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Thursday, September 9, 1999 Published at 16:15 GMT 17:15 UK


UK eyes Kubrick finale

Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman in Kubrick's tale of marital jealousy

By BBC News Online's Ryan Dilley

Stanley Kubrick's final film, Eyes Wide Shut, has attracted its fair share of controversy since production kicked off in 1996. Now audiences in the UK, the acclaimed director's adopted home, have the chance to see his celluloid epitaph for themselves.

During his 46-year career, Kubrick never shied away from weighty subject matter.

From the stark anti-war film Paths of Glory, to the Cold War satire of Dr Strangelove, and the seminal sci-fi epic 2001 to the deeply troubling A Clockwork Orange, his works have always provoked debate.

[ image: Blue Room maybe, blue movie not at all]
Blue Room maybe, blue movie not at all
Yet by casting celebrity couple Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman in a supposedly sexually-explicit film, Kubrick found himself the subject of intense media attention.

With the exception of 1962's relatively tame adaptation of Lolita, he largely avoided the subject of sex in his 13 movies.

Rumours of graphic on-screen sex scenes in Eyes Wide Shut have occupied the papers for more than two years. The Daily Mail's Baz Bamigboye even insisted it would include a "steamy romp" between Cruise and British actor Alan Cumming.

Talk of the film's sexual content and wrangles with the censors saw curious audiences flock to see Eyes Wide Shut when it opened in the US with an R-rating - which allows under 17s to see it with an adult.

After taking a creditable $21.8m in its first weekend, box office receipts for the film dropped off.

[ image: Porn on the Fourth of July? America had been expecting more sex]
Porn on the Fourth of July? America had been expecting more sex
Disappointment amongst a public tantalised for months by the promise of non-stop orgies may explain the 160-minute film's uneven fortunes in the US.

The UK release - reputedly containing 65 seconds of raunchy footage digitally-altered in the US to placate the censor - will by no means shock audiences.

Yet here too expectations of raunch threaten to overshadow Kubrick's subtle exploration of marital jealousy, the nature of trust and our perceptions of reality.

Cruise plays a doctor - stung by the revelation that wife Kidman once fantasised about adultery - who hits the town in search of adventure.

Although intent of finding comfort in the arms and charms of another woman, Cruise's odyssey cannot seriously be described as erotic.

An 'orgy' scene - whose soundtrack enraged Hindus when it emerged Kubrick had inadvertantly used a song containing lines from sacred scriptures - barely deserves the title, so fleeting and tame are the sexual acts shown.

[ image: Cruise control: Tom's odyssey into adultery proves less than erotic]
Cruise control: Tom's odyssey into adultery proves less than erotic
Much has been made in the media of the fact that the film has had difficulty getting past the authorities in Singapore.

The distributor has reportedly abandoned releasing it in India. Such trials are familiar to the makers of many a movie.

The hype surrounding Kubrick's final film was largely generated by the director himself.

Renowned for working on a closed set, for Eyes Wide Shut Kubrick titillated journalists by issuing cast and crew with no disclosure agreements.

Before his death he orchestrated a marketing campaign which saw Cruise and Kidman canoodling in a teasing cinema trailer for the film.

Despite the lack of sex, British audiences may prove less fickle than their American counterparts, if only to repay the New York-born filmmaker's longstanding affection for this country.

Kubrick fled Hollywood for Hertfordshire in 1961, after completing the sword-and-sandal epic Spartacus with Kirk Douglas.

Fittingly for such an ambitious artist, his reluctance to leave Britain's shores never stopped Kubrick making movies set in more exotic climes.

For his penultimate film, Full Metal Jacket, the director almost succeeded in turning an abandoned industrial estate in east London into a convincing replica of war-torn Vietnam.

[ image: Will Eyes Wide Shut see Kubrick remembered as self-indulgent?]
Will Eyes Wide Shut see Kubrick remembered as self-indulgent?
If nothing else Eyes Wide Shut showcases an improvement in his powers of deception. A smattering of London boroughs prove surprisingly convincing stand-ins for the Big Apple of the story.

Eyes Wide Shut is perhaps not the tour de force many fans of Kubrick had been expecting.

It certainly lacks the visual flair which marks even the most flawed of his previous efforts.

For a filmmaker dogged by accusations that he was pretentious and self-indulgent, this film, its drawn out production and equally prolonged marketing effort may provide his critics with even more ammunition.

Eyes Wide Shut opens in the UK on 10 September

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