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PostPosted: Fri Dec 17, 2004 10:52 am 
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I was watching this again on TV last night and was struck by how much of a film noir it is. If you think about it, Kubrick's movie contains a lot of noir iconography:

Alice Hartford as the femme fatale:

She is the trigger for her husband's self-destruction when she shatters his ego (and whole worldview) when she tells him about her fantasy with the naval officer. It's an image the dominates his thoughts for the rest of the film and is what prompts him to do what he does (or doesn't do as the case may be).

Shadow conspiracies and secret societies:

The shadowy secret society of the costumed party/orgy that Bill crashes and is subsequently exposed to. Afterwards, he tries to find out more but is thwarted and warned away at every turn, even followed around the deserted streets of New York City by an ominous looking man. He is also warned by Victor Ziegler but if you listen closely to the conversation he and Bill have in his study some things don't seem to add up. There's too many coincidences and hints at a bigger picture that Kubrick only tantalizingly alludes to.

Murder and mysterious disappearances:

You have the death of the prostitute that Bill helps early on the film. Ziegler claims that she OD'ed but c'mon, read between the lines and his story just doesn't seem completely kosher. You also have the mysterious disappearance of Nick Nightingale... was he killed? Or did he simply pack up his stuff and go back home as Ziegler says?

And that's another thing. Kubrick leaves so many tantalizing questions by film's end. Like what's up with the Hungarian who flirts with Alice at the beginning of the movie? What's his deal? Is he part of the secret society later on? And is everyone at that Christmas party part of it? It would make sense as it is hinted that Ziegler is probably a big mover and shaker within it. The man is obviously rich and powerful. Also, Bill says to Alice that he doesn't know anyone at this party suggesting that he's been to them before and by extension as he never talked to these people at these party. Why is that? Is it because they are all in fact part of this secret society and treat Bill as the outsider that he is?

Which has me thinking that maybe they were considering initiating Bill into their society. Was that the real purpose behind Ziegler inviting him to his Christmas party? Was dealing with the OD'd woman a test? I wonder....


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 27, 2004 3:23 pm 

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To me, the film seems to try to portray a sexually passive man who feels out of place in sexually charged environments...

The underage girl, the naked girl in Ziegler's bathroom, his wife's revealing her sexual fantasy, the sex orgy, etc., are all the sexual activities that jolt him out of his comfort zone.

Women, sometimes men, often come on to him, but never he to them. He is repressed, in some ways. Maybe he feels inadequate. Maybe he is afraid of women as sexually assertive as his wife is.

Early in the film, he insinuates that when a man talks to a pretty girl, he secretly wants to fuck her. But later he claims he is the exception to those men. His view towards women and sex is rather unsettling.

Maybe this guy needs therapy. Of course, the irony is he is a doctor.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 27, 2004 10:30 pm 
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I was watching this again on TV last night and was struck by how much of a film noir it is.


Im sorry, but Eyes Wide Shut has absolutely nothing to do with Film Noir. To emphasize his wife as femme fatale is both completely misunderstanding the nature of the femme fatale and her part in the film.

Eyes Wide Shut is pure homage to Ophüls, the director most influential on Kubrick. Amongst his favorite writers, Ophüls himself filmed Schnitzler three times, Une histoire d'amour and Liebelei in 1933 and finally with his masterpiece, La Ronde in 1950. And I have always found it almost poetic, that one masters last film should be the homage to his own master.

Eyes Wide Shut is an adaptation of Schnitzler's 1926 novella "Traumnovelle", where Schnitzler makes a parallel between sexual fantasies and real life. Central to all his writing is Der Widerspruch, the contradiction of both the duality of man (conscious vs. subconscious) and the duality of reality (reality vs. illusion).

The center theme in both book and film is Die gedankliche Untreue, the thoughts of infidelity, and the marriage of Alice / Albertine and Bill / Fridolin. Kubrick is very bold to transpose the setting from turn of the century Vienna to comtemporary New York, but the characters remain intact. The important charcter is Alice / Albertine. In the book, she got married early, thus repressed her sexuality to be a virgin on her wedding night. In the film, she repressed her sexuality, because she married early because they both were young professionals. What matters is the original repressed sexuality that now is emerging and showing itself as thoughts / fantasies. Contra to that is Bill / Fridolin, who is so caught up with being a professional, that he has forgotten to be a husbond and lover.

