Distracted with anticipation, Matthew JC. Powell hopes you'll forgive his rambling . . .
Afew hours after I finish this column, I'll be heading into town to meet some friends and go see Eyes Wide Shut, Stanley Kubrick's final contribution to the art of cinema. I've read widely varying reports from different sources, some of which say it's a juvenile, exploitative piece of trash about Nicole Kidman's naughty bits. Others say it's a perfect celluloid jewel, a towering masterpiece about Nicole Kidman's naughty bits. Either way, I understand we get to see Nicole Kidman's naughty bits.
Naturally, this is not why I'm going to see it. In fact, this is the very reason I haven't seen it yet. I don't want to share a cinema with several hundred people who are only there because someone's bare bottom is shown in the ad. I'm going along because I enjoy the work of Kubrick and I hope this will be a worthy epitaph to a remarkable corpus. The bare bottoms are incidental.
Although, I must admit that my interest in the film was piqued by Warner Brothers' actions in the US, where the film was released in a digitally modified version. From what I've read, a scene at the end involving a great many bare bottoms and assorted naughty bits was censored by having people superimposed digitally over the image onscreen. Smiling faces and various innocuous body parts appeared where you might have expected to find proof that Kidman is a natural redhead. Or perhaps I should call her Nicole. She and her husband tend to be referred to as "Tom and Nicole" by all and sundry these days, as if we all know them intimately. Then again, perhaps we do.
Anyway, I'm no fan of censorship, and I certainly don't buy Warner's story that this modification was in keeping with Stanley Kubrick's wishes. He's not here to say otherwise, so I have to go on past performance to say he wouldn't have been keen on such vandalism. But I must admit that I'd love to see the modified version sometime. I don't particularly require proof that Nicole is a redhead, I'll take her word for it. Tom's hair-colour credentials are, likewise, his own business.
But mainly I want to see the modified version because it sounds hilarious. Here is a scene where Kubrick, a director not known for his lackadaisical approach to framing a shot, has meticulously placed everyone exactly where he wants them, doing exactly what he wants them to do - and someone comes along with an SGI box and throws someone else in, doing something Kubrick had no control over. Sounds great. Why not, I wonder, superimpose pictures of bunny rabbits? Or you could even put in a video of, say, a roadrunner cartoon - that way the kids would have something to watch. And at least it wouldn't be pretending that Kubrick wanted it there.
I saw a film a few years ago called Two Moon Junction, featuring Sherilyn Fenn, whom I enjoyed in Twin Peaks. I only caught the end of the movie, unfortunately, but I saw enough to realise that a) it also featured a great many naughty bits; and b) it looked really really bad. Nonetheless, when it was shown on TV a few months later, I sat down in the vain hope that it would be better if seen from the beginning (it wasn't).
The hilarious thing was that, at the crucial scene towards the end (shortly after where I'd first started watching) a cane chair had been superimposed, presumably by the TV station, to cover up the naughty bits. Wherever the naked Sherilyn moved around the screen, the chair followed her, protecting her modesty. Nothing I've seen since on TV has made me laugh so hard.
This is where I think the censors of Eyes Wide Shut may have failed. By using the technology at their disposal to cover Tom and Nicole's rude parts in a "realistic" manner, they've sacrificed what could have been a hilarious climax .
A product recently crossed my desk called EyeGuard, a cool bit of software that censors the images on your computer screen by cleverly working out (from a mysterious set of algorithms) whether what you're looking at is too naughty. A preponderance of flesh-tones, or something. But anyway, I would suggest to the creators of EyeGuard that they are missing their great opportunity. Rather than merely throwing a huge warning sign on the screen as it does, the software should superimpose images on top of the rude bits it detects. It could be part of every DVD movie release, allowing people to see the film either as its maker intended, or as a wildly funny postmodernist pastiche. At least we'd have a choice.
Matthew JC. Powell is the editor of ARN's sister publication PC Buyer. E-mail him at matthew_powell@ idg.com.au