The Kubrick Corner

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PART 1: More than meets the eye
Introduction to themes
The Kuleshov effect
Kubrick as cold rationalist
PART 2: Opening Shots
The Kubrick Aesthetic & Spectatorship Theory
Concept Art and Storyboards
Kubrick's bathrooms
Dinner with Stanley
PART 3: The Killing
Simultaneity and Overlap
The Unknown Kubrick
The Early Films
PART 4: Paths of Glory
Creation and Destruction
PART 5: Spartacus
I Viddied Spartacus
PART 6: Lolita
Michael Ciment on Lolita
1962 Kubrick interview
PART 7: Dr Strangelove
War and Sex
PART 8: 2001: A Space Odyssey
A Cold Descent
SF Capital
Three Metamorphoses
PART 9: A Clockwork Orange
Alex as artist
Crime and Punishment
The Decor Of Tomorrow's Hell
Spectacle and Violence
PART 10: Barry Lyndon Reconsidered
The Vanity of Existence
Narrative and Discourse
Kubrick's Narrator and "The higher aesthetic"
PART 11: Imperfect Symmetries
Animal friends
Historicism and Hauntology
4 Articles
The Uncanny
PART 12: Deconstructing Masculinity
The Jungian Thing
Kubrick's Ulterior War
AMK Essays
Who am I?
Anybody's Son Will Do
PART 13: Eyes Wide Shut
3 Articles
Contemporary Sexuality and its Discontents
Squalid Infidelities
Crazy cults and Grotesque Caricatures
Was Eyes Wide Shut completed?
PART 14: A.I. Artificial Intelligence
Kubrick's A.I. by Ian Watson
New AI Page
PART 15: Kubrick's Psychopaths
Kubrick's office and grave
A Collection of Letters
The Quote Page
Scorsese on Kubrick
Kubrick Interviews
Useful weblinks, books and Guestbook

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DISCUSSION: WAS EYES WIDE SHUT COMPLETED?

ConnRog: I have heard conflicting reports. I have heard that four days before he died he screened the final cut of the film, yet Todd Field has said that he was still working on it.

TheRuralJuror: As far as I understand, he delivered the final cut just before his death.

 

TM: No, I don't think so. My guess is that it's probably 95 percent finished. Kubrick liked to trim his films up until and well after release. “Full Metal Jacket” had many big scenes chopped a few weeks prior to release while “Space Odyssey” and the “Shining” had several scenes chopped after their release.


The pattern is that Kubrick removes scenes, rather than adds anything. So what we see of “Eyes Wide Shut” is possibly more than we would have, had Kubrick survived a couple more months. My view is that the editing wasn’t finished, the sound wasn't finished, and that he planned to cut the film down to 2 hours 19 minutes, as originally planned.


IBW: I haven't seen the European cut of “Eyes Wide Shut” yet. Is it more graphic than the American version?

TM: No, it's the same film basically. The only difference is that the orgy sequence has some digital figures blocking the nudity. Also, the orgy scene in the middle of the movie originally had the recitation of a verse from the Bhagwad Gita, one of the most revered Hindu scriptures. The verse read:

 

"Parithranaya Saadhunam Vinashaya cha dushkrithaam Dharmasamsthabanarthaya Sambhavami yuge yuge"


which means:


"For the protection of the virtuous, for the destruction of the evil and for the firm establishment of Dharma (righteousness), I take birth and am incarnated on Earth, from age to age."


ie, these powerful masked people see themselves as rulers who represent virtue and righteousness. They believe all their actions are done for the common good. Anyway, the nudity pissed off Warner Brothers and was removed from the American cut. But it was left intact for the European release of the film. The Hindu chant pissed off Hindus and was removed from all cuts of the film. This chant was only heard during the original theatrical run. The chant originally took place when Tom Cruise walks through the corridors and sees all the naked figures having sex. It takes place right after the ironic Catholic chant (played spookily backwards).

 

Warner claimed that the inclusion of the Hindu chant was an accident and thus okay for them to remove, but Full Metal Jacket contains the words "I am become death" (on Animal Mother's helmet), which is also a line from the Bhagwad Gita. Kubrick doesn't seem like the person to pick music arbitrarily.