Both to Kubrick, and to Schnitzler, the conflict of marriage arises the moment man and wife becomes so enstranged, that they are drawn towards other men / women, and develop sexual emotions / thoughts for them. The question is, will it destroy the marriage or make it bloom.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 27, 2004 11:20 pm 
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dvdane wrote:
Im sorry, but Eyes Wide Shut has absolutely nothing to do with Film Noir....
Eyes Wide Shut is pure homage to Ophüls, the director most influential on Kubrick.


And neither Ophuls, nor Kubrick were strangers to Film Noir. There are elements of the film that resemble Film Noir. And it is not unreasonable to point out and explore these elements, and how they add richness to the film.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 27, 2004 11:33 pm 
Kitano kyoushûsei
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There are elements of the film that resemble Film Noir.


They resemble only if one wants them to, by reading something into the text, by distorting the original intentions, and even then resembling is not the same as to be.

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And it is not unreasonable to point out and explore these element


Yes it is.

But it is also misleading, as If we persuit such paths, why not look at 2001 as a Film Noir and HAL as Femme Fatale?

The Femme Fatale of film noir uses her sexuality to manipulate men in order to gain whatever she desires from power, independence to gender superiority, guided by greed and / or hate.

Alice does not use her sexuality to gain anything, its actually the other way around, that her sexuality is hoping to gain something, nor does she look for independence and so on. Her actions are caused by supressed sexuality, by desire, by lust, by fantasy. I fail to see how she even can be mistaken for a Femme Fatale.

However, HAL uses his "inherited power", which can be translated into some technosexuality, to gain power, control and superiority. As such, one can easy read Femme Fetale into HAL, but does that make 2001 a Film Noir or can one gain anything from such a reading? No!

Film Noir however requires other elements, like post war paranoia, defeatism and fatalism to name a few, and most of all period. But even if ascribing Neo Noir of the 60s and the Noirish themes the 80s, a film like Eyes Wide Shut, still lacks any of these elements.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2004 1:57 am 
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dvdane wrote:
...Neo Noir of the 60s and the Noirish themes the 80s...


I hate to derail a Kubrick thread, but can you please go into these some more? I'd love to hear more. Thanks.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2004 12:44 pm 

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dvdane wrote:
They resemble only if one wants them to, by reading something into the text, by distorting the original intentions, and even then resembling is not the same as to be.


I hate to derail a sermon, but claiming to know dead Mr. Kubrick's original intentions here is pretty absurd. I don't happen to think that Eyes Wide Shut is (or particularly resembles) a film noir, but it's not unreasonable to do so (one should just try to make a better argument for it). It is only unreasonable (and pointless) to go waving around your authority on the matter like you have Stanley on a direct line through your Ouija board.

I think what is most interesting (and at times maddening) about Eyes Wide Shut is that it simultaneously proposes many possibilities without resolving or affirming any of them. One could see Alice as a femme fatale who orchestrates the events of the film, or one could see Zeigler (or his political cronies) as the manipulators, or perhaps it's all in Bill's head. Thus, the film could be film noir, political conspiracy thriller, or psychological thriller. But the film lacks a number of the necessary characteristics (and explanations) to be any of these, and ultimately (like Bill, in his vain attempt to turn the film into an erotic thriller) we remain unsatisfied with any of these categorizations.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2004 2:15 pm 
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I have seen EWS many times, never have I thought at any time that any scene in the film incorporates Noir.

You were probebly on a Noir kick and you were reading Noir into everything. hehe

The film has no relevence to classic Film Noir.

I have always thought of it as a film where you have to find out what is dreamed and what is reality, and whos reality it is, or whos dreams they are.
Although the film centers around Dr. Hartford's sexual repression and deconstructive jealousy while on his "adventure", there are times that make you think that Alice's dreams are also connected.

