Arthur Schnitlzer, Eyes Wide Shut, György Ligeti, Jocelyn Pook, John King, Stanley Kubrick, Teege Braune, Tom Cruise
In Boozo Veritas #70 by John King
MEMO from The Secret HQ of The Drunken Odyssey
To: Teege Braune, Author of In Boozo Veritas
From: John King, Host of The Drunken Odyssey
Subject: The Unspeakable Awfulness of Eyes Wide Shut (Redux)
Date: December 15, 2014
Teege, I am more worried about you than ever.
First, my villa complex uses garbage cans. There is no dumpster. This leads me to believe that you are either hallucinating again or else you are bothering even more strangers with your relentless obsession.
Of course, one might reasonably conclude that the reality of one night, or a handful of nights, let alone a whole lifetime, is not the truth, just as no dream is ever only a dream. Still, I am worried about your fantasmagorias about attending orgies with elderly women, especially if they (the orgies) are as boring as the one depicted in Eyes Wide Shut.
Second, you know as well as I, alas, do, that the preposterously-named Nuala Windsor is a character in that cinematic abomination. Either your movie-watching companion was having you on, or maybe you knew but played along, eager to blur the lines of reality and boredom the ways EWS does.
My neighbor is Mrs. Thorndike, and she’ll be crushed to know that you’ve been watching VHS movies with another elderly woman down the street or wherever. She asked me to tell you to call her. You’ve made things awkward between me and my neighbors, Thomas.
Third, I checked the DVD out of the library and watched it for the first time in fourteen years, and, ouch, EWS seemed even more unbearable this time.
Eyes Wide Shut should have been called Tom Cruise Walks In and Out of (Mostly Opulent) Rooms.
This two-and-a-half hour movie would have had a running time of about seventeen minutes if Kubrick had used jump-cuts instead of lavishing steady cam footage onto every entrance and exit. I wonder if Kubrick saw Scorcese’s two major steady cam shots of entrances in Goodfellas and thought, “I will use that in every scene, despite there being no coherent story-enhancing purpose of such cinematography.”
And here is where you might pull the thesaurus down and tell me that such footage represents the liminal, and that such representation is essential to the themes of EWS, in particular the in-between state between reality and dream, and the in-between state between reality and perception.
But there is no liminal state between boredom and boredom, Teege. The liminal is a lazy metaphor, the expression of a lack of anything real to communicate.
The aging and ailing Kubrick must also have been reading too much Harold Pinter and decided to out-Pinter Pinter, because the amount of pauses is excruciating. If he used jump cuts and lost the pauses, the running time of EWS comes down to about seven minutes.
And when the dialogue finally comes, often it is delivered with Quaalude-grade stupefaction.
When the plot drudges towards Tom Cruise finally about to crash the black mass orgy, we ooze into the totally-essential tuxedo and costume rental scene, where we get to meet Mr. Milich of Rainbow Tuxedo Rentals, and learn about his tragic bald spot.
The name of the rental place–considering the barely cryptic innuendo of Nuala Windsor earlier in the film, whose sexual predilection almost makes her either a succubus or a reality television star–is so symbolic as to be nauseating, especially since I used to walk by this actual location on my way to classes at NYU. This is on one of the cross streets between Sixth Avenue and Washington Square Park in the West Village.
When Milich enters his office rather late at night, he catches two men with an underaged girl, all of them in states of undress. He attacks the men and screams at the girl, who’s either his daughter or ward, who runs to Tom Cruise for protection. She then immediately casts lusting looks at her new protector like some Lolita, without the nuance or ambiguity Nabokov gave his nymphette.
The point seems to be to call into question what one sees, and to wonder if the world is so ubiquitously corrupt, or if one’s imagination–if one’s own repressive Puritanical libido–is being projected dangerously out onto the world.
In the fucking West Village in the latter half of the twentieth century, one of the least sexually inhibited locales in America. What next, a closeted gay man living in San Francisco who wants to come out, but is afraid the people in his city won’t accept his sexual orientation?
If the movie’s setting was Indianapolis or Chicago, the profoundly nuerotic sexual anxiety might make more sense.
Probably Arthur Schnitlzer’s Dream Story (Traumnovelle), the source material for EWS, makes more sense: Vienna in the first quarter of the twentieth century.
Milich, as a proud business owner, should have been the main character, as I liked him, his daughter, and the two Asian men with her were more interesting than everyone else in the movie.
It turns out, Jocelyn Pook’s music is wonderful; it reminds me of her music for the film of The Merchant of Venice. The annoying music from EWS (sampled and repeated for maximum annoyance as a tone poem of boredom) is György Ligeti’s “Musica Ricercata II: Mesto, Rigido e Cerimonale,” which I think translates to “Can some shadow demon please help me tune this piano?”
This movie has scarred me with its awfulness, dear friend. Please explain how you see it as anything other than a pretentious waste of time, the silly effort of a former cinema master pretending that he still has something to say.
John King (Episode, well, all of them) is a podcaster, writer, and ferret wrangler.