 

Faithless-TheWonderboy: Speculation aside, he did finish the film. Nobody had to film extra scenes to bridge the gaps, no one had to finish editing it without him overlooking.

 

TM: He finished the actual process of filming, but he didn't finished editing. My view is that he would have tightened the film by as much as twenty minutes, shortening scenes without removing any one entirely. You just have to look at the film to see that many of the establishing shots looked botched and not edited properly. Arguably some of the voice over and flashbacks would have been altered too, like he did with Full Metal Jacket just before release. Kubrick recorded a full narration for the film, who knows how much more he would have taken out?

 

And we know that much of the music and sound work was done AFTER his death. Sound and music help pace and guide an editor, but Kubrick's film was in a weird position. His contract forbids anyone from cutting his film. He alone had final cut. So while his sound editor could lay down tracks and put in music, per his guidelines, they could not actually edit the footage. Usually music and imagery is edited in tandem, not so in "Eyes Wide Shut".

 

Considering that it was a summer release, and that Kubrick was notorious for tinkering with his films up until and even after previews and release, I think it is likely that he would have made many changes. Films aren't ever finished, they're walked away from. And Kubrick finds it harder than most to walk away.


Also, much of the sound work wasn't ready. Music, sound effects and voiceoffers were put in by Nick Galt after Kubrick's death. Kubrick had just told Dominic Harlan how he wanted the Ligeti played, and after his death his family had to do a lot of tweaking on the film. For example they had to guess which version of "Strangers in the Night" to use because Kubrick had yet to finalise and select some of the music. And sound editor Paul Conway had to make numerous decisions based on nothing but Kubrick's notes. Details like where to start and stop music, what specific tracks to use, what telephone rings to use, etc. And then there's stuff like the colour correction, which was still being worked out.

 

But the thing that convinces me that it wasn't quite finished, is Michael Herr recounting a conversation he had with Kubrick just before the Warner screening. He asked him if he could see the film, and Kubrick answered that he wasn't comfortable yet, but that he HAD to show it to the execs and stars, and that it literally "pained" him to have to do so. Four days later and Kubrick dies. What are Warner going to do, release an unfinished film or fudge the truth a little? The release date was in the summer. You don't spend 2 years on a film and then rush the editing like that.

 

Faithless-TheWonderboy: I understand where you're coming from, and that he probably would have tinkered more. I don't know about the sounds and music you mention, or that interview. The last conversation I heard of him was that he was happy with it.

 

The point is though, that the version we see was the version he finished. The version he finished. Its what he shot, cut, and screened. What might have changed is by the byside, because he didn't get that chance. What he did though, was turn in a completed film. So in answer to the question, yes, he did finish it.

TM: You say he “turned in a completed film”, but that’s just Warner fudging language. You don't hand a film over until it's finished. We know that the colour correction, music and sound mix definitely weren't finished. We know he was editing it the night before he died. We know he held a small screening 4 days before he died.

This screening was held, on a Tuesday, at the Time Warner building in New York. Kubrick sent a courier who personally hand delivered a print of the film. Immediately after the screening, that print was rushed back to England by the same courier. Warner received NO print that day. Only about 4 people (The Cruises and 2 Warner execs- Terry Semel and Bob Daly) were present at the screening. We know Michael Herr was at Kubrick's house later that day and asked to see the film. Kubrick tells him that the film isn't ready yet and that it "pains" him to have to show it to "these people". After the screening, Kubrick tells Terry Semel that the final cut will be 2 hours and 19 minutes long. What they saw that night was 2 hours and 39 minutes long.


Warner claims that what their producers saw that day was the final cut. But it was just a screening. Kubrick wasn't handing over prints. They left empty handed. He showed them a work in progress. If he was finished and happy with what he showed them, he wouldn't still be editing before he died.


Then when Kubrick dies, Warner runs the story that the print used for the screening was his final cut. At first they called it a "working final cut", implying that it was still a work in progress. Weeks later they insist that it was his "final cut" (afterall, who wants to market an incomplete movie?). They spend the next 3 months consulting with the Kubrick estate on how to finish the music, sound loops and color etc.

