Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Eyes Wide Shut - Stupid Unresolved Adventures

Starting in 2018, I decided to write about Eyes Wide Shut every year because I’m a fucking weirdo. I don’t know how long I’ll keep it up, and I’m not re-reading old articles, so I’m likely repeating myself a bit, but who cares? This year, to add some new insight, I read the script and the novel the film was based on.



The Screenplay


The screenplay, by Stanley Kubrick and Frederic Raphael, didn’t reveal very much that isn’t already onscreen. I was hoping for perhaps the script to have several variations or maybe deleted scenes, but it’s pretty much exactly what we see in the film. I’m sure there are plenty of versions of this script, but they just published the final one. I’ll just point out a few things I found interesting.


The stage direction was my main focus since the dialogue was pretty much identical. The first thing that stuck out to me was when Bill first sees Nick. The script says, “They exchange friendly pats.” They took this to the extreme when they filmed it, so much so that I counted how many times (eight) they “patted” each other in a previous article.


I always find Ziegler shaking Bill’s hand when he arrives at the bathroom at the party to be funny in an absurd way, and it’s in the script.


The pot Bill and Alice smoke is referred to as a “spliff” in the script. This made me laugh, because I thought a spliff was just slang for a big ass joint. But then I looked up, and now I’m even more confused.


The frat bros have a couple lines in the script, but most of their shit is just described as “provocatively taunting him about his sexuality.”


There isn’t a lot of color mentioned in the script, but it is specified that Domino’s door is red. And Alice is described as wearing a blue robe at around the same time. Also, the Snackwell’s that she’s eating are just called cookies in the script. 


For the record, in the script Rainbow Fashions is located on “ANOTHER STREET.” (The all caps is from the script; I’m not yelling it.)


I noticed a while back that captions pick up Milich’s daughter telling Bill, “You should have a cloak lined with ermine.” That line is in the script.


It is mentioned in the script that Bill is about to kiss Amanda’s corpse but stops himself. Damn. Also, there’s no mention of the voice-over we hear in that scene.


It’s actually in the script that Ziegler says “let’s” four times.


And that’s pretty much it. Only someone like me really stands to gain anything from reading the script, and even then, it’s not much. The novel, on the other hand…



Dream Story


The novel, really a novella, by Arthur Schnitzler is surprisingly faithfully adapted here. Published in 1926, the basic premise is the same: after a party, a wife confesses about a sexual fantasy, which spurs the husband into seeking revenge over two nights as he encounters multiple chances, including a masked orgy, and questions his marriage and himself.


There are too many similarities to mention here, but I did want to focus on a few and some other parts of the book that inform or differ from the film. 


The book basically begins during the “spliff” scene in Eyes Wide Shut. The couple had been to a masked ball the previous night where both of them had been hit on. The husband, Fridolin (I can see why this was changed to Bill), was approached by two women dressed as red dominoes. The wife, Albertine (Alice is a natural adaptation of this name), was propositioned by a Polish man. The most interesting part of this was the description of red dominoes. This led to a prostitute names Domino in the film whose apartment door is red. Not to mention the use of red throughout the film to signify danger. 


Their mutual close calls with adultery lead them to talk about how this wasn’t the first time this had happened. They both realize that even though they love each other very much, their marriage has been tested repeatedly, and they seem to be destined to cheat on each other if they don’t admit some things and move on. Albertine confesses first, not out of any kind of anger about the male perception of female sexuality a la Alice in the film, but because she’s simply the bolder of the two. 


Albertine’s confession is similar to Alice’s, but where the major deviation occurs is when Fridolin makes his confession. In the film, Bill is seemingly attacked by Alice’s story, and he offers none of his own. Here, Fridolin tells a story about becoming infatuated with a fifteen-year-old girl on stilts (yes, on stilts) that he met while going for walks during a vacation in Denmark. 


