We consume films too quickly these days. A movie opens on a Thursday and before the weekend is out, we’ve dissected it, the critics have determined the general consensus rating and opinion, the geeks have discovered all the Easter eggs, the YouTubers queue up their video reactions, spoiler and non-spoiler reviews appear online and audiences have either seen it or skipped it or just decided they’ll stream it at some point.
When did we stop thinking deeply about movies? We consume films so quickly that we barely take time to breath before the next event film hits the stadium-seated multiplex. Many of the themes in movies made today are not far below the surface–themes are piled right on the top, they’re easy to spot and often spoken aloud in case audiences missed it. I miss films that provoke thought and conversation, weeks, months, years, even decades after its release. It’s rare to see a cinematic experience that creeps into your subconscious, marinating with ideas, then spewing forth some kind of understanding.But Stanley Kubrick made those kinds of films every single time. Sure, some landed more successfully than others, however, I’m still watching 2001 hoping to grasp more about that trip to space.
Unfortunately, upon its initial release in 1999, Kubrick’s final film Eyes Wide Shut was considered something of a disappointment. And the fact that US distributor Warner Brothers sought to “soften” a crucial sex scene did not help, The film was released on the heels of the master filmmaker’s untimely death and some felt Kubrick’s latest was weak when compared to previous works. Others speculated Eyes Wide Shut was really an unfinished film, as Kubrick often made dramatic changes, even after a film was put into commercial release.
Well, recently Marshall Allman got to thinking about Kubrick’s last film. Marshall is an actor best known for roles on Prison Break (L.J. Burrows), True Blood (Tommy Mickens) and Humans (Milo Khoury). The actor/filmmaker had a few thoughts about how Eyes Wide Shut might have turned out if Kubrick only had the time to consider a few changes. As if swept up in some fever dream, Marshall re-edited the two hour and 40 minute movie within a 72-hour period. The surprising result is a new version he calls Eyes Wide Cut. And like all of Kubrick’s work, this version must be revisited, rewatched, redigested and rethought. He posted his new 120-minute version onto his recently launched Eyes Wide Cut website and is inviting you, me, all of us, to carry on a discussion of all-things Kubrick and what it all means.
I chatted with Marshall about what led to this project, how he approached this version, the results of his research on Kubrick and the potential legal ramifications of creating his own cut of Eyes Wide Shut.
“It does take a few runnings to decide finally how long things should be, especially scenes which do not have narrative advancement as their guideline.” – Stanley Kubrick
I already know you are a Kubrick fan, but can you tell me what draws you to his work? And if you have one film that you return to over and over again? (I’ll admit that I watch 2001 at least once a week. I find it calming in the way that some view ASMR videos).
What draws me to Kubrick is hard to pin down but Eyes Wide Shut is my favorite and is the one I have seen the most. Maybe what I like most about Kubrick is that he cared so deeply about every detail of the process.
Eyes Wide Shut is complex and like all of Kubrick’s work, is best appreciated after several viewings and with time to process. Any comment?
It seems to me there’s a swell of people who are revisiting Eyes Wide Shut and realizing just how great it is. I wouldn’t be surprised to see even more appreciation of the film in the next few years.
What led you to want to recut Eyes Wide Shut?
Well I have a short film series I created called Marriage In Short and I was doing research on films about marriage and that led me back to Eyes Wide Shut. I hadn’t seen it in a while and re-watched it. Afterwards I started researching the making of it online and stumbled on an article that raised the idea that the film was possibly unfinished due to Kubrick passing away before its theatrical release. I was so intrigued by the idea of what could be cut from the film that I decided to just start cutting it for fun. One thing lead to another and 72 hours later, I had cut 40 minutes off the film and was surprised at how well it worked.
“…I started researching the making of it online and stumbled on an article that raised the idea that the film was possibly unfinished due to Kubrick passing away before its theatrical release.”
Did you go down a rabbit hole of Kubrick research to learn how he may have originally wanted to edit the film?
To be clear, I do not suppose that this version of the film is what Kubrick himself would have done. Of course that’s impossible. Similar to Soderbergh recutting 2001, this was made out of adoration for the original and serves as a way of exercising what’s actually possible if it were to be recut, a conversation starter, if you will. How far could it go before you lose the plot or dream-like essence of the film? That said, the recuts Kubrick himself did of 2001 and The Shining after their initial release gave me a sort of precedence. Eyes Wide Cut is most akin to the re-edit Kubrick made of The Shining for the international release. Kubrick himself said, “It does take a few runnings to decide finally how long things should be, especially scenes which do not have narrative advancement as their guideline.”
The final running time for your version is a tight 120 minutes, which means you cut 39 minutes from the original. What scenes did you cut and what problems did have to overcome by losing those story threads create?