 

They dabble with the idea of bringing another editor to trim the film (rumours of Spielberg and Cronenberg tweaking the editing a passed around), but Kubrick's contract specifically forbids this.


Weeks after Eyes Wide Shut was released, Ted Turner pushes Bob Daley and Terry Semel to resign from Warner, the rumour being that this was because they couldn't get Kubrick's film cut and edited.

 

EricBarker:  I agree with you TM. Every other Kubrick film runs somewhere around 2:20 (or 140 min) or less except Barry Lyndon, which is a genuine epic with themes that support a long running time, and of course Spartacus, on which final cut belonged to someone else. Kubrick fine tuned his films up until the day of release, and in some cases after, as with 2001.

So whether we call it "finished" or not depends on how we define finished. For me, 2001 is finished because he stopped cutting it and moved on. Eyes Wide Shot isn't finished because he died before he completed the edit to his own satisfaction. I have no doubt if he'd seen the film with the same restless opening night audience that I did, he would have trimmed several scenes.

 

TM: Yeah, perhaps. But my point is that he would have trimmed it (along with finishing editing, sound, colour correction, music selection etc) before any premiere, because what was shown (note- shown, not delivered as Warner claims) to the 2 Warner producers was in no way a complete film. Warner just didn't want to have to market an "incomplete film", so they changed their tactics a couple weeks after he died. Everyone was too busy arguing over the digital figures Warner had inserted, to notice what else they were doing.

Chester-copperpot-1: Yes, I think he was finished with it, and that's why he died just a few days later. I think he died, because he could finally feel that he could "let go". Think of it as when you are involved in a heavy project, that you don't allow yourself to be sick. Once it's over, you relax, and then the sickness catches up, and then you are sick for a couple of weeks. Eyes Wide Shut was a tremendously burdensome filming experience; they shot the film more or less consecutively for 18 months in a row. Most films takes from four to six weeks to three to four months to shoot. I think he worked himself out, and when he was satisfied, he relaxed. And then the burden took its toll. The fact that he died just a few days later proves the point. Hadn't he been ready, he wouldn't have died at that point.

 

EricBarker: I respectfully disagree, Chester. Your scenario is possible, but not probable. He might just as easily had his sudden, massive heart attack from worrying about making the film work better during the four months remaining before release.

TM: I used to think it was finished too, Chester, but the more you talk to people and do some research, you realise that Warner did a massive about face after Kubrick's death. The film went from "working progress" to "final cut", as they systematically went about fudging details and just how "done" the film really was.

 

The only one outside of Warner and the Kubrick Estate who can confirm these things is Nick Galt, Kubrick's editor. But Nick (like in the film itself) does not talk and seems to have been clamped down by Warner. When "editors.net" was asked why they had never interviewed him for their Eyes Wide Shut article, they simply said "WB had blocked it". Editors.net had to interview William Butler, the editor of Clockwork Orange, instead.

 

 

WHAT OTHERS SAY…

 

 

David Cronenberg: "He died too young, Stanley, and I'm sure he's absolutely pissed-off being dead. I think his movie [Eyes Wide Shut] definitely was not finished, because he had the sound mix still to do and the looping with the actors, where you add dialogue and so change performances. It's only people who don't know about filmmaking who think it will be Stanley's movie because a huge part of it won't be. And I wonder who the hell is finishing editing it. Are they going to get Spielberg? It did occur to me [to finish it], especially given the subject matter. It feels a little like Crash to me on one level. But I don't know that I'd want to be in the middle of that. It could get very political. The answer for a filmmaker is ‘Don't die!' I'm going to do my best. I relate to Kubrick's intelligence and literacy, and there seems to be a dearth of that in filmmaking these days, but I never thought of him as a comrade in arms. In terms of subject matter and methodology, I think we were at far distant poles. Even the way he made movies is much more techno-obsessed than I am. I don't think I'm techno-obsessed at all. I'm organic-obsessed. That's why my technology is all organic. My understanding of technology is as an extension of the human body. So when people say, ‘Are your movies about a fear of technology?' I don't see that. I see technology as innately human. It seems to be innate in us to create and so much of our creativity comes out as technological invention. And I don't think of it as being outside ourselves. I think it's inside us first and then it's an extension of us. And I don't get that from Kubrick's films."

