-Jewed the Jews. It's like mentioning Jerry Lee Lewis as an exemplar of white music as contrast to black music.

Also, while one can find distinct Jewish elements in Kubrick's works, he stands out from most Jewish directors who were more adept with words and gags than vision and design. (Fritz Lang, a comparable director, was half-Jewish. Sergei Eisenstein, another grand master, was quarter Jewish.) A cursory glance at Kubrick's visual style wouldn't necessarily lead one to say 'Jew'. He's the most Beethoven-like among directors. Pauline Kael called A CLOCKWORK ORANGE 'teutonic'. Susan Sontag found 'fascist' aesthetics in the Nietzschean 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. Granted, the Jewish Max Ophuls, no less than David Lean, anticipated Kubrick's approach. In the early 60s, Kubrick though Ingmar Bergman was the greatest film artist. And Kubrick loved Kurosawa, whose cinema has little in common with Jewish sensibility.

(Michio Kakutani)points out that in his films Kubrick has portrayed sex "as an all-consuming obsession (Humbert’s compulsive pursuit of a pubescent girl in 'Lolita'), an uproarious sight-gag (the scene of two planes copulating in 'Dr. Strangelove') and a brutal violation (the rape scene in 'A Clockwork Orange'), but it has never been depicted as a complex, emotional involvement encompassing love."

Kakutani is the Yoko Ono of criticism. An idiot. Actually, LOLITA is about love as complex emotional involvement. I don't know about the novel by Nabokov, but the movie isn't about a dirty old man hankering for some hotty-tot teen. Humbert is really in love with the girl and only with her. Even when she's married and knocked up with a kid, he still wants to be with her. As such, LOLITA isn't really about sex, though of course sex/lust is part of love. He really feels love for her, which oddly makes it even more perverse. He's caught up in a dirty and scandalous situation but feels something true and deep about the object of his obsession. This makes Humbert a tragic character in the end. He doesn't kill merely for jealousy but for love's honor.

I’ve decided that the best way to get across my take on “Eyes Wide Shut” is through the dialogue of its climactic scene, an exchange between millionaire Victor (last name, Ziegler) and Dr. Bill... See what you think, but to me this scene coming up is the longest, most heavy-handed, meandering, tell-not-show, drama-killing exposition movie scene of all time.

Victor is likely a billionaire.

What's wrong with the scene? It works just fine. First, film dialogue, which cleaves closer to intimacy of reality, works differently from stage dialogue. As such, film speech is generally less poetic or rhetorical than stage dialogue(and it explains why most plays don't make good cinema; novels, set in reality than on stage, make better movies). Most novels have 'pedestrian' dialogue compared to plays because the characters operate as real life people. Theater actors, even in 'realist' plays, are as much performances(like opera singers) as they're characters. In the novel, the description of places and mood are as important(or more so) than the dialogue. If Hemingway's novels were stripped of everything but dialogue, much of it would seem banal and pointless.

What matters in the scene between Ziegler and Hartford isn't so much what they say but what they don't say or hide between the lines... until finally the beans are spilt and there's no going back.
Also, the scene is an explanation(among many possible explanations), not an exposition. We will never know what really happened, and we don't know what Ziegler is really up to. The scene is comparable to the final exchange between the general and Kirk Douglas' character in PATHS OF GLORY. The Machiavellian and the Idealist, the professional of power and the amateur, the boy scout.
The scene is also significant because it deflates Hartford's personal mythology derived from what happened since his intrusion into the mansion. He feels himself to have tripped over into some dark world. He also believes a woman loved him so much that she sacrificed herself for him. Yet, it turns out the secret society of sinister rich people is really a pervert-club of the likes of Ziegler. And more likely than not, the woman who apparently sacrificed herself for him was a junkie who died of overdose. Fairytale turns into 'Fudge'. But then, it's one explanation, and we aren't sure what really happened.

At any rate, screenplays rarely come to life on their own. Theater Plays have innate worth as Talk is central to the stage. In most forms of cinema, words are only part of the package. It's the difference between reading poetry and song lyrics. The latter mean little without the music.
In the scene, both characters speak a lot of twaddle to either hide something or warm up for the kill. Clearly, Ziegler has the advantage because he knows something Hartford does not. In a way, it's like a more intimate replay of what happened at the orgy mansion. Hartford plays innocent, but Ziegler denudes him with the truth. At any rate, if you focus on the twaddle, you're missing the point. So much talk in reality function like masks. They are spoken not to reveal but to conceal what people are really feeling. So, any astute viewer would NOT focus on what the characters say in that scene but what feelings they are hiding behind the talk.

Also, consider how the scene goes from pats and smiles to knives drawn to pats and smiles again. For Ziegler, it's all business. Hartford is small potatoes to him, useful to keep around as fixer/doctor. Both Ziegler's hospitality and hostility are not to be trusted. He's never truly nice or truly hateful. What matters is his securing his position and furthering his interests. And he can shake any hand and stab anyone in the back. He can shake and then stab or vice versa. Or shake and stab and shake and stab. He can talk nice, he can talk tough. He can be your 'friend' or your 'enemy' but neither on a permanent basis. It all depends on the situation. It's about business, what works and what doesn't. He could put down Hartford but then put his hands on his shoulders like a chum. And yet, on some level, he seems to feel a bit of sentimentality about Hartford to warn him and just let it go. It's sort of like the relationship between Kleinfeld and Brigante in CARLITO'S WAY. Carlito considers Kleinfeld a 'brother' and Kleinfeld is not without affection for Carlito, but when push comes to shove, It's Business First(or 'save your own ass') with Kleinfeld. And business is power.

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