Calum Marsh: Well, Jordan, here we are again: we’ve found yet another legendary director with a masterful but deeply misunderstood final film. Like Jean-Luc Godard’s Film Socialisme and John Cassavetes’ Love Streams, both of which we’ve celebrated in these pages before, Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut is an incredibly dense and sophisticated work that’s been widely and unfairly panned since its release. The film does have its vocal defenders, of course, and its reputation has improved marginally since 1999, but the pervading critical sentiment seems even now to be one of confusion and disappointment. This attitude of dismissiveness persuaded me to avoid Eyes Wide Shut for years, in fact, because I’d been so thoroughly prepared for something incoherent or half-baked—and I’m sure I’m not the only person who approached under a similar assumption. When I finally gave the film a chance, at the behest of some very trustworthy cinephile friends, it was downright revelatory: here was a rich, beautiful film that had so much to say about guilt, obsession, love, commitment, and, of course, about sexuality, and not only was it not a complete mess, it was pretty much pitch-perfect in every way. I literally do not understand why this isn’t universally adored.
Jordan Cronk: I actually feel like the film’s reputation has grown quite a bit since its release. Of course, that could just be amongst film fans that I correspond with, but there is no denying that the film still carries with it an air confusion. I think that partly comes down to subject matter, but also expectations for a filmmaker who was at the time returning to the medium for the first time in a dozen years. To me, however, that’s one of the more interesting aspects of the film: I’ve always been intrigued about why Kubrick wanted to make this film. Thematically it fits within his oeuvre to a much more appropriate degree than most give it credit for, but judging by the results, this was an extremely personal film for Kubrick to make. Its austere veneer—something that Kubrick detractors always single out with little regard for his motivation—can be off-putting, but it’s a such a soulful, honest film about relationships that I get the distinct feeling we’ll be talking about this film as one of Kubrick’s finest achievements for years to come. Films such as these don’t age—if anything, they grow far richer with prolonged exposure. I’ve seen Eyes Wide Shut literally a couple dozen times, and it continues to change shape and speak to me in different ways with each subsequent viewing. That’s a special, rare effect in modern American filmmaking.