Stanley Kubrick. The very name brings nearly messianic feelings in the hearts of cinema fans. With films such as Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, and Full Metal Jacket, there’s no denying the impact that Kubrick has had on both cinema and popular culture. Some would even go so far as to say that a Kubrick film is untouchable.
So, why have I decided to do a fan edit of Eyes Wide Shut? After all, it’s Kubrick. It should be untouchable, right? Well, I have two reasons:
Reason #1: It’s my favorite film from the late Stanley Kubrick.
Reason #2: It’s everyone else’s least favorite film from the late Stanley Kubrick.
Eyes Wide Shut is a film that is often said to be more of a whimper than a bang for the end of Kubrick’s filmography. And while the film does have its fans (myself included), there are plenty of folks out there who feel that it has some issues.
My approach to Eyes Wide Shut
I think a lot of the reasons why people tend to look down on Eyes Wide Shut is because of its vague structuring. With many of Kubrick’s other films, the structuring is so clear, it’s ridiculous. Dr. Strangelove has a clear three-act structure. So does 2001. Ditto for A Clockwork Orange. Same with The Shining. Full Metal Jacket? Okay, that one’s unusually structured, but yeah, I can still make out what Kubrick was going for. Eyes Wide Shut? Ummmm… That’s tough. I’m not even sure what counts as the film’s beginning, middle, or even end. Was Alice telling Bill about the sailor the official foray into the 2nd act? Or was it when Bill meets Nick Nightingale at the Sonata Cafe? Likewise, it’s hard to figure out what the climax of the film is. Was it the infamous Somerton scene? Or was it when Ziegler talks to Bill about the conspiracy? Or maybe it was when Bill finally told his wife the truth? It’s hard to make out what the structure is, and I think I know why. I have read Walter Murch’s In The Blink of an Eye, 2nd Edition, and I’m currently reading Edward Dmytryk’s On Film Editing, and both books have this particular editing rule: When a movie is too long, the best place to start is to cut out the subplots. Considering the film’s 159-minute running time, I think that rule is worth applying here.
There are two subplots in particular that I think are responsible for mucking up the structure. The first one that comes to mind is the Domino subplot. The second, and more heartbreaking one, is the Marion subplot. Currently, I have cut out both subplots, and I think the movie is much stronger (and shorter) without them.
I also want to be as respectful to Kubrick as much as possible. This means I’ve had to pay extra caution by comparison to my other fan edits. I’ve had to make some of my editing choices by individual frames! I have to assume that every cut must appear seamless. To do otherwise would be disrespectful to Kubrick.
However, I also want to honor the direction that Stanley was going for at the time he made this film. Some of you may or may not know this, but Kubrick was very close friends with Steven Spielberg in his later years, and he wanted to make more Spielberg-ian films at around this point in his life. A.I. Artificial Intelligence, was his next project, and it was going to be his personal attempt at Spielberg. But that never happened because he died during post-production on this film (Still, it says a lot about their friendship that Spielberg took the director’s chair for A.I. following Kubrick’s death). I have a theory that Eyes Wide Shut was supposed to be a bridge between the dark, cerebral tone of Kubrick and the fantasized, sentimental tone of Spielberg. That is my theory, but one that makes sense enough given the behind the scenes material, documentaries, featurettes, and interviews I’ve seen regarding this movie. So, I will be making certain editing choices with this Kubrick-Spielberg compromise in mind as well.
Currently, my edit is sitting at a nice running time of 124 minutes. I must state that this is all subject to change for the time being (until the edit is released, of course). “-” means deleted. “/” means changed. “+” means added.