Leaving this out in the film changes things. I get why they wouldn’t want to have Bill confess to wanting to bang a teenager practicing for the circus, but that aspect could have easily been changed to be more appropriate. Instead, they just leave it out and have her confession be made out of anger. This isn’t done to demonize Alice; it’s more to prove her point. Men are expected to have these close calls and fantasies because they’re just naturally horny monsters, whereas women need romance and security and shit. Alice is pointing out that it’s really no different. Bill doesn’t confess anything because it’s assumed he has a hundred stories like Alice because, hey, he’s a fuckin’ dude. 


Alice being the sole confessor allows Eyes Wide Shut to be about both marriage and the fragile male psyche in regards to female sexuality. Bill goes off on his adventures not only to get even with Alice, but also to prove how much of a red-blooded, American, fuck-machine MAN he is, god damn it! 


Fridolin’s adventures, on the other hand, are a little less mean-spirited. He is more dejected than Bill. To be fair, the book does deal with the female sexuality issue, even including the line, “if only you all knew.” But Eyes Wide Shut makes it a bit more angry.


Fridolin is called away to a dead patient’s house where a female relative, Marianne, professes her love for him. He’s less shocked than Bill. Fridolin pities the woman to the point of being mean about it (in his thoughts). His inner monologue reveals that he’s completely bored with the woman, as is the corpse in the room that joins in their silence, “not because he could no longer talk, but deliberately and out of sheer malice.” Fridolin can be kind of a dick. 


Fridolin considers the potential romance more than Bill does, but he just finds himself so bored with Marianne that he doesn’t pursue it. Once again, ol’ Frid can be a dick.


After leaving the patient’s house, Fridolin discovers that he simply does not want to go home. He has some thoughts that are silently conveyed in the film: “glad that he was in his prime, that a charming and lovable woman was there at his disposal, and that he could have another one, many others, if he so desired.”


Fridolin also has an encounter with some young college students taunting him, though here it spurs fears of being a coward instead of a homosexual. He grows more and more angry about the encounter, and it eventually puts him in a very dark mood in which everyone in his life, including his wife and daughter disappear as if ghosts, “which seemed to release him from all responsibility, indeed from all connection with humanity.”


This is the mindset that leads him to a prostitute. This plays out very much the same way as in the film, though it’s not a phone call that stops things, but rather the prostitute (here named Mizzi) sensing Fridolin was afraid. This makes Fridolin attempt to have sex with her, but Mizzi’s disinterest stops him. She then refuses any kind of payment and also decides to stay in for the rest of the night. 


Fridolin’s mean-spirited goal of adultery seemed to emanate off of him and taint the whole experience with Mizzi. He does regain a bit of humanity during the exchange, though, as he wonders just how the hell he ended up in this situation. In the film, Bill has to be made to feel this way through a phone call from his wife. 


The encounter with Domino in the screenplay is one of the few times color is specifically mentioned, and in the book, color plays a part, too. Mizzi puts on a red dressing gown when sex is still an option, but once sex is off the table, she wraps a blue shawl around herself. It would seem that Kubrick and Raphael took this color theme and ran with it.


After leaving Mizzi, Fridolin still doesn’t want to go home, so he visits a coffeehouse and runs into Nightingale. This is his first appearance, but he’s still a medical school dropout turned musician. However, in the book he comes across as a much more bohemian type, and he ends up letting Fridolin know about the orgy as a kind of repayment since Fridolin had loaned him money on numerous occasions. 


Nightingale does become reluctant for many of the same reasons as he does in the film. Where would Fridolin get a costume at this hour and whatnot. In this instance, everything is much simpler and easier. It’s carnival season, so a costume shop is open. The orgy takes place in the city, so Fridolin simply has a cab follow Nightingale. This is only notable because all of this is reasonable for this time and setting, but in the film, it makes it seem less likely and more dream-like that Bill could somehow rent a costume in the middle of the night. 


All of this ease seems to make Fridolin horny again because when the costume shop owner’s daughter shows up just like she does in the film, he has a desire to stay with her for the rest of the night (also, she says, “you must give this gentleman an ermine mantle and a red silk jerkin”). She is sent to her room while the shop owner promises to deal with the men (judges in this instance) who were with her. Fridolin marvels at how “natural” this is all seems as his night has become pure chaos. 


