Eyes Wide Shut

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Mon Apr 16 09:51:42 MDT 2001


LiP Magazine

Eyes Wide Shut: A Critical Reevaluation
by Tim Kreider 04.09.01

Bill's [Tom Cruise] nocturnal journey into illicit sexuality is, more
significantly, a journey into invisible strata of wealth. Money is the
subtext of sex from the very first temptation of Bill; the two models who
flirtatiously draw him away from his wife at Ziegler's ball invite him,
enigmatically, to follow them "where the rainbow ends." It's at that moment
that he's called away, saying to them, "To be continued?" After he has
gone, the two models exchange a cryptic, conspiratorial look. It's a
moment, as Janet Maslin of the New York Times noted, that foreshadows
Bill's finding himself at Rainbow Costume Rentals. "To be continued,"
indeed. We never find out exactly what the two models meant, but every
child knows what lies at the end of the rainbow. . .

For all his flaunting of money and professional rank, and all his efforts
to penetrate the inner circle of the elite, Bill Harford is ultimately put
back in his place as a member of the serving class. Recall how he is
summoned away from Ziegler's party in the same polite but perfunctory
manner as is his friend, the pianist Nick; like Nick, Bill, too, is only
hired help, the party physician, called upon to repair (if possible) and
cover up (if necessary) human messes like Mandy. When he goes to Lou
Nathanson's, he is met at the door by a maid who approaches through a door
from the other direction, mirroring his movement. They are both dressed in
black with white collars, facing each other in a perfectly symmetrical
foyer where every other object is in a matched pair. The shot doubles them,
identifying them as equals. Bill is given away when he tries to infiltrate
the orgy by telltale distinctions of his class status-he shows up in a taxi
(not a limo) and has a costume rental slip in his coat pocket. When Ziegler
calls him onto the carpet for his transgression, he chuckles at Bill's firm
refusal of a case of 25-year-old Scotch, not just because this extravagance
would be a trifle to Ziegler, but because Bill's pretense of integrity is
an empty gesture-he is already bought and paid for. Bill may own Alice, but
Ziegler owns him. . .

Certainly a subtler psychological interpretation of the film than has been
attempted would be possible. But to focus exclusively on the Harfords
unexamined inner lives is to remain blind to the profoundly visual filmic
world that Kubrick devoted a career's labors to creating. The slice of that
world he tried to show us in his last-and, he believed, his best-work, the
capital of the American Empire at the end of the millennium, is one in
which the wealthy, powerful, and privileged use the rest of us like
throwaway products, covering up their crimes with shiny surfaces and
murder, ultimately dooming their own children to servitude and whoredom.
The feel-good ending intimates, in Kubrick's last word on the subject, that
the Harford daughter is-just as they have abandoned themselves to
being-fucked.

Full review: http://www.lipmagazine.org/


Louis Proyect
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