eyes wide shut
as stanley kubrick's final masterpiece takes britain by storm we examine the underlying dynamics of the second most eagerly awaited movie of all time
You've already heard a great deal about Eyes Wide Shut. Stanley Kubrick's first film in twelve years, two whole years in the making, finally delivered to Warners less than a week before the director's death in March this year. You've heard about Kidman and Cruise living and working together on the edge of sanity, as Kubrick created this immense vehicle around them, dominating their every gesture with meticulous zeal, the taskmaster to the bitter end. Since his death, you've heard everything that he so determindly kept from you in his lifetime, about how Stanley Kubrick was always the real star of his movies. And how Frederic Raphael has used his association with Kubrick to further his aims, just as Vladimir Nabokov, Arthur C. Clarke and Anthony Burgess did before him. To be fair to Nabokov and Burgess, their own creative vision had already emerged fully formed, like that of Stephen King. But in the case of Raphael, like Clarke, we see a man who will never again in his life produce a work anywhere near as significant as that he now finds himself credited with. Some people still think 2001 was Clarke's idea. Tush. Look at the credits on the inside of the book, you sillies. So now Raphael is writing books about his role as the last of a long line of collaborators on the Eyes Wide Shut screenplay. The estate of Arthur Schnitzler, likewise, is keen to overstate the place that his Traumnovelle story had in Kubrick's vision. Let's deal with this one first. Eyes Wide Shut is an original work, inspired by Traumnovelle, not based on it. Kubrick had been at least thinking about the movie since completing Dr. Strangelove in 1965. Raphael met Kubrick in 1994, by which time Kubrick had already disposed of three finished scripts for the film. And he continued to tinker long after Raphael had departed the scene. Indeed, he was still tinkering just a few weeks before he printed the final cut. What else do we know? That Harvey Keitel was fired for "method acting", and Sydney Pollack cast in his place. And that when Jennifer Jason Leigh was unable to get time out from filming David Cronenberg's Existenz in order to shoot a couple of retakes, Kubrick dropped her entirely and reshot all her scenes with Marie Richardson in her place. That is the full extent of the correct reporting of Eyes Wide Shut. As it now transpires that Kubrick had already invited Stephen Spielberg to direct his other mythical project AI, as he considered himself too close to the script to make the film objectively, it is entirely possible that, had he lived, Stanley Kubrick might not have made another film for at least a decade, if at all. Hence the existance of Eyes Wide Shut should mean that the cinema won't really start to feel his loss until 2009. It is relevant, because we must get away from thinking of Eyes Wide Shut as Stanley Kubrick's last film. It is hard to believe that we will never see his flawless tracking shots, and his unrivalled visual grandeur again.
When I went to see Eyes Wide Shut I made a concious decision to savour every moment, to submerge myself in the opportunity to see some new Kubrick for the very last time. Thing is, even I underestimated him. Because within five minutes of the opening titles I had forgotten I was even watching a movie, and was completely absorbed in his world. Just as 2001 really takes you into space, just as The Shining pulls you into the nightmare, and just as Paths of Glory compels you to feel the plight of those in fear for their lives, so Eyes Wide Shut casually, but inescapably, draws you into the dynamics of obsession. Because obsession is the theme of Eyes Wide Shut. Not sex, like you might have been deliberately misled by the marketing people whom Kubrick can no longer keep at arm's length. And not jealousy, as you might have been told by idiots who think they're qualified to pass judgement on art, when all art, even bad art, is beyond the reach of criticism (it is the artist, not the art, whom one criticises, but few live artists care, and dead ones certainly don't). Sex may be the key, and jealousy the catalyst to the protagonist's obsession, but it is the nature of obsession itself that Kubrick chooses to scrutinise. Alice (Nicole Kidman) and Bill (Tom Cruise) are a happily married professional couple, who live in a modest degree of luxury in Manhattan. They've been married for ten years, and have a child of seven. He is a doctor, she is an art dealer. When a wealthy friend, Ziegler (Sydney Pollack) invites them to a party, Alice finds herself gaining the attentions of a handsome socialite. Although she refuses his advances, she later begins to wonder if the fidelity of her marriage is all it seems to be. When Bill attempts to reassure Alice that he has remained faithful to her, he inadvertantly makes the presumption that she has always felt the same way. Not to be taken for granted, Alice reveals that she had briefly obsessed about a man she once met. It is a revelation that completely undermines Bill's self-confidence, and, in a bid to overcome his insecurities, he finds himself very quickly drawn into increasingly dangerous situations. Obsessed with thoughts of infidelity, he seeks some kind of brief liason, equally obsessed with the notion that to act out sexually in some way would redress what he feels to be a cancerous imbalance in his relationship with Alice. In his search for what he believes to be the dark side of his own sexuality, he finds himself the unwitting victim of his own obsession, when he gives himself permission to pursue the "dark side" without regard to the consequences. Suddenly far out of his depth, Bill then finds that his miscalculation is a threat to everything he has come to depend on.