The basic idea was to cut anything that did not serve Bill’s & Alice’s main narrative without losing the dream-like feel of the film. The aim was to turn the dream into a fever dream. In all there were 18 cuts and they are detailed on my site in the cutting room section. This meant seriously cutting back the story lines of three characters: Ziegler, Milich and Sally.
I will say that I honestly did not miss the scenes you deleted, they do seem unnecessary. Care to comment?
There are a few that I miss from time to time simply because I love the original but yes, that’s part of the intention of doing this. It begs the question of the scenes that were cut: if narrative advancement was not their purpose, then what was? I think it highlights exactly what some people love so much about Kubrick–that he always seemed to be pushing the boundaries of film structure in order to say something more.
“…it highlights exactly what some people love so much about Kubrick–that he always seemed to be pushing the boundaries of film structure in order to say something more.”
Were there scenes that were difficult to cut?
There were a few technically difficult cuts. One towards the end of the film required me to delete all the sound and rebuild all the foley and sound effects just so i could adjust the music. This is because I do not have access to the audio stem files–only the final mix of the film and therefore I can not separate the music from the sound effects or dialogue.
The one scene I have thought about putting back in the most is the scene on the street with the “rowdy college kids.” That is a tough one because there is a strong argument that the scene serves to further emasculate Dr. Bill, thereby providing more motivation for him to go along with Domino’s proposition. However I feel like his imagining of Alice with the Naval Officer is motivation enough and the college kids pushing him against the car actually obfuscated what was truly tormenting him.
You added the European shots from the orgy scenes. I know Warner Brothers created a version of that scene that sanitized the nudity and sex for US release. I don’t have a question, I just wanted to say thank you. But, uh, care to comment?
You’re welcome. Looking back now it seems kind of silly that covering those shots was deemed necessary for an R-rating considering what is a “R-rating” now… but hey I must say they did it in pretty clever way but I actually think it would’ve been more interesting to have released the film with the NC-17 rating.
What process (and software) did you use to approach the recut?
An old MacBook Pro (2010) and Premiere CS6 and lots of espresso.
And how did you do this cut in only 72 hours? That’s astounding!
Lets just say I might share some of Kubrick’s obsessive tendencies. Whether I possess the talent is another question.
“…I actually think it would’ve been more interesting to have released the film with the NC-17 rating.”
I know only a few have seen it as it just debuted online, but what has been the reaction so far to Eyes Wide Cut?
Naturally the reaction is across the board. From people wishing it was available to buy on Blu-ray and to being so offended they refuse to even watch it. But in all it has been mostly positive. Even for people who prefer the original version of the film, most of them still express appreciation for the opportunity to see the film in a different light. There have been a few teachers expressing interest in using this as a example for the power of editing and story structure. But the in-depth conversations about Kubrick and Eyes Wide Shut happening on our homepage is my favorite part–come join the conversation!
Tell me about the disclaimer that opens your cut of Eyes Wide Shut. Did you check with a lawyer before doing this. Well, I guess, nothing would stop you from doing this, but from sharing this.
Well basically the “Fair Use Clause” allows for people to repurpose copyrighted material for the uses of commentary, criticism and education–which is exactly what our project is intended for. Even further, our aim is for people to re-watch the original in order to compare our version and in turn, this film would only generate new interest for the original… like an elaborate advertisement. Already, I’ve heard from more than few people that this project caused them to reconsider Eyes Wide Shut after initially dismissing it for whatever reasons.
I love fan cuts myself, but are there any legal ramifications or precautions one must take to making a fan cut and then sharing it with the public? Have you heard from anyone yet about what you have done? Warner Brothers or Kubrick’s estate perhaps?
A large part of it is whether or not you are affecting the market of the original. So at the end of the day if this project sparked renewed interest in the original, I think any company would be remiss to try and shut it down. But hey, I’m not in charge. So go rent the original!
“It begs the question of the scenes that were cut: if narrative advancement was not their purpose, then what was?”
Your acting career is impressive with stints on shows like HBO’s True Blood. Did you just decide to do this project between acting gigs?
Thank you and, yes actually. Sometimes on an acting job, you find yourself with odd pockets of time away from home on location somewhere. I was in London shooting Humans season 2 and had a three-day window of downtime and this is what came of it. For some time now I have been using whatever spare time I have on directing, writing, producing and editing.
What’s next for you?
Most immediately Im finishing part 2 of my short film series Marriage In Short, in post for a documentary with Foster The People, and in pre-production for a film I co-wrote. I just guest-starred on NCIS and have a fun cameo in a friends film that’s heading to SXSW called Thunder Road based on the Sundance-winning short. Other than that, nothing. Except coffee and maybe recutting another Kubrick film. Taking requests…