In Boozo Veritas #71 by Teege Braune
MEMO from the In Boozo Veritas Offices
To: John King, Host of The Drunken Odyssey
From: Teege Braune, Author of In Boozo Veritas
Subject: The Greatest Film Every Made or An Average Tuesday for John King?
Date: December 22, 2014
You’ve called me out! It’s true that I have been hallucinating more and more regularly. Why, early this very week I had the strangest dream that you and I were being serenaded by an adorably sad, seven foot tall clown with a golden voice. What a strange but delightful vision. My pharmacologist warned me not to eat those mushrooms growing around the back of my house, but damn it, they just taste so good on pizza.
That being said, I feel certain that at least some of the details of my last letter took place in reality. For example: your neighbor Mrs. Thorndike had asked me not to use her real name so that the world would not be privy to her libertine activities, and while it’s true that her parties are not exactly orgies, but more akin to friendly afternoon games of bridge, most of us in attendance wear masks and a few of us (no names) do get naked. I used Nuala Windsor as a convenient alias, but alas, I chose too obvious a ruse. Nevertheless, it is you who has exposed a kind, if eccentric, elderly woman. Let that be on your own conscience.
The fact is, that as I read the details of your attack on Eyes Wide Shut, I kept thinking, John’s right! But where you groan and shake your head in agonized disbelief, I find myself filled with delight. Rainbow motif symbolizing adultery and sexual excess? Yes, I’ll take it! Proliferation of characters passing through thresholds and dreamy, drawn-out dialogue? Please, give me more! A highly stylized and antiseptic orgy that, despite the outrageous amount of nudity, is completely lacking in anything that could be considered erotic? I can’t get enough of the stuff!
It isn’t necessarily easy for me to say exactly what I love about EWS, but no matter how many times I watch it, whenever I hear Shostakovich’s Jazz Suite, Waltz No. 2, my analytic and aesthetic mind begins whirring with the possibility of making new connections, of reentering this strange universe that is both exotic and present. I never ever grow tired of viewing this bizarre and mysterious cinematic objet d’art. Watching the film after reading your critique, I’ve come to the conclusion that trying to convince another person that this film is a masterpiece, especially someone as intellectually gifted and adept at analysis as yourself, is simply a foolish endeavor. Which is not say EWS is a guilty pleasure. Far from it. You simply appreciate the oddball genius of Stanley Kubrick or you do not.
One place in which I must disagree with you, however, is your assertion that EWS is a projection of a “repressive Puritanical libido.” Tom Cruise’s Dr. Bill Hartford’s never-realized sexual misadventure is more complicated than an attempted escape from inhibition. After all, he and his wife Alice seem to share an active sex life.
What sends Dr. Hartford down the rabbit hole is not Alice’s confession about the naval officer, but rather the realization that his wife is a sexually autonomous person and not merely an ornament reflective of his social status and object of male sexual desire. His emasculation is not so much a result of learning that his wife once wanted another man, but that women are tempted by sex at all.
Instead of handling this emotional trauma the way one might in the real world, either by seeking marital counseling or engaging in some kind of midlife crisis, Bill enters a psychological labyrinth inside a dreamscape version of New York City that begins with an oddly inverted version of his own situation. A deceased patient’s daughter, who looks remarkably like his own wife Alice, spontaneously and without warning professes her love to Bill despite her engagement to a man who looks remarkably like Bill himself, the bright opulent rooms juxtaposed with the same dull blue light seeping in from the windows.
Bill attempts to redeem his masculinity throughout a series of increasingly odder scenarios that culminate in a masked orgy, a place where women are reduced to literally faceless objects of pleasure, but just as his near temptation by the models at Ziegler’s party was interrupted before he was able to go where the rainbow ends, every encounter fails to culminate in sexual union or restore the shattered order to his world. He returns from this journey to discover another man’s face beside his wife in his bed. Of course, it is own face, his mask from the orgy, his own illusion occupying the place of his real self.
All boundaries have been subverted, the lines between dream and wakefulness, fantasy and reality, and representation and that which is being represented.
But it’s like I said: you either dig that sort of thing or you don’t. I doubt I’ve convinced you that you enjoy a movie you’ve previously called “a pretentious waste of time.” I can offer one last detail, however, that I think you might appreciate. This theme of representation even seeped into the actual production of EWS. You mentioned you recognized the location of Rainbow Rentals as a cross street between Sixth Avenue and Washington Square Park when, in fact, Kubrick’s phobia of flying meant that none of the movie is filmed on location.
Instead a reconstruction of New York City was built in a sound studio in London. Kubrick’s eye for detail was as unquestionably sharp late in life as it had ever been before.
While my defense may have fallen on deaf ears, I will say, if nothing else, I take pride in the fact that I was able to force you to endure a second viewing of EWS and that the wonderful music of Jocelyn Pook was redeemed in your eyes.
Only now as I reach my conclusion does it occur to me that maybe I have missed your point altogether, and perhaps your frustrations with EWS are much more basic: simply put that a film climaxing in a bizarre orgy will never impress you, a man for whom masked orgies have simply become a routine detail of any humdrum Tuesday evening. Enjoy your orgies, my friend. I hope to see you soon.
Teege Braune (episode 72, episode 75, episode 77, episode 90, episode 102, episode 122, episode 129) is a writer of literary fiction, horror, essays, and poetry. Recently he has discovered the joys of drinking responsibly. He may or may not be a werewolf.