-Nick Nightingale’s conversation with Bill at Ziegler’s
-Most of Bill’s phone conversation (Since the Nathanson subplot no longer exists)
-Three of the four visions of Alice mating with the naval officer (Once is enough)
-The Marion subplot
-The Domino subplot
+The uncut and uncensored Somerton scene 😁
-The coffee table scene
-Bill deciding to leave his job early
-Bill’s second visit to Somerton (and 2nd warning)
-Bill calling Marion’s family
-Spinning hospital entrance shot
/Moved Bill’s return home to before the big “talk” with Ziegler
-First shot of the mask in the climax (For surprise’s sake)
A word on the aspect ratio
Because of the controversy surrounding the aspect ratios of Stanley Kubrick’s films (especially with this being one of his final three), I think it’s fair that I talk about the aspect ratio as it relates to my version of Eyes Wide Shut. I decided to do some online research about this subject beforehand, and what follows is my conclusion.
Let’s begin with the full frame 1.33:1 ratio, because there are some out there who believe that Kubrick’s true intentions were for his films to be released in 1.33. Part of the defense for this ratio is the extra head space combined with the tallness of the image when any of Kubrick’s films (post-2001, of course) are shown in the academy ratio. However, there are lots of problems with this argument. The first problem is that there’s almost nothing proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Kubrick wanted this. The second is that the argument originated from his assistant director, Leon Vitali, who’s been proven to be unreliable when it comes to Kubrick’s aspect ratios. This article from high-def digest does Vitali dirty, and shows an example where he got the aspect ratio for Barry Lyndon wrong:
It’s best to ignore what Vitali says. Third problem is that, like many open-matte films of the past, there is a tendency for too much information to appear in 1.33. Kubrick, being the perfectionist that he was, mostly managed to avoid this trap in the academy format, but one famous goof can be found in the opening credits for The Shining. If you watch the bottom-right hand corner, there is a shadow of a helicopter in the 1.33 version. You can see the goof in this link:
But when this same shot is cropped for widescreen, the goof is gone:
This tells me that Kubrick probably didn’t want his films to be in full frame. At the very least, it indicates that The Shining wasn’t supposed to be in 1.33. I doubt Kubrick would make such a simple mistake like that unless his intentions for the film were for it to be cropped later on by a projectionist.
Reason four revolves around The Criterion Collection. The fine folks over there have released five of Kubrick’s films, and just about all of them (Excluding Spartacus in 2.35:1) have been released in the 1.66 ratio, not 1.33:
Knowing Criterion’s obsession with getting it right as often as possible, it sounds like 1.66 was Kubrick’s preferred format, at least, for his earlier films. Some may argue that Dr. Strangelove was shot in multiple aspect ratios, and that the 1.66 format robs the film of that, but I don’t believe that makes a lot of sense given my own experiences looking at open matte 35mm film prints. Many shots of special effects are often cropped down to 1.85:1, while non-special effects shots are open matte, either at 1.37:1 or 1.19:1. This 35mm trailer for Big Top Pee Wee was supposed to be cropped with a 1.85 gate when projected in theaters, but when uncropped, you can see a lot of similarities to the varying aspect ratio effects of Dr. Strangelove’s 1.33 format.
The point is, it’s odd to me that Kubrick would want people to see those varying aspect ratio effects for Dr. Strangelove. Why would he want that? Did he really intend for people to see the nuclear warhead stick out of frame at the end of the movie? I’m not so convinced that Strangelove was supposed to be seen this way.
So, my long story short is that 1.33 is the wrong format for Eyes Wide Shut, despite some praise for the format.
But that leads us to the million dollar question. If it isn’t supposed to be in 1.33:1, which aspect ratio is it then? Is it 1.66? 1.85? 16:9? It’s a tough question, so let’s do some unpacking!
We’ll begin with my official copy of the film. It’s the unrated US blu-ray, which features a copyright from 2007. That’s an old blu-ray, but it happens to be the only physical copy in HD that is available here in the states, as they never re-released it since. The box claims that the aspect ratio is in 1.85:1, but that’s a lie. The blu-ray is in 1.78:1 (or 16:9, if you want to use that). This is a consistent problem with a lot of Kubrick films in the Warner Bros. catalog. I have the blu-ray of Full Metal Jacket and it’s also in 1.78 despite the box claiming to be 1.85. I’ve also heard that the blu-ray for The Shining suffered a similar fate. However, I can’t confirm anything since my copy of The Shining is the crusty old DVD with the 1.33 aspect ratio. Still, if The Shining blu-ray is in 1.78, I wouldn’t be surprised. When it comes to the aspect ratios of Kubrick’s films, take them with a grain of salt. They’re all 16:9, plain and simple.
