Wednesday, May 1, 2013

I'll Be Joining Soderbergh*

Tomorrow I head off to the west coast once more to attend the San Francisco International Film Festival. I'm privileged to have been selected to work on the festival's FIPRESCI jury where I will be judging the best debut or second film. I have very deliberately not looked into any of the films I'll be judging - and I certainly don't recognise any of the titles - so we'll see how that all goes. I imagine it'll be a fascinating experience. Of course, coming on the heels of seeing so many films at the Tribeca Film Festival, I may be a little bit film-ed out by the conclusion of the Golden Gate Awards on May the 8th, but it'll be a wonderful experience nonetheless.

The festival proper actually began last week, but I'm only visiting for the second half. The festival has been making waves the last few days after a series of leaks from Steven Soderbergh's "state of cinema" address. First it was written, then it was audio, and today it's visual. It's a... interesting read. Certainly echoes a lot of sentiments I have and I've included some of my favourite quotes below:

And there’s a guy on the other side of the aisle in front of me and he pulls out his iPad to start watching stuff. I’m curious to see what he’s going to watch – he’s a white guy in his mid-30s. And I begin to realize what he’s done is he’s loaded in half a dozen action sort of extravaganzas and he’s watching each of the action sequences – he’s skipping over all the dialogue and the narrative. This guy’s flight is going to be five and a half hours of just mayhem porn. I get this wave of – not panic, it’s not like my heart started fluttering – but I had this sense of, am I going insane? Or is the world going insane – or both? 

When people are more outraged by the ambiguous ending of The Sopranos than some young girl being stoned to death, then there’s something wrong. We have people walking around who think the government stages these terrorist attacks. And anybody with a brain bigger than a walnut knows that our government is not nearly competent enough to stage a terrorist attack and then keep it a secret because, as we know, in this day and age you cannot keep a secret.

First of all, is there a difference between cinema and movies? Yeah. ... It has nothing to do with the captured medium, it doesn’t have anything to do with where the screen is, if it’s in your bedroom, your iPad, it doesn’t even really have to be a movie. It could be a commercial, it could be something on YouTube. Cinema is a specificity of vision. It’s an approach in which everything matters. It’s the polar opposite of generic or arbitrary and the result is as unique as a signature or a fingerprint.

They get simple things wrong sometimes, like remakes. I mean, why are you always remaking the famous movies? Why aren’t you looking back into your catalog and finding some sort of programmer that was made 50 years ago that has a really good idea in it, that if you put some fresh talent on it, it could be really great. Of course, in order to do that you need to have someone at the studio that actually knows those movies.

A few years back, I got a call from an agent and he said, “Will you come see this film? It’s a small, independent film a client made. It’s been making the festival circuit and it’s getting a really good response but no distributor will pick it up, and I really want you to take a look at it and tell me what you think.” The film was called Memento. So the lights come up and I think, It’s over. It’s over. Nobody will buy this film? This is just insane. The movie business is over. It was really upsetting. Well fortunately, the people who financed the movie loved the movie so much that they formed their own distribution company and put the movie out and made $25 million.

 I stupidly didn't go and see Side Effects in the cinema, but it was released at a very hectic time and, well, it didn't hang around long (as Soderbergh admits, the returns were disappointing). Soderbergh has retired, although apparently that's only from theatrical films. Maybe. I'm not so sure. It's a bit unclear. His next film is Behind the Candelabra, which will premiere on American TV, but likely to get theatrical exhibition overseas. I remember seeing the HBO biopic The Life and Death of Peter Sellers in a cinema after it competed for the Palme d'Or, so if little else some international viewers will get the chance for another Soderbergh film on the big screen.

Anyway, you can read the entire transcript at Deadline, or watch the video embedded below.

* Note I will likely never cross paths with Steven Soderbergh let alone join him in anything. Ever.

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