He then heads to the orgy armed with the password (“Denmark,” which surprises him since that was where both he and his wife had their fantasies). The “orgy” is not nearly as graphic here, with “dancing” being described more than anything else. Things play out as they do in the film. He is immediately noticed as not belonging by a female attempting to help him, but he stays anyway. Fridolin almost instantly becomes obsessed with the woman trying to help him (the dude falls in love easily, I guess). This leads him to insist on staying, though at one point he decides to confess to everyone that he’s an intruder because he simply doesn’t know enough about how things work at the orgy. Before he can, he’s found out anyway, and a very similar scene as in the movie plays out. But a key difference here is that Fridolin really argues with them and wants to take the woman who warned him with him. This is denied, and he is forcibly removed. 


Since there isn’t a Ziegler-type in the book, Fridolin is left to come up with the “charade” argument himself. Perhaps it was all an act designed to deal with the specific situation he had created by showing up there. Hilariously, he wonders if it wasn’t an act and perhaps the mystery woman was so attracted to him that she experienced a sudden “reformation.” To his credit, Fridolin explains maybe this is possible because perhaps on some magical nights losers like him suddenly appear irresistible to women.


As Fridolin makes his way finally home, he becomes depressed, even wishing a stranger would kill him so that this night of “stupid unresolved adventures” might make “some sort of sense.” I think “stupid unresolved adventures” is a good alternate title for both book and film, and I’m lazy enough to use it as the title of this article.


As he tries to piece the evening together, Fridolin considers that the entire evening could be a dream, or a fevered delirium. Though he snaps himself out of it by opening his eyes as “wide as he could” and deciding that he is “fully awake.”


Fridolin comes home and Albertine tells him her dream (in which Fridolin is crucified!). This angers him anew, and he considers his wife a “mortal enemy” as they go to sleep. 


The next day plays out similarly to the film. He returns the costume, and the owner offers up his daughter to him. He visits the site of the orgy and is given a written warning. All through the day he keeps returning to the conclusion that his life is a lie, and his marriage is over. 


As he puts off going home, he ends up in a coffeehouse and reads about the suicide by poison of a woman in a hotel the night before. He deduces that this is the mystery woman because she told him that this what happened to a woman in the past when she got involved in an incident at the orgy.

 



Fridolin uses his magic doctor card to get to see the body, and a truly creepy scene occurs in which he almost starts to do something to the body. Thankfully, his doctor friend with him in the morgue asks him what the fuck he’s doing. Something similar is hinted at in the film, as Bill spends an awful long time staring at the body, though he stops himself from doing anything. Who knows what would have happened if Frid had been left alone. Fuckin’s Frid: that teenager-on-stilts loving freaky piece of shit.


Much like in the film, the death of this woman brings a dark finality to the adventures. Here, though, without Ziegler to offer up the charade option, it seems much more definite that this woman died for helping him. It’s up for debate in the film. But why would this woman help Fridolin in such a way? I guess it really was a magic night in which Fridolin, typically a weird loser bitch of a man, was able to make a woman give her life for him at first sight. Jokes aside, isn’t that in keeping with the book and film? Sometimes men and women have this freak connection for no discernible reason, and they are willing to throw everything away. Unfortunately for the woman at the orgy, this moment happened among very serious company. 


When Fridolin comes home, he discovers his mask on the bed, and just like in the film, decides to tell Albertine everything. In a somber conversation at the end, Fridolin and Albertine decide that it’s good they are both awake to the problems in their marriage, at least for now. They acknowledge, as the film does, that actual attempts at infidelity and dreams/fantasies about it are the same. Albertine, just like Alice, tells Fridolin to focus on the moment instead of romantic notions of “forever.” And isn’t that a major point of both book and film? Don’t get too hung up on things, real or imagined, of the past or future. Stay awake in the moment. 