 

David Lynch: "I really love "Eyes Wide Shut". I just wonder if Stanley Kubrick really did finish it the way he wanted to before he died."


David Culpepper: "We've heard more than a bit of assurances regarding the fidelity of the film.  Remember, there is reputation and money at stake. I'll be damned as a cynic, but I fail to see how we can expect to get a straight story on the issue from any of the involved players. One thing I know, Kubrick tweaked every film he made until the last possible moment. 2001 was tweaked AFTER its release.  The shining was modified at the last moment and substantially so for the European market.  Eyes Wide Shut…well, I'm resigned to having seen the "initial cut" of the final film.  That's about as solid as it's going to get, in my opinion. One discrepency to note in the "official statements" regarding EWS.  At first it was stated that the music score only needed "minor additions and editing". Later, the music editor (I forget his name), stated that he was doing his very best to keep to the score that Kubrick “intended”.  That, in fact, he was working from notes, a playlist and a selection of recordings. Not from music that was already on the film.  Further, It was reported that the cut that was screened for Cruise/Kidman was sans music. Sorry folks, regardless of the comprehensiveness of Kubrick's  notes and plans, this is not the same thing as editing-in "minor additions".   Yes it’s a coherent score, but it appears that it will always be a 2nd degree of Kubrick that we'll be hearing in the music. But of course, some don't want to see this kind of info being talked about…"

 

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE BHAGVAD GITA

Robert Castle 

 

Bowing to pressure by the American Hindus Against Defamation and its allies, Warner Bros agreed to delete from the soundtrack the Bhagvad Gita used in the film’s orgy sequence.

This controversy revealed an element of Eyes Wide Shut that wouldn't have been noticed otherwise. The presence of the Gita links the film to the Hindu caste system or, more generally, to the shadow of a rigid hierarchy impervious to attempts to leave or destroy it. The spectre of the caste system, while profoundly negative in most respects, in Kubrick's filmed world represents unquestioned hierarchy handing down orders and plans from "above." Kubrick's critique of this hierarchy has been constant and consistent since Paths of Glory (1957).

Eyes Wide Shut's Kshatriyas, so to speak, are the masked figures at the Long Island Mansion led by a red-cloaked man. Many of the orgy participants wear masks resembling the aristocrats of Barry Lyndon (1975), in a mansion much like those in Barry Lyndon and Paths of Glory. Bill Harford has witnessed secret rites of the "best people" pleasuring themselves, and he must be sent away into the night, warned off the trail. The participants may seem to overreact in wanting to scare him, let alone kill him or, Harford's old buddy, pianist Nick Nightingale, but the absurdity of the threat's extreme nature fits perfectly with our potential apprehension of the real power that these "best people" have.

The "hierarchy" theme does not represent the sole reason for the shloka during the orgy scene. It's the context of the Gita itself that has a bearing on the shloka's presence during an orgy. In this Hindu sacred song, a figure called Arjuna searches for the meaning of his actions in the midst of a war. Bill Harford's search for sexual meaning in the midst of a sexual battle with his wife parallels Arjuna's actions. Mrs. Harford has just unloaded a barrage on her husband, which knocks him senseless. When he's called out of his apartment, Bill uses this opportunity to embark on a sexual odyssey. He clearly wants sex with anyone in his path, and women continually thrust themselves toward him. Trying to make sense of his wife's desires, he wants to explore (or runs into) all aspects of sexual desire (his and others). As in 2001, though, the odyssey transmigrates from the character to the viewer. We're watching what Bill is watching. Watching the movie becomes a parallel practice to the following passage in the Gita (chapter 6, verse 10):

Once, someone asked, "Why is it said that the eyes should be half-open and half-shut?" I said, "The answer is easy. If you shut the eyes completely, you fall asleep. If you keep them fully open, they turn on all sides and prevent concentration."

