Eyes Wide Shut appears in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. For the most part, the movie looked good, but some mild concerns emerged.
Virtually all of those affected sharpness. Definition mostly seemed positive, but I noticed more softness than I’d like. Some of this stemmed from photographic styles, but I still thought the flick wasn’t as consistently tight as I’d expect. No issues with jagged edged or shimmering occurred, and I noticed no edge enhancement. Source flaws also seemed to be absent in this clean presentation.
Shut maintained a pretty subdued palette overall. Warm, earthy tones dominated, while some more lush hues appeared via the frequent Christmas trees and a few of the costumes, some of which displayed rich burgundy tones. The colors seemed good and fit within the dense visual design. Blacks looked deep and firm, while shadows were clear and appropriately opaque. I found it tough to decide between a “B” and a “B+” but I went with the lower grade just because Shut seemed awfully soft for such a recent film. Nonetheless, the image usually remained satisfying.
As for the film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, it wasn’t terribly ambitious. When I saw the movie theatrically, I wasn't sure what to expect from the sound; after all, most of Kubrick's films - including his most recent pre-Shut effort, 1987's Full Metal Jacket - offered only monaural soundtracks. (Many of these have been remixed for 5.1 on their DVD releases.) Surely even Kubrick wouldn't release a $65 million dollar film in 1999 with only mono audio?
I didn't check up on the sound before I saw Shut, but as I watched it, I was able to tell that it was at least stereo. Did it offer surround imagery as well? I couldn't tell; there might be some rear action - no, I don't mean the sex scenes! - but it didn't seem evident during that screening.
Well, the DVD indeed boasted 5.1 sound, only the second Kubrick movie to do so theatrically; 2001: A Space Odyssey also had a 6-track mix originally. While not terrifically engulfing, the soundfield seemed adequate and it added to the experience. As I figured during my theatrical experience, it was a very forward-oriented track. In fact, I often wondered if any audio came from the surrounds at all. Yes, there was some sound coming from the rears, but it tended to be strongly ambient in nature; essentially I just heard some very gentle sound effects and some music from the surrounds. The stereo mix for the front speakers was actually quite good, and it spread out the image broadly enough to make the lack of active surrounds much more acceptable.
Audio quality seemed consistently strong. Although much of the dialogue appeared to have been dubbed, the lines remained clear, natural and easily intelligible with no signs of edginess. The music sounded very smooth and natural, and some of the cues provided great depth and vivacity. For example, when Chris Isaak’s “Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing” briefly played, the bass response appeared terrific, and the song really took over my room. The film’s atmospheric piano elements also were crisp and appropriately bright. Effects were realistic and free of distortion. Granted, this wasn't a demanding mix, but it still got the job done with good sound and a reasonably effective audio environment.
How did the picture and audio of this 2007 edition compare to those of the original version? I thought both presented identical 5.1 soundtracks, but the visuals differed. The 2007 version provided the first-ever presentation of Shut in its original theatrical aspect ratio; apparently at Kubrick’s request, the prior renditions were fullframe affairs. Some may view the new widescreen picture as a violation of Kubrick’s wishes, but I get the feeling his edict was really meant to reflect a period with smaller TVs and lesser resolution. I believe that if Kubrick now know how common large sets and hi-rez material has become, he’d be A-OK with the letterboxing.
The new transfer also improved on its predecessor. I thought the 2007 version looked a little tighter and also demonstrated better color reproduction. Shadows were clearer and it lost the mild source flaws of the first DVD. Even with its minor concerns, the 2007 DVD was a definite step up in quality.
In terms of extras, everything appears on DVD Two. The Last Movie: Stanley Kubrick and Eyes Wide Shut runs 43 minutes, five seconds as it mixes film clips, archival elements, and interviews. We hear from director’s wife Christiane Kubrick, daughters Anya Kubrick and Katharina Kubrick-Hobbs, novelists Brian Aldiss, Ian Watson, Sara Maitland and Candia McWilliam, Warner Bros. chairman/co-CEO Terry Semel, executive producer/brother-in-law Jan Harlan, filmmakers Steven Spielberg and John Boorman, and actors Nicole Kidman, Tom Cruise, and Sydney Pollack. We get a little discussion of Kubrick’s lifestyle as well as aspects of his personality. From there we learn about projects that Kubrick pursued before he moved to Shut, what it was like to collaborate with him, other personal insights and aspects of Shut, and his death.