The couple fall silent after this conversation, and the day begins around them. There’s no more time to sit there dwelling on everything. This isn’t the pointed, single-word punch ending of the film. Instead of “fuck,” it’s more like it’s time to get throgh another day, so “fuck it.”


Why Do I Own This?


Uh…necessity?


Random Thoughts


I think that's a set of golf clubs in the corner of the bedroom. There's also a couple racquets in the corner of the opening shot with Kidman, so I get that Bill is active, and it's also clear that the Harfords don't mind clutter (seriously, look closely at their bedroom in that opening scene). But how does Bill not have a better storage option for his clubs? It's Christmas, it's not like he's played recently.


It just occurred to me that Bill and Alice basically do the same cheek kissing thing that happens at the orgy with the Zieglers.


At this point, I think I pay more attention to the background than anything else in this movie.


With each viewing, I get the sense more and more that the two models with Bill at the party are on a mission. Nuala seems to be putting on a show a bit too much, and she gives Gayle a look that says, "We failed," when Bill is called away. I don't think it's all that conspiratorial. I just think Ziegler set it up for Bill. It seems like the kind of thing Ziegler, a man who fucks in the bathroom during his own party, would do.


I've written about the use of color before, but for me the main purpose of the color is to make this film fucking beautiful. Between the use of color in the lighting and the prominence of the Christmas decorations, this movie just looks amazing, especially if you watch it in a room decorated for Christmas, as I do each year.


The Harfords' bedroom phone looks like an office phone.


Stacks of movies and cds on the windowsill. A random stack of books on the dresser. The Harfords live like I did in high school. 


"...this fucking hypothetical woman patient's mind."


The scene with Marion will always be funny to me (the whole "We barely know each other" stuff), but it's truly one of the most important moments, plot-wise. Not only does Marion represent a chance for Bill to get his revenge, but she confirms what Alice says about women. Marion is willing to throw everything away to be with Bill, a man she barely really knows, just like Alice with the naval officer. This encounter truly sets Bill on his "adventure" because now two things are real: Alice really would have thrown it all away for a man she barely knew, and Bill has a real chance to cheat on her.


Domino has a fucking bathtub in the kitchen.


Fidelio (which means "faithful" in Latin) obviously works thematically for the film; in the book, the password is Denmark, which makes sense for that story as Denmark is where the protagonist was first tempted to cheat on his wife.


Now that I've noticed that the costume shop is across the street from the jazz club (and yet Bill takes a cab to get there), I can't unnotice it. The night has to be at least partly a dream. Kubrick didn't make mistakes like this, even if he was dealing with limited space since the street scenes were on a set. There's no way he allows the diner next to the club to be in the shot of Cruise at the costume shop by mistake, right? Right?


The "redeeming" scene comes across more staged with each viewing. This viewing, I am totally convinced that everything Ziegler tells Bill is right. It was done for show, then Mandy ended up ODing. I suppose it is totally possible that they gave her a hot dose or something, but I would say that’s because of her incident at Ziegler’s party more than the “redeeming.” Perhaps that makes me naive, but all of Bill’s adventures in almost having sex involve coincidences. It was a coincidence that he should be called to Marion’s house right after Alice’s confession; it was a coincidence that Alice called him right as he was about to have sex with a prostitute; it was a coincidence that he found himself at Nightingale’s club gig, etc. Why not add a known drug addict OD-ing to the list of coincidences?


I made fun of how much Bill identifies himself as a doctor in a previous article, but you know, if I was working the counter of a diner a doctor told me they needed to know someone’s address for some test results, I’d probably tell them. Although I hope it would occur to me later that doctors don’t typically give results in person, and doctors tend to have contact info for all their patients.


Those red arrows in that giant revolving door are going right through Dr. Bill.