 

Bill Harford's quest becomes a literal and metaphoric opening of the eyes. At the heart of all of Kubrick's movies is an ambivalence toward the moviegoing experience; the very things that transfixed one to the screen molded the viewer into a passive receptor to myths and the authority of the screen. Kubrick slowly but surely detonated story and genre to shake people from their stupor and managed to entertain filmgoers.

 

Just as Dr. and Mrs. Harford must sort out their marital differences, so too the viewers must come to grips with the movie's meaning and heed the Gita's verse:

 

Sacred stories send us to sleep; / Care keeps us awake in bed; / Obscure is the way of karma; / Why weep? 

 

"Dharma" may not have an exact equivalent in the English language, but it has generally been defined as "righteousness" or "duty." Much of the critical, economic, and religious pieties thrown against this movie do not have the same spirit of "dharma" that the Gita speaks about. Yet the shallow righteousness of our reigning if bumbling commentators and censors could have been alluded to by Kubrick through the choice of the particular shloka from the Gita.

 

Besides alluding to the caste system, the verse indirectly references one of Eyes' cast members, Thomas Gibson, who had the nearly speechless role of Miranda Richardson's fiancÚ. Gibson currently stars in the sitcom Dharma and Greg, and his presence in the movie seems justified by two factors. Kubrick often selected lookalike cast members —especially vivid doublings can be seen in Barry Lyndon — and Gibson makes a competent physical double for Tom Cruise. The doubling in Eyes is akin to the kind in The Shining when Jack Torrance, being interviewed, is seated next to Bill Watson, whose brief function in the movie seems nothing more than to resemble Jack.

 

Yet, the Dharma and Greg allusion only comes into play when the viewer becomes aware of the meaning of the shloka in the chant during the orgy scene. Such a remote allusion is not uncommon in Kubrick's movies and usually functions as an added detail of character or depth, not exactly necessary but helpful in understanding a character's psyche or filling out a motif in the film. For example, in The Shining, when Jack Torrance enters the bathroom and sees the naked woman in the bathtub, they eventually embrace and Jack kisses her. When he glances in the mirror, the woman becomes a decrepit hag and Jack recoils in horror. An early movie in Jack Nicholson's career, Roger Corman's The Terror (1963), ended with a scene in which he's kissing a beautiful woman who turns into a skeleton in his arms. Putting a similar scene in The Shining accentuated the narcissistic core of Nicholson's character, in the sense that Torrance's delusions were inspired, in part, by the films of the actor who played Torrance!

 

Only with the presence of the now displaced shloka does Gibson's casting make sense. He serves as a near invisible pun — maybe AHAD should have been wailing about this desecration of their holy verses as well — and a statement on the shallowness of the television culture of which Gibson was a part. The same television ethos envelops the main characters of Eyes, as well those in The Shining and Full Metal Jacket. When Eyes incarnates Kubrick's pessimistic vision of contemporary Americans grappling with themselves, their sexual desires, and their understanding of reality, Dr. Bill and his wife come up short. In a sense, television cultivated and maintains a superficial dharma or righteousness.

 

Eyes Wide Shut strives for a deeper, more elusive spirit that will not eschew the superficial but, rather, will use it for protection, the way an "animal mother" protects its brood, but also as a means for discovering a serious spiritual meaning without actually uttering the word "spiritual." This very superficiality infected the critical response to the film two-and-a-half years ago. Too many critics carried shallow notions and expectations of "great art" by which to judge the film, whereas the mass of filmgoers became frustrated over its lack of an easy understanding. Many modes of trite righteousness, including that of the censors, washed over Eyes Wide Shut and led to fundamental perplexities over its intentions and meaning. This shouldn't daunt or bring to tears anyone trying to understand and value the film.

ews-bill-inseguito.jpg
Release prints of the film had considerably more film-grain

ews-bill-alice-fine.jpg

 

DISAPPEARING FILM GRAIN

 

Many viewers have complained that the “Eyes Wide Shut” DVD cleaned up the rich film-grain that was present in the 1999 theatrical release of “Eyes Wide Shut”. Below is a slightly edited discussion involving this issue.

