You’ve seen Clockwork Orange so many times that you speak fluent Nadsat, you think Lolita is a better film than Nabokov’s original novel, you know Full Metal Jacket word for word, and you made a low-budget version of an unrealized Napoleon biopic script. Congrats, you’re a huge Stanley Kubrick fan. And since you’re such a huge fan of the late director, the next week should probably find you camping out at IFC Center, as the great theater on Sixth Avenue presents The Films of Stanley Kubrick, a retrospective of his most well known earlier works, including all the above-mentioned movies, Barry Lyndon, Paths of Glory, and many others. Some choices are easier than others (who doesn’t want to see 2001: A Space Odyssey on the big screen?), but there is one film of his that has divided just about every type of moviegoer since its release in 1999, less than six months after Kubrick’s death.
Even though Eyes Wide Shut was named by dozens of critics as the best film to come out that year, in terms of Kubrick’s work, it is the most under-appreciated gem in his entire filmography. Just a quick glance at ratings of other various films by the director on the website Rotten Tomatoes shows movies like 1960’s Spartacus at 90% and 1964’s Dr. Strangelove at a 100% across-the-board freshness rating. Several of his films are routinely mentioned in some of the most esteemed critics’ greatest ever lists, the National Film Registry has selected many of Kubrick’s works to be preserved by the archive; he won one Oscar from the numerous nominations for that award, as well as nods for BAFTA, and the Golden Globes. And while Eyes Wide Shut garnered great reviews from many critics, it has a low (for Kubrick) 77% rating, and didn’t get much love from the American film awards, save for a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Score.
If you happen to be one of those people who saw the film upon its release and fell in with the 23% that didn’t particularly like Kubrick’s final work, the IFC showcase is a chance to give his most underrated film a second glance. A good primer before seeing Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman’s marriage woes manifest on screen (the couple would divorce in real life two years later) would be the 1926 novella the film is based on, Arthur Schnitzler’s Dream Story. While there are a few glaring differences between Schnitzler’s work and the film it inspired, Eyes Wide Shut can be appreciated even more when you see how Kubrick was able to easily transform the story’s turn-of-the-century Vienna into late-20th-century New York City. And nearly 15 years after its release, the film has not only aged into a classic, but is still as haunting and beautiful as it was when it first came out in 1999.