Does lifting three scenes produce something closer to the final cut Kubrick might have delivered?
Stanley Kubrick performed last-minute recuts on at least two of his films after or around the time of their release – The Shining and 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Tragically on his final film Eyes Wide Shut, the director died not long after first showing a cut of the film to Warner Bros., the same cut that was released in 1999.
The film’s idiosyncratic rhythm has prompted 20+ years of conversation over whether Kubrick might have made further trims before the film went into theatres.
This speculative edit is an extremely humble attempt to cut the existing Eyes Wide Shut footage in line with the intent of Kubrick’s own late-game recuts of The Shining and 2001.
Here the runtime goes from 159 minutes to 135 – more than 20 minutes of trims without a single unique story point going missing in the process. All the cuts are from the second half of the film.
The Shining and 2001 took about 20-25 minutes of last-minute trims so we’re in broadly appropriate temporal territory.
On those films, Kubrick largely cut whole scenes to improve pacing, rather than lift specific shots; we’ve done the same here.
Crucially, this version of Eyes Wide Shut is presented in the boxier 1.33:1 aspect ratio, a neater frame and, to my eye and many others, Kubrick’s primary photographic intent for the film.
He shot fairly wide lenses with a strong geometric perspective and almost no y axis movement; cropping to 1.85:1 (which is how the film was exhibited in ’99) is counter to that approach.
The 20th anniversary trims
For the finale of The Shining, Kubrick trimmed a series of scenes illustrating chef Dick Hallorann travelling to the Overlook Hotel. These scenes were lifted after the film opened in US theatres.
Those trims targeted Hallorann scenes without specific drama or narrative weight, only “progress”.
There’s a similar scene hidden within Eyes Wide Shut: Tom Cruise’s search for his jazz pianist buddy leads him to a cafe where he flashes his medical credentials so the waitress reveals the buddy’s hotel address.
This scene is just “progress”… in it we gain an address that Cruise could have simply attained offscreen while small-talking to buddy in an earlier moment.
Dramatically, it’s barely a speed bump and we see Cruise’s character use his medical ID to get his way a couple of other times. The scene is an easy lift that adds brio to Cruise’s investigation on the morning after the craziest night of his life.
Another trim from the “investigation” sequence: before driving to the mansion he visited the previous night, there’s a brief scene of Cruise in his consulting rooms, brooding over his wife’s fantasy life and asking his aide to prepare his car.
Most scenes in the film are part of a mirrored pair: the opening Christmas party / the masked mansion party, the abortive visit to Domino / the later scene with her roommate, the twin costume shop scenes and so on.
The scene here has zero exclusive dramatic value and there’s no mirror scene from elsewhere in the film it echoes. Clipping it should break no hearts.
On The Shining, Kubrick dropped several interstitial scenes that preambled a weightier scene (eg Wendy bringing Jack breakfast or Danny watching TV). For 2001, he deleted Bowman’s search for a replacement AE-35 part ahead of the EVA sequence.
That’s all justification enough for the deletion here.
The pool table
The most significant deletion is the removal of the entire “pool table scene”.
The weakness is that the scene’s promise of answers goes undelivered: we start with an air of ambiguity over who’s behind the curtain, and after almost 15 minutes of fairly rote dialogue, that ambiguity remains.
We don’t get straight answers or new insights into Amanda’s fate, Ziegler’s involvement or the threat to Cruise’s life. Under a microscope, we see the scene is redundant. I could be wrong. If you find a story point exclusive to this scene, let me know.
Kubrick dropped a similar expository scene from The Shining: the doctor’s home visit to Wendy and Danny. Look that might be a stretch, but if you disagree, cut your own version.
It’s a functional lift too – the pool table scene shifts story focus away from Cruise and Kidman’s relationship and onto the elite sex club.
Ending Cruise’s dream odyssey in the morgue (rather than Ziegler’s pool room) is more appropriate for the character and story, and just a kinkier punchline.