 

MIKE HAPES: Has Warner or the Kubrick Estate released any information as to why the Eyes Wide Shut DVD doesn’t capture the high levels of film-grain that were present when the film was released in theatres back in 1999?

 

ZANDOR: When I saw the film in 99 with a group of friends, the grain was all everyone talked about. It was a murky, rich look. Warner, in all their wisdom, must have cleaned it up thinking that’s not what Stanley wanted.

 

JAROD OBANNON: Maybe ask David Mullen if he’s still around. This is a question for a cinematographer. Me, I never saw the film in theatres, but the grain does seem to jump a bit in the DVD.

 

ROVER: How do you know it’s not what Stanley wanted? Whenever you film in lowlight conditions (with natural lighting) you must use a fast stock (which causes significant film grain). Once you shoot any other denser stock, you will not get a scene-to-scene grain match. Therefore the whole movie had to be shot, or even stepped down to a faster stock for a consistent scene-to-scene grain match.

 

JAROD OBANNON: That doesn’t make sense. You’re saying he graded the film to have “uniform grain” and then ordered the DVD’s to remove all grain?

 

DAVID MULLEN: Since there have been other “night time” movies filmed at low light levels that are not as grainy as Eyes Wide Shut, one can assume that a certain level of graininess was a deliberate visual choice by Kubrick beyond his basic technical needs for low-light filming.

 

JUGGERNAUT: Don't know what film stock was used, but I read somewhere that the bulk of Eyes Wide Shut was shot with minimal lighting, and the film was pushed two stops, hence the grain and the halo around the highlights.

 

ALEX DE LARGE: The excessive grain is probably due to bad shoddy printing off a bad IP. The IP for this film was made post Kubrick’s death and he would have DIED seeing it and would never have approved it. Those who try to justify the grain as part of some dramatic grand design are misguided. The DVD is how it should have been released. The grain is not caused by shooting in low light, Kubrick began doing that in Barry Lyndon (candlelight) and that film is impeccable and completely without grain.

 

DAVID MULLEN: How do you know this to be true?  Simply for no other reason than your belief that Kubrick would not have shot a grainy-looking movie?

 

Why would Warner Bros. want to release thousands of bad prints?  Do you realize how much work it would take to get an I.P. to be this grainy if the film wasn't shot that way to begin with?  First, you'd have to severely over-develop it and then strike multiple dupe negatives so that any other lab making release prints would also get the same results.  You'd also have to have a colour timer at a major lab deliberately do this when making the I.P. (why, because he hated Kubrick?) or not even watch the first check print from the dupe negative. And remember, they always watch the print from the dupe to check for overall colour adjustments, comparing it to the answer print off of the original negative.

 

It's been reported that Kubrick chose to push the negative for most of the film, underexposing by two stops and overdeveloping the negative to compensate, thereby creating a grainier print which was the look he wanted. It seems clear that the film was supposed to look dirty, somewhat dated, a throwback to the 60s.

 

AKULA: I think the grain was deliberate on Kubrick's part.  It helps knock down any sense of false beauty and glamour and helps bring out a story's raw edge. We've been conditioned to believe that "good" photography means anything evenly lit, properly exposed and with clean, grain free images.  This goes back to the studio days when such things were required, and without question.  Any variance of that meant the cinematographer was fired and replaced the next day. The experimental films of the late '50s and early '60s, cinema-verite documentaries, to name a few sources, changed that…but you know that they say…the sixties are dead.

 

JUGGERNAUT: I actually think this was one of his most ballsy approaches image wise. He even went so far as to do the black and white stretch printed flashback, which is something I never expected him to do. I also really dig the fact that this was shot with mostly location light and boosted practicals. Using Christmas lights for fill illumination is unbelievable.

 

JAROD OBANNON: Let's face it Kubrick, wanted Eyes Wide Shut to look DIRTY. Like ARTY Super 8 footage.

 

MP: Well the cinema print seemed much grainer than the film looks on DVD so the image must have been cleaned up. Mind you, I’ve only watched the DVD on a small laptop screen. The theatre could be merely magnifying the look of the grain.