So to be clear, Bill is a doctor that doesn’t know his patients’ contact info and doesn’t know when they are dead.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Friday the 13th - Ranked


When I agreed to cover the fourth Friday the 13th movie (The Final Chapter) for the Midwest Film Journal, I decided to rewatch the entire series. And that felt like a lot of work to write just one article, so I decided come up with my ranking of the series. So here they are, with this caveat:


This is not a list determining the quality of these films. Instead, I’m ranking them based on my personal enjoyment of each film and the rewatchability of each film. Hopefully, you read this paragraph before skimming the list, because otherwise you’ll be wondering how in the fuck I could rank Jason X above the first two films in the series. For the record, I think the first two films are straight up better than Jason X, but I’m much more likely to rewatch Jason X than the first two movies. To quote Dwight Yoakum in Sling Blade: “I ain’t saying it’s right, I’m just telling the damn truth.” Finally, I do want to point out that I enjoy the entire series, and while I might trash a few films, there’s still something in each film that I love.


12. Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday - This was actually one of the first Jason movies I can remember seeing since it came out when I was nine. Not that nine-year-olds should be watching this shit, but in the nineties in my world it was pretty normal for kids my age to watch Freddy and Jason movies. Anyway, I remember finding it quite effective back then. But re-watching it along with the rest of the series, I fucking hated it this time. Oddly enough, the music was a big factor. The score, even though it’s done by series regular Harry Manfredini, is some cheap sounding straight-to-video shit. Then factor in that Jason is possessing people throughout the film and is barely seen in his traditional garb, and you have some real trash. I’m not against the film attempting to expand on the mythology of Jason because at this point in the series, they had to do something. But this just felt half-assed all around.


Favorite Kill - The lady getting split in half in the tent is pretty fucking gnarly.


11. Friday the 13th (2009) - There’s nothing really wrong with this reboot. It’s not as fun as I wanted it to be, despite some of the humor courtesy of the over-the-top dickhead frat guy character. It’s just unnecessary, in my opinion. There was a time for Friday the 13th movies, and that was mainly the ‘80s. Only the even-more-high-concept-than-usual entries like Jason X and Freddy vs. Jason work beyond the ‘80s.


Favorite Kill - I dig the early kills, especially the one involving the sleeping bag and Ginsberg from Mad Men getting killed, but I have to go with the arrow through the eye of the dude driving the boat. When I first watched it, I thought it was pretty fucking stupid, and upon rewatching it, it still is, but it amused me this time.


10. Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning - I get that they were wanting to go in a new direction and move beyond the same Jason, but the reveal that Jason was a copycat is just fucking lame. The townspeople, especially the deep South (even though Crystal Lake is in New Jersey?) mother and son, keep the film entertaining. 


Favorite Kill - I’m not sure any of these kills should even count since it’s not really Jason doing any of them...but if I have to pick, I’ll go with the dipshit son on the moped just because his screaming coupled with the moped was so fucking annoying that I just wanted it to stop, and thankfully it did with his decapitation. 


9. Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan - I thought I loved this movie. I think it was the first Friday I watched as a child, and it had a strong effect on me. Much like with Jason Goes to Hell, watching it again years later, I understand the hatred the movie gets. It’s dumb as shit, even by Friday the 13th standards. But I still like it for its complete disregard for making any kind of sense. How does a boat from Crystal Lake end up in the Atlantic Ocean? Why is a tiny senior class taking an entire cruise ship for a class trip? Why does the city of New York flush their sewers with toxic waste each night? This movie asks to just fucking go with it, and I admire it for that.


Favorite Kill - For some reason, the sauna rock kill stayed with me for years, but upon rewatching it, the boxing kill on the rooftop is fucking awesome simply for how long they let the victim punch Jason just to get his head literally knocked off with one punch.


8. Friday the 13th - I know, I know. How could the film that started it off be so low on the list? As I stated at the beginning, this list is about my personal favorite films that I enjoy and will possibly rewatch. I appreciate everything this film started, but when I watch it, it feels like some obligatory assignment. I didn’t grow up with it, so there’s no nostalgia factor for me. When I watch the Friday series I mainly want to see Jason Voorhees in a hockey mask fucking people up. This is a good movie, but it’s not a Jason movie.


Favorite Kill - Of course I have to go with Kevin Bacon getting the arrow through the throat.


