© 2014 by James Clark
Take a look at 1938 Roma from the perspective of Federico Fellini’s film, Roma (1972), and you could be well on the way to comprehending what’s up with the 1999 New York City of Stanley Kubrick as served up by his film, Eyes Wide Shut. In the latter project (the artist’s last hurrah), a scene that hogs the lion’s share of the fire power features a masked man in a Vatican cardinal’s scarlet robes, seated on a dais presiding over a satanic ceremony heavy on orgies and murders of mass dominance. In Fellini’s Roma, a scene that wins the jadedness prize hands down in a scenario seeming to be known by jadedness alone, the Pope, in his cardinal’s robes and wearing shades, has been invited to the palazzo of Princess Domitilla as part of an effort to lift his spirits in the wake of the shock of ruthless secularism represented by Mussolini-style fascist dominance. Seated on a dais in the palace’s ballroom, the melancholy divine is treated to a fashion show of clerical costumes purporting to introduce a new, with-it spirit to the corporate miasma. The Princess laments, “People were nicer, more respectful…” Her strategy to, if not revive the cause, at least bring to her sanctuary a bit of omnipotent, rejuvenative fantasy, includes a pair of roller skating nuns, hyped, in the show’s voice-over, as “Little Sisters of Purgatory,” with huge (wimple) head-pieces of material giving them a lilt like the wings of seagulls. It does create a bit of a sensation in that refuge desperate for uplifting news.
That latter event would stand, in the couplet-endeavor Kubrick has activated, as a quaint, geriatric response to the condition of molding a quorum faithful to a gratifying ultimacy. (The 1938 event resumes, for a final climax, in the form of a wispy, heavenly aura within which is inserted the fabrication of the likeness of a long-gone pope. [“He’s back!” the innocents cry.]) The no country for frail, simply gentle and less than millionaire creatures that was New York, in 1999, is given a similar expose by the Kubrick film, a slice that noticeably jacks up the killer instinct. (more…)