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Eyes Wide Open: A Memoir of Stanley Kubrick Paperback – June 22, 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 190 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1st edition (June 22, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345437764
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345437761
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #820,020 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Hurriedly published to coincide with the July 1999 release of Stanley Kubrick's final film, Eyes Wide Shut, this slim, rather obviously titled volume by the film's distinguished screenwriter offers considerably less than its cover copy leads you to expect. But for avid followers of Kubrick's career, even a cursory glimpse of the late director's lifestyle and creative methods will prove to be fascinating. And while Frederic Raphael instantly drew criticism and controversy from Kubrick's family and friends for describing Kubrick as "the sedentary wandering Jew, rootlessly rooted within his own defenses," this and other remarks must be considered in context. Eyes Wide Open must ultimately be seen to reflect Raphael's conflicting emotions about a filmmaker he clearly admires and respects, even if their collaboration resulted in equal parts elation, exasperation, and hard-won rewards.

Using notebook entries, vivid recollection, and re-created scenes in screenplay format, Raphael paints a portrait as revealing of himself (if not more so) than of Kubrick, and neither man comes across without blemish. Simultaneously self-indulgent, frustrating, and fascinating in its attempt to probe Kubrick's closely guarded psyche (a mission Raphael ultimately fails to accomplish), the book finally reveals--in fragments of sensitive insight--that Kubrick's reputation as a reclusive genius did in fact hide a very complex, intensely intelligent, and surprisingly human being. In one passage Raphael observes that "Stanley was so determined to be aloof and unfeeling that my heart went out to him. Somewhere along the line he was still the kid in the playground who had been no one's first choice to play with." Whether such observations are an accurate representation of Kubrick's personality is beside the point; that Raphael made the observation speaks volumes of both men, and this book is filled with similar revelations.

In addition to offering a privileged look at Kubrick's collaborative process, the book also reveals elusive details about Kubrick the man--pet lover, intellectual challenger, gracious host--and the result is a warmer image of him than that afforded by decades of distant speculation by journalists too willing to perpetuate the "myth" of Kubrick as omnipotent genius. If Raphael's book invites criticism and charges of blatant opportunism (with Kubrick unable to defend himself), it also provides a rare and often fascinating look at an artist who constantly eluded the gaze of outsiders. Raphael takes us inside Kubrick's gated domain, and we're grateful for the visit. If the truth resides somewhere between the protest of Kubrick's family and the insights presented here, we can at least use this book as a guide through previously uncharted territory. --Jeff Shannon

From the Inside Flap

We've all heard the rumors.

He was a hermit. He refused to fly and wouldn't be driven at more than thirty miles an hour. He avoided having his picture taken and was terrified of being assassinated. As a filmmaker, he was obsessed with perfection. He insisted on total control of every facet of the process. Simple scenes required one hundred takes. No wonder he made only six movies in the past thirty-five years.

But what was he really like?

For more than two years, Frederic Raphael collaborated closely with Stanley Kubrick on the screenplay of what was to be the director's final movie, Eyes Wide Shut. Over time, as his professional caution was replaced by a certain affection, Kubrick lowered his guard for Raphael as he never had with journalists or biographers, to reveal much about his early life in the cinema and of the reverses and humiliations he had to endure. They spoke for hours about a variety of subjects, from Julius Caesar to the Holocaust, from Kubrick's views about other directors to reminiscences of the many stars with whom both men had worked (or nearly worked)--Kirk Douglas, Audrey Hepburn, James Mason, Peter Sellers, Marisa Berenson, Sterling Hayden, Marlon Brando, and Gregory Peck.

Here, with his own distinctly cinematic style, Raphael chronicles their often fiery exchanges, capturing Kubrick's voice as no one else could. Disdaining false veneration, he opens our eyes to the mind and art of a truly complex and hitherto elusive twentieth-century genius.

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Customer Reviews

Raphael's book has been the biggest disappointment of the literature I have read to date.
"orpheusong"
We're left to wonder if they may have worked together better had Raphael not so focused on disassembling, but never actually solving, the Kubrick enigma.
G. Pike
Even though the glimpses aren't at all illuminating, and though the book is short it's still a dull, dull read.
Laon