7. Friday the 13th Part II - Just apply everything I wrote about the original to this film, as well. At least it is Jason doing the killing this time, but still no hockey mask yet. It’s still a good movie, but I enjoy the later entries more.


Favorite Kill - The bed impalement is probably the most famous, but I have to go with the machete to the face of Mark, mainly for the tumble he takes down the stairs afterwards.


6. Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood - I blame Stephen King (Carrie, Firestarter) for the weird telekinetic trend in horror during this time, and that aspect keeps this from being in my top three. Otherwise, it’s a totally solid, proper Jason movie, though oddly lacking in gore. He’s fully supernatural at this point, and this movie is an example of what I think a Friday the 13th movie should be. 


Favorite Kill - The original sleeping bag kill is my favorite for the entire series. It’s the perfect blend of brutality and humor that came to define the franchise.


5. Freddy vs. Jason - I fucking loved this movie when it first came out. Revisiting it, it doesn’t hold up as well as I remember, but it’s still a lot of fun. It never takes itself too seriously (how could it?), and it features some interesting kills. I’m with the bulk of the fans on some issues (not casting Kane Hodder and making Jason afraid of water come to mind), but overall this is one of the most rewatchable films in the series for me.


Favorite Kill - The dude getting bent in half in the bed is pretty sweet.


4. Jason X - Okay, having this entry here will make a lot of fans stop reading, and I get it. But this movie is self-aware of how fucking stupid it is, and that’s why it works for me. Hats off to the filmmakers for somehow coming up with a reason to get Jason into outer space. There are some legit good kills in this one, and I fucking love the sleeping bag kill callback. And it’s nice to see that young people are still uncontrollably horny around Jason, even four and a half centuries into the future.


Favorite Kill - The frozen face smash is awesome, but I have to go with the sleeping bag recreation in the VR game. It took a classic kill from The New Blood and made it ridiculous...in a good way. 


3. Friday the 13th Part III - Not only was this the film that finally gave Jason his mask, it also started the trend of leaning a bit more into humor and camp (pun intended) in the series. Jason feels a bit more imposing this time, though he’s still just a human, for the most part. 


Favorite Kill - The kills are mostly 3D gimmicks that seem pretty silly when you watch it in 2D, but there’s still some good stuff here. My favorite is the spear gun, mainly because of how nonchalant Jason is during the entire kill. It’s like he’s just taking out the garbage...which, to him, I guess is the case.


2. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter - I linked to my full length article about this film at the top of the page, so my complete thoughts on the film are there. But the short version is this: I consider The Final Chapter to be the best movie in the series (though not the most enjoyable, hence it’s second place status). It is the bridge between human and monster Jason, and it’s a great mix of horror and comedy. For anyone who dislikes the supernatural element that the later films embraced, this is the film for them.


Favorite Kill - There are so many to choose from for this movie. I really like Crispin Glover’s death, and the lady getting thrown out of the window, and Jason’s “death,” but I have to go with the harpoon to the dick. It’s just such a subtle kill in a franchise that seems to punish horniness. 


1. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives - This is the one where they finally said, “Fuck it” and went full Frankenstein’s monster with Jason, and I love it. I’m always slightly annoyed by slasher movies that make the killer superhuman even though it’s just some dude a lot of the time. The previous films were definitely setting up the fact that Jason was more than just a regular human, but this movie made no mistake. Once that lightning hits him, it’s a new Jason. It’s the Jason I grew up with. For me, this is the easiest rewatch of the series. And the Alice Cooper tie-in song puts it over the top. I sincerely love that silly song. Jason Lives was such a perfect course correction for fans disappointed by the copycat in Part V. It’s like the fans were saying, “Yeah, we know Jason definitively dies in The Final Chapter, but who fucking cares? Bring him back anyway!” And the makers of Jason Lives did just that, and made the most entertaining film in the series.


Favorite Kill - The whole RV sequence perfectly encapsulates everything I love about the series. It’s brutal, silly, funny, and a genuinely impressive spectacle. What else could you want?