‘Voyeurs welcome’ went the advertising campaign. It wasn’t a spoken agreement. It was a look. In the theatrical trailer for Eyes Wide Shut, the defining image is of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, naked, making-out in front of a mirror. Tom has his eyes closed to what he’s doing. He can’t see himself in heat. But Nicole’s eyes are open, she’s watching herself in that mirror, and her look is fearful, hunted. Tom’s hand is round her throat. It’s as if she sees his brute desire in that mirror. As much as she enjoys it – and, rest assured, she does enjoy it too – catching desire is dangerous. He’s in the grip of lust: right where we are. By looking in the mirror, Nicole dares us to admit: we want to see. She snares the voyeur.
Are all epic movies camp? Or is it just that we’re daunted by scale these days? I don’t imagine Cecil B. DeMille worried if his movies were camp. And I can’t see camp accusations giving Joe Mankiewicz any sleepless nights. But these days – when we’re practically born knowing what the “snails and oysters” scene in Spartacus is about – any movie reaching for something big seems camp to us. Australian director Baz Luhrmannn has based his entire career on camp; whether it be ballroom dancing or Shakespeare – he always winks. In Australia, he’s created a camp national epic. But knowingness is dangerous if you want to raise more than a smirk.