As we most of these Kubrick featurettes, we get a fair amount of the usual “Kubrick rules” comments. However, these don’t bog down the show, and it includes some moderate criticism as well; the various writers with whom he collaborated give a good look at how difficult he could be. The two sides balance well to turn this into a satisfying and insightful program.
One unavoidable problem with “Last”: it suffers from personal events that took place over the last eight years. The Kidman and Cruise interviews come from 1999, back when they were still a couple. Since they’re famously not together anymore, it becomes unintentionally amusing to hear them speak like they maintain great love for each other. This doesn’t harm the show, but it creates some minor distractions.
Lost Kubrick: The Unfinished Films of Stanley Kubrick goes for 20 minutes, 15 seconds and features Pollack, Harlan,
former Warner Bros. executive John Calley, Stanley Kubrick: A Biography author John Baxter, assistant Anthony Frewin, Stanley Kubrick: The Complete Films author Paul Duncan, Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange author Stuart McDougal, 2001 choreographer Daniel Richter, actors Jack Nicholson and Joseph Mazzello, Wartime Lies author Louis Begley, makeup artist Barbara Daly, and production designer Roy Walker. Narrated by Malcolm McDowell, the program looks at a few projects Kubrick pursued but never brought to fruition. These include flicks about Napoleon and the Holocaust. The program digs into these in surprising detail, and it’s especially cool to hear from Nicholson and Mazzello, the actors who would have appeared in the Napoleon and Holocaust flicks, respectively. This is one of the more fascinating Kubrick featurettes.
A rare public appearance from Kubrick – albeit via video – comes in the 1998 DGA DW Griffith Award Acceptance Speech. After a short intro from actor Jack Nicholson, we hear Kubrick’s remarks in regard to the honor. The clip lasts four minutes and is cool to see, even if Kubrick was one of the least interesting speakers alive.
Repeated from the original DVD, we get an interview gallery. These were conducted back in 1999 with actors Tom Cruise (8:43) and Nicole Kidman (19:28) and director Steven Spielberg (8:05). All told, these pieces last for about 35 minutes and 20 seconds.
Spielberg's interview is definitely the most interesting of the lot. He discusses the reasons why he finds Kubrick's films to be so important and also talks about their personal relationship; he even reveals that he didn't initially like The Shining and he discusses why he didn’t care for it. Most ironic, however, is Spielberg's enthusiastic discussion of how masterfully Kubrick framed his films, since so many of them - Shut included - lost that framing in their initial home video incarnations. As Spielberg illustrates, films are framed as they are for a reason; why Kubrick ignored that for the home video audience makes no sense to me.
Anyway, I liked Spielberg's clip quite a lot but I felt less enthusiastic about the programs with the actors. Kidman’s section is decent but not great. She talks a lot about the movie and her own role but spends the least amount of time discussing Kubrick himself, a surprising fact since her interview is so much longer than the others. Maybe it just seemed like she talked less about Kubrick than did the other two since that part of the clip takes up relatively less time. In any case, her comments reveal some fairly interesting information about the film but aren't tremendously fascinating.
I definitely found Cruise's section to be the least useful of the bunch. Kidman comes across as slightly sycophantic in her interview, but Cruise is way over the top in his unrestricted adoration of Kubrick. During his piece, all he does is tell us what a genius the guy was, but he does so without illustrating his reasons for believing this.
In addition, some of the usual DVD standbys appear on Shut. We get the film’s theatrical trailer plus two television ads.
Eyes Wide Shut finished out Kubrick's career on a relatively low note. No, it's not his worst film, but it's much closer to the bottom than it is to the top. Still, I suppose the fact it was made by Kubrick makes it something of a "must see" for film buffs, and one certainly can't go wrong with the fine quality of this DVD; it provides strong picture and very good sound plus some minor but decent extras. Despite my serious misgivings about the film, its historical stature makes Eyes Wide Shut worth at least a rental.