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we look back on the career of the extraordinary and controversial artist and filmmaker on the fifth anniversary of his death
Derek Jarman's final wish was that the National Heritage of Great Britain erect a statue to Oscar Wilde in central London. Whilst such a public tribute be paid to a talent of international renown might not appear to be an act of revolutionary zeal. But Jarman's motives for choosing Wilde says as much about himself as it does about the great playwright. Wilde was a rebel, a great talent whose homosexuality ultimately led to his demise. Whilst this is also literally true of Derek Jarman, and is an irony of which Jarman was certainly aware, the real common ground between the two is that they were both magnificently, and tragically, ahead of their time.
Derek Jarman was born in Middlesex, England, on 31st January 1942. The Jarman family spent much of the first decade of Derek's life on the move, living in Pakistan and Italy, before eventually returning to the UK. He attended public school in Dorset in his early teens, and it was here that he began painting. His teachers noted that his artwork contained a great deal of originality. He was eventually offered a place at the Slade School of Art in London, much to his father's annoyance, who persuaded him to take a BA in English at King's College, London, instead of attending Slade. But it was at King's that Jarman met members of an amateur dramatics group. He began to design their posters, and muck in backstage. It wasn't long before he was designing sets, to much acclaim. In his third year he became art editor of Lucifer magazine, a controversial student publication. In 1961, while he was still at King's, he came second to the young David Hockney in the Daily Mail/University of London arts contest. The following year he left his parents' home and took his place at Slade. He studied painting and stage design.
After Slade, Jarman went into business, restoring and decorating old furniture. He also designed shop interiors for the London boutique About Face. He continued to exhibit his paintings, and design sets for amateur productions until 1968, when he was given his first professional commissions; Frederick Ashton's Jazz Calendar with The Royal Ballet at Covent Garden, John Gielgud's production of Don Giovanni at the Coliseum, Charing Cross, and the Steve Popescu's ill-fated Throughway with the Ballet Rambert. After Popescu's suicide, Jarman moved to his now infamous Thameside studio (where he shot much of the footage that later became Glitterbug). It was here that he met Andrew Logan, who gave him his first Super 8 cine camera, and introduced him to budding filmmaker Ken Russell. In 1970 Russell approached Jarman to design the sets for his biggest movie project thus far, The Devils. Jarman, who was already known to the actor Dudley Sutton via Logan, accepted the lucrative offer. The result was far and away Russell's best movie. It's stars, Oliver Reed and Vanessa Redgrave, were enamoured of Jarman, and most people agree that it was Jarman's design that made The Devils so special. Russell enjoyed controversy, and the film was blasted by the church. Unlike Russell, who was delighted, Jarman was enraged that anyone should regard any subject as a taboo, and it was his reaction against such thinking that informed all of his subsequent work. But Jarman had met film, and was fascinated by it. He started to make short films of his own with the 8mm camera, and began to write scripts, planning to make a feature film of his own someday.
In 1972 he published a volume of poetry, A Finger in the Fishes' Mouth. The ongoing success of The Devils led Russell to commission him a second time. Savage Messiah told the story of sculptor Henri Gaudier's relationship with Sophie Brzeska, and Jarman again won acclaim for his design. But his dislike of Russell's deliberate attempts to shock the public led him to pull out of Russell's next project, Taverner. Instead Jarman chose to collaborate with Andrew Logan on the Alternative Miss World drag pageant, documenting the whole thing on the 8mm as Andrew Logan Kisses the Glitterati.
In 1973 Jarman made his first fully scripted and designed 8mm film, The Art of Mirrors. Another attempted collaboration with Ken Russell, Gargantua, fell apart, and the film was never made. Jarman became increasingly involved in the gay rights movement, his association with Logan making him one of the best known figures on the London scene. He spent much of the following year completing the script for a feature film about the martyrdom of Saint Sebastiane, and raising the money to direct the movie himself. The film eventually went into production in Sardinia in 1975. Jarman was finally in the driving seat of his own movie, and quickly confirmed to himself that this would be the centre of his work from now on. Sebastiane was released in 1976 to largely indifferent reviews. But it was controversial, because of it's celebration of homosexuality, and Jarman quickly earned a cult following beyond his previous success. It was enough to allow him to make a second feature, the material for which was just waiting to happen. The Sex Pistols had all but taken over London already, and the cultural explosion that followed them into the limelight fascinated Jarman. He saw punk as the natural progression of alternative culture, and he loved the way it didn't discriminate against anything but the establishment. He became friends with Jordan, who ran Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood's King's Road shop, where the Pistols had started. Through Jordan he met Matthew Ashman, then guitarist with The Ants. The group's singer, Adam Ant, had exactly the look Jarman had been looking for. He immediately cast Adam and Jordan in his new film, which would also star Rocky Horror creator Richard O'Brien, and another rising punk singer, Toyah Willcox. Jubilee was released in 1978, receiving a critical mauling in from the press establishment that only served to endear it all the more to the punk movement. It was the first punk rock movie, depicting life in a decaying England, set against the expectations of Elizabeth I and John Dee. It was a great success, and Jarman became the prince of the rebel filmmakers. Jubilee remains one of Derek Jarman's finest works, thoughtful and shocking even now.