 

GUNTHER GLOOP: No, the cinema print was like watching a moving canvas - the whole image was made up of chunks, enhanced by the exceptional lighting in the film. I imagine watching Barry Lyndon in a proper cinema would be likewise. The dvd cleaned it up, going with the theory that clear means better.

 

BILL REID: The theatrical release was MUCH grainier than the versions released on VHS and DVD.  A couple/three reasons for this:

 

1. ALLEGEDLY, Kubrick shot and intended the movie to be seen in "academy aperture", which is essentially the same aspect ratio (4:3) of the old CRT television screens (or the new "standard definition" digital television).  For theaters, the movie was center-cropped and enlarged to fit the wider aspect ratio of movie theater screens, scalping Tom Cruise and losing some action occurring in the top and bottom of the frame, and also had the effect of enlarging any grain in the original frame.

 

2. Kubrick definitely deliberately shot the movie with more grain than would be needed given modern film stocks and the lighting available for the scenes, in his end-of-life attempt to be "arty".  He also deliberately manipulated the amount of grain throughout the movie: the movie is very grainy at the beginning and end, and much less so in the middle of the movie, the orgy scene, and the effect is that the entire film seems to "fade in/out" of that scene through the "veil" of graininess.

 

3. Because the VHS and DVD versions were not centre-cropped and enlarged they are naturally much less grainy, plus certain technical aspects of the transfer process greatly reduced the appearance of the grain, both inevitably and by choice of the technicians performing the transfer.

 

MP: I see, so it's a question of the film being enlarged for theatres (thereby magnifying the appearance of grain) and not of grain being digitally removed for the DVD.

 

BILL REID: Well, no, as I said, it's not JUST the fact that the VHS and DVD frames weren't enlarged, they also appeared to have "cleaned up" the images somewhat to remove the grain that still would have been visible even un-enlarged. Some of this is just part of the transfer process, some of it is "preferential" on the part of the technicians due to their own sensibilities and making the transfer in the most efficient way possible, and for the DVD, some of it is because GRAIN = DATA, and they have to pack the entire 2 1/2 hour movie into 4.7GB of data on a standard DVD, so SOMETHING has to go, and the grain is the "low-hanging fruit", so they get rid of the grain so they can fit the movie on the DVD.

 

AKULA: I imagine as part of the digitisation of film, visual imperfections such as scratches and 'bumps' are "cleaned up" by automated software/standardised procedures. Like some of the newly restored B&W transfers, I believe whoever (or whatever) did the Eyes Wide Shut transfer erred on the side of "ultra-clarity = ultra-perfection", which in this case in particular means the very deliberate canvas-like effect was lost. Personally I hate the look of the DVD and much prefer the richer, grainier look of the film in theatres.

 

KEVIN: Just googled this on HomeTheater Forum: "Kubrick shot EYES WIDE SHUT using Kodak's then-in-the-process-of-being-discontinued 5298 500 ASA filmstock (it was replaced by Kodak's Vision line of stocks, which Kubrick tested but he didn't like how the Vision 500 stock's colors reacted to push-processing). This fast film was fairly grainy to begin with, and Kubrick had it pushed a full two
stops in the lab on top of that. The result was a very dreamy, VERY grainy look to the 35mm release prints. Every scene seemed to be covered in a light haze and grain was swimming everywhere, especially in the blacks. In light of how Kubrick had the film exposed and processed, it sounds like the visual look of these HD releases replicate how the film looked in theaters.”

 

I've watched the dvd a few times on a 9ft hi-def screen via a hdmi-connected dvd player. There is no grain in it. The image is so clean you'd be forgiven for assuming it's a textbook perfect transfer if you hadn't already seen the movie in a cinema.

 

For that reason I can see why people would see the grain as a distraction if it were to be "brought back" in a hi-def transfer (again, I haven't seen the Blu-Ray transfer yet so I'm not saying it has or hasn't), but for me the grain added a depth and richness to the whole experience of the film that is lacking on dvd. I suppose the same can be said for all truly-cinematic films. Maybe it isn't possible to transfer that experience to the home. I know Kubrick thought so - albeit before certain advancements and the rise in big-screen home cinema setups.