This is one of my favorite films of all time. I just cant seem to connect any thought in the film with Noir. Perhaps its just me and Dane, but I agree with him on this.

I think your reaching a lil much on that one Fletch


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2004 4:18 pm 
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I'm afraid I'm going to have to agree with dvdane on this one. 2001 is closer to being noir than Eyes Wide Shut. The most noirish element of the film is the fact that the film is. . . er. . . dark. But then so are half of all films worth mentioning. There is nothing bleak about the film's world view, and there isn't really anything femme fatale-ish about Alice, except for the fact that she is sexually self-aware (and femme fatales represent one of the main circumstances in which a woman could be sexually self-aware onscreen in the 20s, 30s, and 40s.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2004 3:19 pm 

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greg wrote:
I've been active in getting Warner Bros. to release EYES WIDE SHUT in an unedited, uncut version as is, and has been, available in Europe since it was released censored on our shores. Latest news (April 22, 2004 correspondence from James F. Cardwell, President
Warner Home Video, An AOL Time Warner Company): Warner Bros. is "...considering and will likely release an unedited version of EYES WIDE SHUT."


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2004 4:22 pm 
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dvdane wrote:

Quote:
And it is not unreasonable to point out and explore these element


Yes it is.



There is plenty of noir influence in EWS- it's so obvious that I can't believe anybody is trying to dispute it.

Edit: Now that I have some time, let me expound- Cruise's protagonist wandering through the underbelly of a city in an attempt to restore moral order is classic noir. Kidman is no femme fatale, but her moral uprightness does hang in the balance for the viewer for a certain amount of time- she smokes pot after all.


Last edited by GringoTex on Thu Dec 30, 2004 9:42 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2004 11:59 pm 

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Jun-Dai wrote:
There is nothing bleak about the film's world view

Here's another thing I find weird about people's reaction to this film. Why do people seem to find this movie so uplifting (or at very least un-bleak)? I wouldn't go so far as to call the film cynical, but it seems fairly pessimistic about love and sex in general, and downright nasty about male sexuality in particular.

When I first saw the movie, I suspected it might have been a calculated effort by Kubrick to ruin Tom Cruise's career by systematically dismantling his charisma. I'm still not entirely sure that that interpretation isn't correct.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2004 1:56 pm 
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leo goldsmith wrote:
When I first saw the movie, I suspected it might have been a calculated effort by Kubrick to ruin Tom Cruise's career by systematically dismantling his charisma. I'm still not entirely sure that that interpretation isn't correct.


yeah, me and another co-worker both felt cruise and kidman were (brilliantly) cast by kubrick because of their void personalities and lack of chemistry.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 01, 2005 5:24 pm 
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Bill says to Alice that he doesn't know anyone at this party suggesting that he's been to them before and by extension as he never talked to these people at these party. Why is that? Is it because they are all in fact part of this secret society and treat Bill as the outsider that he is?


My guess is that the reason that Bill repeatedly gets invited to parties where he doesn't know the rest of the crowd is because in essence he is along for the ride ... it is Alice Harford that really is being invited.

From the opening scene we see an undressed Alice with the drop dead gorgeous body matching the talent we see being invited to the mansion later on in the film.

We hear her talk about making love with unknown man in a uniform ... or costume if you will.

Notice how when Alice is greeted by Victor at the party Kubrick positions the camera so that we miss the facial interaction (behind Bill's back).

I think that Alice might at one time (sans children) have been one of those invited women to the party.

Just something to think about.


