Soderbergh, Journeyman Extraordinaire
September 23, 2000 on VHS
September 22, 2000 on VHS Full
more than a decade ago, Steven Soderbergh broke into
the American film scene with Sex, Lies and Videotape,
a movie that helped to define the term "independent
film." With a script that threw caution and convention
to the wind, he attacked themes of sex, media and the
middle class with relish. The film helped but the Sundance
Film Festival -- and indie filmmaking by extension --
on the map, and put Soderbergh on the map as a fresh
young filmmaker of limitless potential.
spent the next seven years effectively taking himself
off the map. First was Kafka with Jeremy Irons,
which met modest critical praise and almost no audience.
Soderbergh then took the semi-autobiographical route
with the childhood story King of the Hill -- anyone
heard of it? He then passed a few years dabbling in
TV and a couple of other film projects of no renown.
Finally, in 1998, nearly a decade after his initial
success, he hit paydirt with Out of Sight, a
critical and cult hit that had many people putting Soderbergh
on their "best directors working today" lists.
Indeed, such an instant reputation has sent him spiralling
up to bigger and more lucrative projects (Erin Brockovitch
and the upcoming Traffic and Oceans 11).
I was one
of those who was impressed by Soderbergh's resurgence
in Out of Sight -- until I realized that what
I enjoyed wasn't anything Soderbergh had conceived:
the plot and crackling dialogue was from Elmore Leonard,
the direction equal parts Barry Sonnenfeld and Quentin
Tarantino. I even had second thoughts about the worth
of the film last year when I screened it to a horrified
and bewildered class of students in China: Leonard's
stories, while being masterfully distracting, are also
vapid to the core. They're fun, but there's just nothing
to build on. Perhaps that's why Tarantino has had such
difficulty post-Pulp Fiction in developing his work
out of the cliche it's become. It may therefore explain
why he's done such little work in the past six years
-- but still, these films need to be made, because there's
still an audience hungering for them. Enter Soderbergh,
taking the Out of Sight project as his entryway
into the lucrative world of Hollywood niche filmmaking.
Two years later, with four films to be released in the
span of 16 months, he is king of the niche. What exactly
is this niche? I'd call it the Smart Ass movie.
seems out to prove Out of Sight wasn't a fluke, and
ends up outlining his limitations. As in Out of Sight,
he relies mostly on a bag of distracting, stylistic
tricks to disrupt the narrative flow. Terence Stamp
does a great job however.
-- Has such a smarmy, faux-working class mentality.
I have never seen such a case of a lone, self-righteous,
antagonistic protagonist surrounded by a bunch of bumbling,
condescending oppressors since Beverly Hills Cop.
Everything in this movie is calculated to rouse the
audience's sense of injustice. Poor beautiful Julia
Roberts loses her job, is hit by a car, . It feeds on
people's sense of victimization and self-pity, the feeling
that the world is out to get them and none of their
problems is due to any shortcoming on their part.
from making movies that critique the yuppie lifestyle
to making movies yuppies take their dates to.