Jarman was now a successful filmmaker. He began 1979 by directing his first pop videos, for Marianne Faithfull's legendary Broken English album. These included the groundbreaking title track, and the smash hit "The Ballad of Lucy Jordan". He worked with Toyah again on his next movie, a film of Shakespeare's The Tempest. After Jubilee he was taken seriously, and The Tempest finally earned him the respect of the critics. As it turned out this was not a bad thing, as The Tempest was far less successful than Jubilee had been. But it was a truly original interpretation of the play, and another cult classic.
The following year Jarman returned to stage the theatre, designing sets for Johnathan Gem's The Secret of the Universe at the ICA. He also resolved his differences with Ken Russell, and designed the sets for Russell's version of The Rake's Progress. It was Jarman's idea to set the production in modern day London, and his sets included Piccadilly Circus and the Angel underground station.
Directing three films had taken a lot out of him, and he decided that he probably wouldn't make another feature film. He returned to painting, beginning his sequence of Black Paintings. He exhibited widely, his reputation as an artist growing on the back of his success as a filmmaker. He continued to make his own 8mm films, including his Waiting for Waiting for Godot in 1982. In 1983 he made several pop videos, for artists as diverse as Carmel and The Lords of the New Church. He painted his GBH series of six paintings, and exhibited a major retrospective at the ICA in 1984, the year he also published his first autobiography, Dancing Ledge. In 1985, following a coversation with The Smiths' singer Morrissey, for whom he was now directing videos, he began to plan a new feature film based on the life of the artist Caravaggio. A series of Jarman's paintings, The Caravaggio Suite, displayed that Jarman had become quite obsessed with his new subject. Caravaggio, his first feature for nearly seven years, was released to unanimous acclaim in 1986. Jarman was nominated for the Turner Prize for "Outstanding Visual Quality in the field of Film" for Jubilee and Caravaggio. His return to cinema had immediately initiated widescale acknowledgement of his talents. He was seemingly at the peak of his career. In reality, he was at the end of the first phase of his work, a period in which he had worked slowly, assured of himself, and directed with great confidence. He was about to find a new energy, born out of an unparalleled urgency to work while he still could.
On 22nd December 1986 Derek Jarman was diagnosed HIV+. Shortly afterwards he bought Prospect Cottage, which overlooked the sea at Dungeoness in Kent. He began to create a lavish garden at the property. When he announced his condition, he again became involved in Britain's sexual politics, consolidating his role as a gay icon, and voicing his opposition to Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative government. In 1987 he made not one but two films, Aria and The Last of England, the latter regarded by many as a sequel to Jubilee, and again one of his finest works. He also appeared in Steven Frears' biopic of the playwright Joe Orton, Prick Up Your Ears. He became ill with Aids shortly afterwards.
Returning to work in 1989, he directed the short film War Requiem, and designed a concert tour for The Pet Shop Boys. Jarman's next feature, The Garden, was released in 1990. For many, The Garden was Jarman's masterpiece, his most personal work yet, including as it did 8mm footage shot at Dungeoness. It was given special recognition at the 1991 Berlin Film Festival. The same year Jarman was canonised by The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence as "Saint Derek of Dungeoness of the Order of Celluloid Knights". He was now at his most prolific, designing Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmonson's stage production of Waiting for Godot, and directing the BBC TV movie Edward II. Over the next twelve months he published At Your Own Risk, his book about homosexuality and Aids, and exhibited his latest paintings, the Queer suite, at the Manchester City Art Gallery. He later took the exhibition to Europe. He became gravely ill, and began to lose his sight in 1992, as he celebrated the success of his latest movie, Wittgenstein.