 

RYAN: Here's the thing though, that people keep forgetting...a DVD is NOWHERE near a "textbook perfect transfer" of ANY movie.  For that matter, neither is a VHS, super-VHS, or even Blu-Ray.

 

What you are watching is actually missing anywhere from 40-90% of the colors, and 40-80% of the resolution.  For DVDs (and Blu-Ray), you are missing far more color "depth" than VHS, and dramatically more than "laser-disc".  You are watching a fairly obvious FAKE picture CREATED by a software algorithm that BY DESIGN sacrifices picture quality to reduce the total data size and instantaneous data rate to levels that are able to be handled by the capacity of the storage medium and decoding hardware.

 

Don't get me wrong, the MPEG "codec" is pure genius and brilliantly uses every trick in the computer science textbook (and cunning knowledge of human perception) to present a picture that "fools" most casual observers in most situations, but not only are the "numbers" nowhere near the original film content, a side-by-side comparison or just a careful examination of certain types of "problem" scenes reveals a host of digital "artefacts".

 

Film is analog chemical, and so is the human nervous system, digital isn't, so if you really want to re-create human experience (especially dreams) you're better off working with film. Regardless, I’m pretty sure the reason the original film was so grainy was due to the negative stock (Kodak 5298) being pushed forward two stops during processing because Kubrick shot the film using the lowest possible light levels, just the in-scene source lighting in most cases, a process that would increase graininess significantly.

 

COSMIC GNOME: While 'conventional' digitization of film onto DVD clearly blocks such fine grain resolution, surely grainyness can be 're-created' as a 'special effect' in most digital post-production houses? Or did the DVD eejits, in their delirial eagerness to sanitize everything, think all that grainyness was simply an 'error'?

 

[BTW, I love watching 'old' films with loads of blips, scratches, etc, just as listening to a vinyl LP/album with its occasional 'snap, crackle, and pop', far from ruining the listening/viewing, actually enhances it, partly because it draws attention to the ghostly uncannyness of the technological medium itself, rather than pretending it's not there by seamlessly shutting down all evidence of its presence].

 

AKULA: I'd think would be a tad difficult to 're-create' the grain of the original if it were processed and identified as 'noise', i.e. if the texture of the original was not captured in situ or as part of the signal.  It would be akin to removing the germ from wheat and reinserting a reduced portion of it when making bread.

 

BILL REID: I think Kubrick was playing a game with the graininess, because I got the general impression that it was more grainy at the beginning and end of the movie and less grainy in the middle, in other words the orgy scene. Kubrick was, I suspect, playing a deliberate game with the grain.

 

But be aware that grain, like every other moving and transient picture element, requires extra data to be recorded onto the DVD (and since there is so much transience and movement of grain across the entire picture, it requires a LOT of data), and since a DVD has only a finite amount of data that can be recorded onto it, what you would gain with the grain would be lost somewhere else in the picture: fewer colours, more "macro-blocking", etc.

 

FUN FACT:

 

With HEIMAT (1984), probably the most ambitious project in post-war German film history, Edgar Reitz became one of Stanley Kubrick's favorite film directors. It comes as no surprise that the attention to detail and the amazing long narrative breath of the almost 1000 minute long film roused Kubrick's admiration. He saw all of it in his private movie theater and hung his favorite film still (of Maria's coffin on the rainy street in Schabbach) over his desk. Kubrick contacted Reitz at that time to ask him about his set designer Franz Bauer whom he considered for Aryan Papers. When, years later, Kubrick had finished the filming of EYES WIDE SHUT he expressed the wish that all dubbed versions in the most important European countries be supervised by his favorite film directors: in France Patrice Chareau, in Spain Carlos Saura, in Italy Bernardo Bertolucci, and in Germany Edgar Reitz. At that time Reitz was busy preparing HEIMAT III, yet after Kubrick's untimely death he bent to his wish.

If you'd like to comment on this discussion, please email me at tieman64@hotmail.com