So, with that out of my system, it’s worth asking: Did Stanley Kubrick intend for us all to see his films in the 16:9 format? It’s hard to know, since Kubrick isn’t available to ask, but my educated guess is no. Keep in mind that Warner Bros. Studios have released most of their 1.85 films in 16:9, not just Kubrick’s. So it’s fair to assume that many of Warner Bros. films in the 1.85 format have been reframed slightly to the 16:9 format. What’s worse is that this problem goes back to the DVD era as well! I own a 2-disc special edition DVD of the 1975 film Dog Day Afternoon. That movie was released in the 1970s, where 16:9 barely was a thing (I hear 1.75:1 existed back then, but I’m not going to confirm what I don’t know). So, my educated guess is that Dog Day Afternoon was filmed with 1.85 in mind. But my DVD is in the 16:9 aspect ratio, not the 1.85 ratio. So if a film like Dog Day Afternoon can be improperly framed (however slightly), then so can Kubrick’s films.
So, that leaves us with two options: 1.66 and 1.85. Granted, Kubrick loved the 1.66:1 aspect ratio, but I think that once the 1980s rolled around, 1.85 became the standard, and Kubrick most likely caved in. So, my educated guess is that 1.85 is the correct aspect ratio for Eyes Wide Shut (and Full Metal Jacket, while we’re at it).
And just to prove even further that this is correct, here’s a link to a video that goes in-depth about the aspect ratio controversy, and I think it proves that 1.85 makes the most sense. There is a bit of mean language in the video below, so don’t play it in front of the kids, but if you’re a fan of all things Kubrick, I doubt you care. The admins might, though:
So, there you have it. My conclusion is that Eyes Wide Shut is intended to be seen in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and my edit will honor that conclusion.
1.85:1: The aspect ratio for my edit
In preparation for this fan edit, I ripped my source file off my blu-ray and through the power of Handbrake, I cropped the image down from 1920x1080 to 1920x1036, which is approximately 1.85:1. Currently, I’ve cropped the top and bottom, but I’m tempted to go back and just crop the bottom instead, since the top of people’s heads might be a teensy bit more aesthetically pleasing that way. I’ll update this part if I decide to re-crop the file.
…And 1.33:1: The aspect ratio for others (Update: 5-2-2022)
Well, I guess I will start by giving a special thank you to stretch009. Because of him, I’ve been given a mux of the PAL version and the NTSC audio track, which happens to be in the full frame aspect ratio.
I still stand by my statements regarding the 1.85 format being what Kubrick intended, and having a 1.33 version does not change my opinion. However, because of the controversy, and some users swearing by the full frame format, I’m faced with little choice but to take up stretch’s file. I should make a few things clear though.
#1. It’s not hi-def
This should come as no surprise, but it’s in the PAL format. So, we’re dealing with 540p. I also don’t have the money or disk space for upscaling. stretch009 has offered to make a few improvements to bump the file up some more, but I’m not sure I have enough disk space at the moment to give the file an upgrade.
#2. I’m color grading the file
Of course, I plan to color grade the 1.85 version too, as the 2007 blu-ray that I happen to own is in need of it’s own makeover. However, because I’m dealing with a 720x540 resolution file, I figure it wouldn’t hurt to try and fix it up. I may have to do separate color grades for each version, so keep that in mind too.
#3. My work has doubled
Working on the 1.33 format is basically like doing two separate edits simultaneously. I have yet to cut up this file, and apply my own changes as of this posting.
So there you have it. I still believe that 1.85 is the correct format, and if you manage to find some of Kubrick’s production notes for the film, you will most likely find that 1.85 was what he prioritized, but for those who can’t live without 1.33, there you go.
I have altered Lucas’ visions. Pray I don’t alter them any further.