Slapped together after Stanley Kubrick's unexpected death and rushed to print to coincide with the release of Eyes Wide Shut, Frederic Raphael's piecemeal account of his rocky experience as the film's screenwriter bears more than a faint whiff of opportunism. Add to that the mini-controversy brewing over the author's claim that Kubrick denied his Jewishness and wanted all traces of it removed from his adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler's Traumnovelle, and Eyes Wide Open is likely to be greeted with equal parts skepticism and hostility. But once you look past Raphael's irrelevant personal trivia and occasional bouts with egotism, the book contains many incisive observations about Kubrick's genius and limitations, as well as the screenwriter's tenuous role in the artistic process. The idea to contemporize Schnitzler's novella for the screen had been gestating in Kubrick's mind since the late '60s, so by the time he hand-picked Raphael to write the script, he had pretty set ideas of how he wanted it to play out. This turned out to be a source of enormous frustration for Raphael, a seasoned professional (his credits include John Schlesinger's Darling and Stanley Donen's Two For The Road) accustomed to having his own contributions taken seriously. But Kubrick, a notorious taskmaster who asserted control over every aspect of a production, worked best with those willing to submit themselves to his way of doing things, a process the independent-minded Raphael came to both respect and resent. "[Kubrick] does not want, and never wanted, a collaborator," he writes bitterly, "but rather a skilled mechanic who can crank out the dross he will later turn into gold." Eyes Wide Open may come off as a clinical, bloodless memoir—all the more so considering the timing of its publication—but its harsh truths are not easily shaken.
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