Stanley Kubrick’s final film, Eyes Wide Shut, generated a lot of controversy during its release. Stars Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman caused a stir with the media well before the film even hit the big screen, with rumors of unsimulated sex and the mystery of a closed set piquing everyone’s curiosity. Then there was the ratings and censorship debacle, when Warner Bros. digitally altered the film’s most graphic scene for theatrical release.
That scene, of course, is the masked orgy that takes place at the country mansion where Cruise’s wandering doctor named Bill winds up on a nightlong sexual odyssey that threatens to cost him his life and his marriage. The striking and symbolic use of Venetian Carnival masks in the scene is brilliantly played by Kubrick, and one filmmaker wanted to explore the origin of the masks in a documentary short. Director Filippo Biagianti and his team went to Venice to interview Franco Cecamore, who created several of the masks for the movie — including the one Cruise wore.
Biagianti was charmed by that particular mask’s expression. He describes it as “a very Italian face” with a mocking smile that resembles the Mona Lisa. The androgynous mystique of the face is explained, as Cecamore describes modeling it after an ex-girlfriend and reshaping some of the features to heighten its ambiguous allure. We also hear the story of how Jan Harlan, executive producer for the film and Kubrick’s brother-in-law, came upon Cecamore’s shop.
Watch the 25-minute documentary for more on that. If nothing else, the short is a wonderful look at an age-old art form that is still being honored today in Italy. The masks in Cecamore’s shop are absolutely beautiful, so it’s easy to see why they caught the eye of one of American cinema’s most visually ingenious creators.
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