parts. There’s much nudity and somernbrief sexual activity. (All this looks almostrnchaste by today’s film norms.) If you dorndecide to see it and you’re a Y chromosomer,rnyou should bring a womanly companionrnas your guide. The ladies will getrnthis film a lot quicker than those of us sufferingrnfrom X deficiency, which explainsrnwhy I’m much indebted to my wife’s observationsrnand insights in what follows.rnThe film’s silliness stems from its subject:rnerotic desire. Passion roufinely turnsrneven the most sensible silly, in the originalrnsense of the word. It can render us sornblissfully unaware of reality that, in itsrnthroes, we’re ready to risk social position,rneconomic security, and honor itself It’srnour common, if blessedly intermittent,rnmalady. Only a few imfortunates canrnhope to escape its imperious swayrnthrough the course of an ordinary lifetime.rnTrying to limn the absurdities ofrnsexual passion, Kubrick’s film often becomesrnridiculous itself It’s missing thernone ingredient that might have rescued itrnfrom its folly, an ingredient that Kubrick,rnfor all his satirical wit, seems to havernlacked: a generous comedic sense.rnStill, there is no gainsaying this film’srnstaying power. Like many of Kubrick’srnother films, it’s an intricately overwoundrnclockwork of codes and symbols that goesrnon subversively ticking in the mind longrnafter watching it. My wife and I left therntheater laughing at its pretensions—andrnthey are many—only to find ourselvesrndiscussing it into the night and the nextrnday. It also led us to read Kubrick’srnsource. For his screenplay, he had FredericrnRaphael adapt Dream Story, the brilliantrn1926 novella by Viennese writerrnand physician Arthur Schnitzler.rnOne can see why Kubrick was drawnrnto Schnitzler’s story. Its fluid, dreamlikernnarrative seems made for the camera.rnIronically, it also has a charmingrncomedic vision conspicuously lacking inrnthe resulting film. Schnitzler tells of arnyoung, happily married bourgeois couple,rnFridolin and Alberfina, who suddenlyrnfind themselves at serious odds. Uponrnreturning from a party one night, they beginrnto tease one another about their respectivernflirtations with other guests.rnSoon, she grows angry with him. Herntakes it all lightly, assuming it’s his malernprerogative to find other women attractivernas long as he doesn’t actually stray.rnThis, of course, is what women have tradifionallyrnheld against men: The beastsrndon’t take sexual attraction seriouslyrnenough. And, worse, they arrogantly assumernwomen take it all too seriously.rn”Oh, if you men knew,” she pouts. Byrnway of example, she summons up arnmemory of a naval officer she saw whilernthey were vacationing in Denmark. Hernhad glanced at her in the hotel lobby,rnnothing more, but had he approachedrnher, she declares, she would have givenrnherself to him at the risk of losingrnFridolin and their daughter. If thisrnsounds contradictory, it is. Passion rarelyrnwaits on logic. Alberdna’s “confession”rntroubles Fridolin, but he takes it in stride.rnHe recognizes it for what it is: a momentaryrnfantasy from the past dredged up tornspite his male self-assurance. But thenrnshe tells him something really unsettling:rnShe would have slept with him, Fridolin,rnbefore they married, had he said the rightrnword at the right moment. This ringsrntrue, and he takes it to be an assault onrntheir imion itself Yes, things could bernlike that before the Great War, when thisrnstory takes place. For obvious historicalrnreasons, this second affront to Fridolin’srnmale presumption doesn’t appear in thernfilm.rnFollowing this marital spat, Fridolinrnfinds himself unmoored from his worldrnof certainties. As soon as he steps out ofrnhis now-troubled home, his chaste, reasonablernexistence fades from view. Hernfinds the ordinary world transformed,rnfairly teeming with indiscriminate lust.rnWomen, familiar and strange, offerrnthemselves to him as he embarks on anrnhallucinatorv’ night journey into the darkerrnrecesses of his mind. The novella hasrnthe structure and atmosphere of one ofrnNathaniel Hawthorne’s dream tales,rnmost notably “‘oung Goodman Brown.”rnIt is meant to be both unsettling and humorous,rnsubversively calling into questionrnthe easy assumptions of our rationallyrnshaped daylit world. But likernHawthorne, Schnitzler leaves no doubtrnthat returning to the social constructionrnof reality is both necessary and desirable,rnprovided we come back with a strengthenedrnself-awareness.rnKubrick follows Schnitzler’s storyrnclosely, but he does so with a solemn literal-rnmindedness that blurs many of its intentions.rnWhere Schnitzler suggests,rnKubrick explains. Take, for instance, thernweird, erotic masquerade featured inrnboth text and film. In Dream Story, its actualityrnis left uncertain because it’s meantrnas a metaphor of psychosexual tensions.rnKubrick, however, goes so far as to addrnnew characters to give the episode a substantialrnreality it cannot bear.rnWorse, Kubrick gets the point of thernmasquerade wrong. In Schnitzler’s tale,rnwhen FVidolin first arrives, he is dazzledrnby a roomfiil of women wearing nothingrnbut masks. It’s the pure male fantasy: thernprospect of endless, anonymous, no-faultrnsex. But he feels thwarted by the otherrnmen in attendance. They are of a higherrnclass, and their official status somehowrnpermits them to be at ease in these unusualrncircumstances. They are free torndance with the naked lovelies whilernFridolin holds back. He is intimidatedrnuntil one of the women comes to his sidernto warn him he is in danger. He is atrnonce taken with her and naively assumesrnshe desires him as much as he does her.rnWhen she continues to warn him of hisrndanger and points out she is risking herrnlife to do so, he grows concerned andrnwants to protect her. With the shorthandrnlogic of dreams, Schnitzler weaves a versionrnof Freud’s Oedipal dilemma.rnFridolin is the boy attracted to the maternalrnwoman, but his access to her isrnblocked by men with power and positionrn—paternal authority, in other words.rnMuch, if not all, of this is lost in the film,rnwhere Kubrick preoccupies himself withrnshowing us naked bodies in close-up andrnsome scenes of simulated sex from a discreetrndistance. This gives poor Cruisern(Fridolin Americanized as Bill Harford)rnlittle to do but wander about awkwardlyrnencumbered by a laughable cape-andmaskrnget-up. But there is no voyeurismrnin Schnitzler’s story, nor any visible sexualrnacHvity either, however much Fridolinrnwould like to indulge himself Schnitzler’srnnarrative focuses on the struggle wernall have as social beings: what to do withrnour unseemly passions in the face of propriety.rnThe film’s intertwining verbal and visualrncodes underscore the point that,rnwhen misused, sexual desire breeds fantasiesrnthat gull us all. At the Ghristmasrnparty that begins the narrafive, two cutiesrnlatch onto Bill, apparendy intent on leadingrnhim into a sexual encounter. Beforernhe breaks away from them, he asks wherernthey intend to take him. They answer,rn”To the end of the rainbow.” Later, Billrnvisits a shop called Rainbow Fashions tornrent the disguise he needs to gain admi.ssionrnto the masquerade. The pursuit ofrnpassion for its own sake is like trying tornreach the end of the rainbow. It’s a hopeless,rnfinally dispiriting quest.rnThe film concludes mischievously.rnBill asks Alice (Nicole Kidman in the Albertinarnrole and, surprisingly, quite good)rn42/CHRONlCLESrnrnrn