As temperatures skyrocketed to over one-hundred degrees across the city in the summer of 1999, on-screen New York was depicted as even steamier. Stanley Kubrick’s final film (the filmmaker had passed four months before its release), Eyes Wide Shut casts two of Hollywood’s hottest stars (and its most photogenic real-life couple at the time), Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, as the leads and proceeds to tear their onscreen relationship apart. At a rather R-rated Christmas party thrown by a wealthy socialite (Sydney Pollack), the temptation of infidelity enters their previously ironclad marriage, and after the couple retreat to their upper-class home, the two begin to feel the strain and early signs of spousal fissure. Before you know it, Cruise’s Dr. Harford winds up, as one sometimes does in the midst of marital discord, at a gigantic mansion to attend a masked orgy (toned down in order for the film to obtain an R-, rather than X-, rating).
Although the film is set in New York (the source material, Arthur Schnitzler’s Traumnovelle, was set in early 20th-century Vienna), Kubrick’s production took place primarily in the U.K., providing the film with a disorienting feeling of displacement. No matter: the film topped the box office its opening weekend, sharing a vision of New York more dangerously alluring than usual, and continues to be contentiously captivating over twenty years later.