The critics mainly didn't like it when it first came out. Stupid critics.
I'd forgotten the story. Perhaps because there isn't much of a story. Milk-fed son of privilege has his complacency punctured and descends into the abyss. Then he comes out again. He'd like nothing to have changed, but it has, it has...
Those Christmas trees. How otherworldly they come to seem. They are there in every scene. Beautiful and alien.
Except they don't have them in the orgy house. The Christmas tree promises the fulfilment of dreams. In the orgy house dreams come true. (Shivers.)
Tom Cruise's stardom puzzles me. I've never doubted he was a very good actor, but a superstar? That chin is weak, those cheeks are downy. But if Americans still see themselves as the world's innocents then Cruise is the quintessential American hero- innocent to the point of culpable stupidity. His milk-fed face, sullen in repose, carrying no painful ancestral memories, is just what the role required.
Kidman acts. Oh, how she works her face and her tear ducts. The acting is a mask. A mobile- very mobile- mask.
Harvey Kietel nearly got to be Ziegler. He shot some scenes but then pulled out because of the over-run. He'd have brought his baggage- a long history of playing sinister types- to the role. Sydney Pollack- who had no such baggage- was the better choice, I think. It's right that Ziegler, when we first meet him, should be someone we've never seen before.
The project had a long history. Kubrick latched onto it after Dr Strangelove. At one stage he thought of it as a vehicle for Woody Allen, at another as a comedy starring Steve Martin. I'm not sure those would have been films I'd have wanted to see.
Ah, but of course I would. They'd have been Kubrick films- and Kubrick is, perhaps, the only director in the history of the movies who never made a dud.
The music is wonderful. The opening waltz- sinister as only waltzes can be- is by Shostakovitch (of all people.) Why are waltzes sinister? Because they're like wonderful wind-up toys. There's something relentless and mechanical about them. Start them going and they insist on running their course, repeating and repeating and the only way to stop them is to smash them.
The orgy music is called Backwards Priests And that's exactly what it is. A recording of an Orthodox liturgy played backwards, slowed down and probably messed about with in other subtle ways by Jocelyn Pook.
The Pook is crossed with Ligeti. A brief excerpt from the second section of Musica Ricercata. How do you get the piano to sound so icy? (Incidentally I've just listened to the whole work. It's beautiful.)
How chilly the eroticism is. All that hard, white flesh- as sculpted and marbly in the orgy house as it is in the morgue.
I don't suppose it's any accident that all the women Hartman meets have Nicole Kidman's colouring.
Is the orgy a dream? A fantasy? Oh come on, it's a scene in a movie and all movies are dreams and fantasies. Some might add that so is life itself.