Jarman was no longer well enough to work behind a camera for hours at a time, and his sight was failing fast. Yet he still had much he wanted to say. He gave arguably his finest painting, "Aids is Fun", to the Tate Gallery, as he set to work on Blue, a deeply disturbing and powerful film that related the experience of dying from Aids directly to the audience. There were no images, only a blank blue screen, over which a soundtrack and narrative reflect the protagonist's state of mind as he undergoes treatment for Aids related illnesses. Blue clearly replaces The Garden as his most personal work. He gave his last TV interview to Jeremy Issacs on Face to Face, and published Chroma, a book about colour that contains excerpts of the script for Blue. He was almost too ill to leave his home for anywhere other than the hospital, and many now believed that Blue would almost certainly be his last work. Jarman himself had one final project to complete. Glitterbug was his compilation of his 8mm work, as one feature length movie. He completed it in November 1993.
Derek Jarman died on 19th February 1994. At the time of his death he had received the recognition he deserved. As an artist he is sorely missed, and as an activist he may never be replaced. But it is as a filmmaker that Derek Jarman will always be best remembered.
Feature Films of Derek Jarman
1976 Sebastiane 3
1978 Jubilee 5
1979 The Tempest 4
1986 Caravaggio 4
1987 Aria 4
1987 The Last of England 5
1990 The Garden 5
1991 Edward II 4
1992 Wittgenstein 3
1993 Blue 5
1994 Glitterbug 5
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why tourneur's night of the demon is possibly the greatest horror movie of all time
Jacques Tourneur was both a master craftsman and a visual genius. Arguably the most influential French director to date (Truffaut fans may disagree, Besson fans shouldn't), he has never been given his dues in his native country. This is almost certainly because he came later than the great German directors Pabst and Lang. Tourneur missed the silent era. Whilst visually he inherited the grit and grandiosity of the European cinema that he grew up with, by the time he came to direct his greatest works, in the forties and fifties, sound was a long established cinematic fact. Moreover, he left France, and all his subsequent movies were in English. Although he worked in Hollywood, where he made the seminal Cat People, he also worked in England. It was in England where he made his masterpeice, Night of the Demon.
An eminent American scientist visits England as a to head up an investigation into the supposed occult activities of an English aristocrat. Upon his arrival, he is greeted with the news that his principle associate has been killed in a horrific accident. As a cynic, he refuses to believe the possibility of supernatural involvement in his friend's death. A complex conspiracy, elaborate hoax or genuine occult goings on?
First things first. If you're wondering that you've never seen it, you probably have. The movie was recut as Curse of the Demon. This cut features, against Tourneur's wishes, a monster that we actually get to see, which alters the entire context of the film from that which Tourneur intended. For legal reasons, this is the version that gets shown on TV. The film's American star was Dana Andrews, whose Hollywood career was temporarily on ice due McCarthy's allegation that Andrews had taken part in the 1946 May Day Parade. It was the resuscitation of Andrews' Hollywood contract that forced a US release of the movie. Hollywood knew that Andrews was one of it's most popular stars, and insisted on the release of such an obviously good movie. However, the Moral Majority forced the film's distributors to insist on recuts. They felt that the movie didn't resolve the notion of good triumphing over evil. Hollywood jumped at the chance to put a big hairy monster in, to help "resolve" the film. Andrews was enraged, and Tourneur was beside himself.
The Americans had missed the point. Tourneur's intention was not a question of good versus evil. He had made a film which could essentially be viewed from both sides of the science/supernatural argument. How the film "resolved" itself depended on the viewer rather than the plot. Hollywood's attempt to "simplify" things for the film's audience actually partially truncated its uniqueness. The film is unjudgmental. All of the apparently supernatural happenings could just as easily be simple coincidences (apart from the monster, which IS the point of not having one). Night of the Demon is intelligent, thrilling, and frightening, even by today's standards. There is some suggestion, depending on how you look at it, of the occult goings on being down to drugs, or hypnosis, or paranoia. Equally, whilst Andrews' character is forced to question what he believes, he arrives at the conclusion that he was right in the first place. The supernatural events could just be tricks and illusions. Or not, if that's what you want.
Whether or not you can get to see the original cut, or just put the monster aside, Night of the Demon will make you jump at least. It is a dark movie, cleverly scripted, beautifully photographed, and acted with rare conviction. Considering when it was made, it is not difficult to accept it as a very special film indeed. Both William Friedkin (The Exorcist) and Stanley Kubrick (The Shining) owe a visual debt to Tourneur. It was Alfred Hitchcock's favourite film. "It's in the trees...It's coming..!"
top ten horror films
(chosen by ICA members)
1. THE SHINING
2. THE EXORCIST
3. THE OMEN
4. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT
5. NOSFERATU (Herzog Version)
6. ROSEMARY'S BABY
7. NIGHT OF THE DEMON
8. DRACULA (Browning Version)
9. DEMON SEED
10. CAT PEOPLE (Tourneur Version)
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