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In some ways, this book is old-fashioned and humanistic. It does not go into much detail about the economics or sociology of moviemaking and moviegoing. Despite my sometimes severe judgments, this book also celebrates a substantial cross-section of recent U. Digital technology changed cinema forever in the s—or did it? Directors such as Robert Altman and Stanley Kubrick practice an aesthetics of meaninglessness, in which cinematic art is that which has not more meaning, but less. Above all, Solaris tells the tale of impossible love that is at center of all cinema, the love of that which is both present and absent, alien and human.

Movies ought to be fun! So Tarkovsky points us also in the direction of an ethical response by reminding us that if movies can be so important, then they need to be judged carefully and critically.

First, the stereotype of Tarkovsky as the naive nature mystic does take some work to overcome, and 21 even Tarkovsky scholars could do more to break down the cliches. Soderbergh thinks more readily of s directors such as Godard and Richard Lester rather than Tarkovsky. Now every mtv video looks like Clockers, but the impulse in the s to color, to tint, and to denaturalize came above all from Soderbergh.

Photographers and painters draw our attention to the surface of photographs and paintings in order to remind us of the medium. When our vision is mediated, not transparent, we are made aware of the artifact, of its construction. When Alma Bibi Andersson tells Elisabet Liv Ullmann about her youthful orgy in Persona, sexuality only seems to emerge naturally and spontaneously. Although Graham is rather pathetic, the movie still takes the masturbating, video-watching loner for its hero, in contrast to the cynical lawyer.

In other words, Graham leads all too literally the mediated life of the cinephile. John locks Graham outside his own apartment, then cues up the tape. As he does this, sex, lies cuts back to the moment when Graham and Ann were actually recording the tape. But the music is not scary because the characters are talking about sex; it is scary because they are inhabiting another world—a world on videotape. The entire sequence is tinted with our consciousness that John is watching it with us as a tape.

Through this tape recording of sexual confession, the emotional paradox of cinematic presence and absence could not be embodied more determinedly.


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For surely this is already Solaris—Graham is aroused by recorded women, not real women. Graham is impotent around actual women, but aroused by the same women on tape.

But this is also the condition of the movie watcher, of the cinephile, who invests himself in recordings of reality rather than reality. The relentless awareness of the surface of the screen is simultaneously compelling and distracting, erotic and nightmarish. After the confrontation with John, Graham comes back inside, breaks up all of his tapes, smashes his camera, and throws everything out the door in a box.

Without exception, and with many misgivings, critics noted the complete stylistic shift from sex, lies, and videotape to Kafka But Kafka is a stronger restatement of the themes of sex, lies—and this time there will be no escape. Whereas Graham could just throw his tapes out the door in a whiskey box, Kafka Jeremy Irons is trapped permanently in a labyrinthine nightmare. Kafka is not just trapped among literary and existential themes, but among the visual bric-a-brac of movies.

Such dynamic excesses would be at odds with its desiccated subject. Like the atmospheric images and music in sex, lies, and videotape, Kafka underscores the emptiness at the heart of cinephilia. As the s moved along, Soderbergh, his interviewers, and his critics began to cultivate a narrative of Soderbergh-as-chameleon. Almost everything that he tells the other people around him is fabricated to one extent or another. His fantasies culminate in a scene in which he is so hungry that he eats pictures of food cut out of magazines.

He collapses into hallucinations and dreams. Typically, Soderbergh shoots on location Baton Rouge for sex, lies, and videotape; St. For it was Stone who, at the time, seemed much more obviously to be testing out what the American movie screen would contain.

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An extended mtv video, Natural Born Killers does not touch down for a moment in the real world. JFK, too, does not so much question reality—by which Stone means questioning accepted academic historical explanations—as provide its own alternative reality. Stone felt obliged to construct a coherent plot for both JFK and Nixon, even though life and history were thereby left behind. You have to have a pattern, a theme. The greenish tinting is extraordinarily present; this is not a shy nostalgic yellow or sepia.

What is going on? Are we looking at the characters through nightvision goggles? Kafka and Schizopolis are not remakes, but are intentionally immersed in palpable styles, following The Third Man and the comedies of Richard Lester, respectively. The Hollywood remake is usually aligned with the desire to exploit success: if it made money once, do it again. A remake is automatically haunted by the past; a remake empties out authorial originality.

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There are numerous alterations and updates, but also a clear sense that we are moving through very similar terrain. Soderbergh doubles the theme of repetition that already attends on a remake by choosing remakes that focus on an ex-wife.

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The crisscrossing of time zones and the endless betrayal of one character after another in The Underneath desubstantializes both time and space on the screen. That is the bottom line: a betrayal in the past. So ghosts are everywhere. The Underneath is haunted by these ghosts of the past, and also cinephilic ghosts. In a late scene Michael becomes anxious that the vengeful gangster will try to kill him in his hospital bed, so he calls the nurse.

But Soderbergh doubles the cinephilic haunting by casting Shelley Duvall as the nurse. Cinephilic recognition entirely shatters the suspense of the scene. Is this a thriller or a ghost story? The present-tense thriller is continually betrayed by ghosts from the past. The heights of sex, lies, and videotape, which made Soderbergh instantly famous, were matched by the depths of The Underneath, which vanished quickly into oblivion. Getting Away with It consists not only of journal entries, but also of extended interviews with the British director Richard Lester.

Two years later, one director after another bowed out of a major Hollywood project, and Soderbergh found himself signed onto Out of Sight. Schizopolis is a low-budget experimental comedy that weirds around for a while and then suddenly turns into Solaris. The jumpsuited man has clearly descended from a meandering sixties farce. The scenes that show the grinding routine of middle-class marriage look forward to the more gruesome depictions by Todd Solondz; both Soderbergh and Solondz associate Muzak with the mind-numbing world of the middle class.

And a comparison with Solondz shows how Soderbergh chooses against the baroque, against extremes.

It was a world of sword and sorcery, but that was a thousand years ago.

It satirizes the middle class, but not by going over the top. The satire of Soderbergh seems, by contrast, mostly silly and ultimately empty. Schwitters looks rather like Soderbergh, but not as much as Soderbergh himself does. That the various Soderberghs, for example, are dubbed in Japanese, Italian, and French is a purely cinematic joke.

Schizopolis is partly a social satire on middle-class conventions, but it is more clearly a personal characterization of cinematic elements.

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Jack Foley George Clooney is a career bank robber and Karen Sisco Jennifer Lopez is an fbi agent, so this love is doomed from the start. It should not come as a surprise that the more control Soderbergh has over the picture, the more we will sense Solaris. But he really does not know what happened to her, except that she died in a car accident during a relationship with Terry Valentine Peter Fonda.

Most remarkably, Soderbergh often cuts the dialogue between two characters into several different locations. The dialogue makes perfect sense, but the background swaps out with each new speaker.

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The Limey is, indeed, another cinephilic ghost story. Terence Stamp the actor is haunted by his status as a s British movie idol, and this haunting is doubled by casting Peter Fonda as his nemesis. Valentine Fonda , a music producer, talks about his days on a motorcycle and the golden days of the s.

And the period music is relatively conventional, even boring. Cinematic nostalgia is thereby distanced. Even as cinephilia approaches, it is pushed away.