Last edited by Anonymous on Sat Jan 01, 2005 11:48 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 01, 2005 7:46 pm 
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Great posts and nice to see this movie taken as seriously as it deserves.
One thing - does anyone else find Kidman's performance overwrought and a bit out of control (and I don't mean her character.) Cruise may be a little "soft for his part but the "nice guy" demeanor works very well for his character wandering through this hallucinatory movie of sexual threat and possibility. I find all the secondary characters incredibly finely played. Most remarkable are the women whom Kubrick directs with great sensitivity (which I don't recall from his earlier work, excusing perhaps Marisa Berenson in Barry Lyndon.) In contrast both to them and to Cruise, Kidman seems to be going over the top too often with mannerisms and emphasis, as though she and Kubrick are not able to conceptually nail the character down.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 03, 2005 1:40 am 
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I too found Kidman's performance pretty bizarre (and not in a good way), but the stylisation was clearly intentional, and presumably demanded by Kubrick. For me, it read as if she was stoned throughout, and the more emotion was called for the more stoned she appeared (speaking. really. slowly. and EMPHASISING. odd. words.) But then, I think a lot of the most stylised performances in Kubrick's films just don't work (e.g. Patrick Magee's "I'm so glad you appreciate good wine" scene in Clockwork Orange doesn't seem like repressed rage to me but rather a really bad experience with horse tranquilisers).


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 03, 2005 10:57 am 
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dvdane wrote:
Im sorry, but Eyes Wide Shut has absolutely nothing to do with Film Noir. To emphasize his wife as femme fatale is both completely misunderstanding the nature of the femme fatale and her part in the film.


I will concede with you on the femme fatale point. But to say that Eyes Wide Shut has "absolutely nothing" to do with Film Noir is pretty close-minded, IMO. Maybe it doesn't have much to do with classic noir, but it certainly has elements of neo noir. It has scenes and moments as dark and foreboding as anything in, say, Lost Highway or Mulholland Drive--both of which have been said to contain noir elements.

And let's not forget that most people can't even agree on a definitive definition for what constitutes noir. There are those that say it is thematic elements and certain character archetypes. Others say it is a certain style. Maybe it's both.

Derek Estes wrote:
And neither Ophuls, nor Kubrick were strangers to Film Noir. There are elements of the film that resemble Film Noir. And it is not unreasonable to point out and explore these elements, and how they add richness to the film.


Exactly. Kubrick was no stranger to noir (i.e. Killer's Kiss and The Killing) and it is not too far of a leap in logic to suggest that he incorporated some of its stylistic elements into the more sinister parts of his movie.

foofighters7 wrote:
You were probebly on a Noir kick and you were reading Noir into everything. hehe

I think your reaching a lil much on that one Fletch


Heh. Perhaps. I should probably amend my original statement and say that Eyes Wide Shut incorporates elements of Noir into its film as it does erotic thriller, drama, mystery, etc. It is not just one kind of film but works on various levels.

sevenarts wrote:
i definitely think the scenes of cruise walking around the city are pretty noirish, at least visually and in terms of the mood.


Yes. That is what strikes me as most noirish in the film. Especially the scene where Bill is being stalked by a mysterious man through the streets of NYC.

sevenarts wrote:
My guess is that the reason that Bill repeatedly gets invited to parties where he doesn't know the rest of the crowd is because in essence he is along for the ride ... it is Alice Harford that really is being invited.

I think that Alice might at one time (sans children) have been one of those invited women to the party.

Just something to think about.


Wow. That is an interesting theory. If you have that in mind, then the scene with the mask lying on a pillow next to her as she sleeps has an even more disturbing resonance. Or lines like, "If you men only knew..."


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 03, 2005 2:37 pm 

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Speaking of maybe unfaithful housewives named Alice with maybe sordid pasts in prostitution/pornography, in late-'90s maybe neo-noirs by canonized auteurs:

"Her name is Renee! If she told you her name was Alice, she was lying! And your name -- what the fck is your name?"


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 03, 2005 3:04 pm 
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Kubrick was no stranger to noir (i.e. Killer's Kiss and The Killing) and it is not too far of a leap in logic to suggest that he incorporated some of its stylistic elements into the more sinister parts of his movie.


Okay, but you were talking about thematic elements as they related to the story. Certainly he might have borrowed shots and elements from noir, or simply have been influenced by noir somewhat in his visual style (again, this can be said about any semi-thriller with a dark look to it), though in that case it's quite difficult to distinguish noir from some of it's precursors (expressionism, 30s gangster films), and he could just as easily be borrowing from those.

Noir mood and style are generally vaguely defined and not readily distinguished from similar movements/genres, along with films like Citizen Kane. Noir themes, however, were quite new with the advent of classic noir (though they existed in written form as much as a decade before).