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By John A. Thompson on July 14, 2011
Format: Paperback
Most detractors of this book have noted its "cloying pretentious" or some synonymous combination. I found Raphael's memoir to be wonderful, and over too soon. He is not, as many have attested, a hired hand - Raphael is an prolific and screenwriter with mythology of his own. To anyone interested in Kubrick, this would be a wise and interesting read. Surely you can handle some big words and big ideas? Novelists and screenwriters can easily develop reputations of pretentiousness because they are interested in things other people are not. I am interested in Kubrick, the man and the process.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By julep on January 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book is framed early on as a "vaguely sadistic" chess match, between the awed, reluctantly supplicant Raphael and Kubrick the Mythic Director. Raphael, as often as he tries to crack the Kubrick code, carps about the uneven(although ideally symbiotic) relationship between director and writer. Raphael resents the fact that his own contributions to the Kubrick canon are at the mercy of the director's whim, and may not even be acknowledged, when the final credits roll.
Raphael treats his collaboration with Kubrick as an amicable battle of will -- he aspires to be Kubrick's artistic equal, but Kubrick never quite shows up for the duel the author imagines between them. His attempts to form an overall picture of Kubrick's Jewishness, artistic vision, and human weaknesses are ultimately futile, but still make up an interesting glimpse into an acknowledged genius and his fascinations.
Raphael is self-aggrandizing and too preciously clever for his own good, which spoils the book as a true portrait. It is as much a portrait of himself as long-suffering hired hand as it is a revelation of Kubrick. Even so, Raphael is an acutely intelligent writer, and flaws aside, I found it an interesting read. I will give him the benefit of the doubt on the issue of bald exploitation -- Kubrick can't possibly care, now.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 29, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is a must for film buffs because it offers a unique look at both Kubrick and Raphael (whose brilliant screenplays of Two for the Road, Darling, Madding Crowd put him in that elite pantheon of screenwriters). Albeit (too) brief about both men, it does give us another look at the collaborative creative screenwriting process. And, yes, we may learn more about Raphael. But what an interesting, brilliant mind DESPITE the fact that he's VERY full of himself and an inveterate name dropper. But that's what makes the book so much fun. There are some charming, very funny lines in here too. I picked it up on a weekend getaway, while in the middle of two other books, and couldn't put it down!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By G. Pike on September 13, 2010
Format: Paperback
No one likes an iconoclast. But why should Raphael be so disparaged for trying to humanize Kubrick and not worship him?

Does Raphael come across as mildly effete, moderately self-absorbed and overly intellectual? Absolutely. He also makes the mistake of hoping for a collaboration with Kubrick while approaching him from the outset as an opponent. None of that takes away from the fact that this is an incredibly interesting and insightful read. Does it ultimately reveal as much about Raphael as it does about Kubrick? It does. It is "A Memoir of Stanley Kubrick" not a work of unbiased journalism.

Those reviewers who have a more limited knowledge of cinematic history, choose to conclude that Raphael was envious of Kubrick's greater fame. But Raphael was superbly successful in his own right long before Kubrick came calling. A more careful read reveals that the highly-schooled Raphael sparred with the autodidactic Kubrick, and the two played their unfortunate game to a draw. In the end, it's Kubrick who seems the cagier but also gentler soul. We're left to wonder if they may have worked together better had Raphael not so focused on disassembling, but never actually solving, the Kubrick enigma. None of that takes away from Raphael's very personal accounting.

For those too timid to have the myth of their cinematic God challenged, by all means go read Herr's "Kubrick" for a more respectful portrait. But if you're looking for a sense of the frustrations and rewards of working sometimes for sometimes with one of the giants of cinema and are willing to finish with a sense of his imperfection as well as supreme talent, read this. I couldn't put it down.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 1, 1999
Format: Paperback
What a self glorifying hack job! Raphael spends more time name dropping than revealing anything about the great Stanley Kubrick. By the end of the memoir, we know three things about Kubrick; He loved animals and cried when his dog died 2.) (according to Raphael) was a self loathing Jew. 3.) Raphael is a tediously long winded writer for such a slight little book. Scan it quickly in your local bookstore. Also, Raphael betrays Kubrick's trust by going to print before the release of "Eyes Wide Shut." Well, the dead have no rights, I suppose, but I wish Warner Brothers could sue.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By ChrisPFlorida on December 28, 2012
Format: Paperback
That averages out to three, which is what I believe this book deserves.

Basically, if you are interested in Kubrick, you'll find this book interesting. Just don't expect anything earth-shattering.

The content: The title is very misleading. This is not a book about Kubrick; it's not even a book that gives much insight into Kubrick's processes, thinking, or actual production of Eyes Wide Shut. This book is about Frederic Raphael, during a two-year period when he wrote a screenplay for Kubrick to use a base for his next (and last) movie. The title is pretty much a way to get readers to notice this book (which is what a title is meant to do).

It does however give some interesting insight into how Kubrick went from an idea (how to turn a dusty, century-old novella into a movie) to the stage of having a physical script as a jump-off point.

The writing: Frederic Raphael is an accomplished and well-respected writer, with an Oscar and several screenplays and novels to his credit. There is no doubt that his writing is suburb. Unfortunately, his overly-literary prose and choice of "ten dollar words" in every sentence, along with constant name-dropping and references to literary works that the average American reader will have little or no knowledge of, absolutely distract from what the title promises.

Raphael is an American who was educated and lives in England; his academic credentials present intensely as he gratuitously pontificates while explaining ordinary circumstantiality (just like that sentence: anyone can do this with a thesaurus and a glass of Scotch).

I don't pretend to know much about Stanley Kubrick (few can), but I can postulate that SK may have chosen Raphael for one reason only: His name.
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