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 03, 2005 5:17 pm 
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Jun-Dai wrote:
Okay, but you were talking about thematic elements as they related to the story. Certainly he might have borrowed shots and elements from noir, or simply have been influenced by noir somewhat in his visual style (again, this can be said about any semi-thriller with a dark look to it), though in that case it's quite difficult to distinguish noir from some of it's precursors (expressionism, 30s gangster films), and he could just as easily be borrowing from those.

Noir mood and style are generally vaguely defined and not readily distinguished from similar movements/genres, along with films like Citizen Kane. Noir themes, however, were quite new with the advent of classic noir (though they existed in written form as much as a decade before).


True enough. I still think that Kubrick's film not only incorporates noir style but even some thematic stuff as well. Perhaps not to the degree that I first stated in my initial post but I think its there.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 04, 2005 1:24 am 
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zedz wrote:
(e.g. Patrick Magee's "I'm so glad you appreciate good wine" scene in Clockwork Orange doesn't seem like repressed rage to me but rather a really bad experience with horse tranquilisers).


LOL. I agree with that, although it's the one scene that sticks in my mind. Whenever I'm pouring wine for someone I'm always tempted to yell at them, "How's the wine? . . . have some more." in that crazy way (though fortunately I resist). I think a lot of Clockwork Orange is meant more to get under the audience's skin than anything else.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 04, 2005 4:17 pm 
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bunuelian wrote:
Whenever I'm pouring wine for someone I'm always tempted to yell at them, "How's the wine? . . . have some more." in that crazy way (though fortunately I resist).


I'm afraid I haven't always resisted that temptation. . . :|


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 17, 2006 5:11 pm 
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I ran across this decent essay on the critical reaction to the movie with some decent observations on the movie itself:

http://www.visual-memory.co.uk/amk/doc/0096.html


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2006 10:10 am 
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As you note above, no one is agreed on what Film Noir is. It's, like, dark. Women are bad. Men aren't exactly good but bad things happen to them and we're meant to sympathize. High angles. Low angles. Low key lighting. Etc. Many thrillers, dramas, mysteries, Lynch parodies, unauthorized Kafka adaptations, chilly sex comedies are credited--at some time or another--as being film noir. Nothing wrong with pursuing the line--but it's a good policy to identify what's meant by noir before pursuing it....
...I think Eyes Wide Shut is noiry in much the same way as Cache, and, before that, I thought it was noiry like the above-mentioned classics. Maybe it's not a point worth making. On the other hand, to the extent that we can compare the above films are come up with something about noir and gender and class, I think it's a valid observation.

As for your list of noir iconography. I'd say Alice performs the structural function of the femme fetale, although her character is pretty well voided of most of what makes the femme fetale itself something worth talking about. As for the other items, I think they are noir icons used not too differently from how the femme fetale is used. I quote Paul Arthur, who argues a point that's been pretty popular in auteur criticism for 40, 50 years now: "the director's manipulations of genre expectations--a twisting of formula that never stops to parody or quotation--redirects the hermeneutic energies of the thriller inward toward the protagonist's flimsy identity and outward to his enveloping social context." That is, genre elements rearranged toward art film ends.


Well said! It strikes me that Kubrick incorporated elements of several genres (murder mystery, noir, erotic thriller, etc.) and made it into something uniquely its own thing.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2006 3:07 pm 
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Women are bad. Men aren't exactly good but bad things happen to them and we're meant to sympathize.

I disagree that women are generally portrayed as more bad than the men in film noir. You say "men" but it sounds like you're just referring to the protagonist, with whom we usually sympathize. There are plenty of "hommes fatales," just as their are women who act as allies to the protagonist (Pickup on South Street comes to mind).

Back to EWS, lighting or lack thereof may indeed be an area where the film has a similar feel to film noir. Kubrick decided to "push-develop" the film, using sources within the world of the film -- such as Christmas trees, lamps, and street lights -- and then "over-processing" the film to compensate for it. This is something most filmmakers do only as a last resort, but I think this strategy yielded a wonderful feel in the lighting of EWS.


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