Welcome to Profile, a series of posts on filmmakers that I’m going to write and spread out over the course of the next few months. Today, I’m going to write about Steven Soderbergh.
Soderbergh is a popular American director who has made some of the best films of the last twenty years, from his indie masterpiece Sex, Lies and Videotape to his most recent outing, the thriller Contagion. He is also the director behind the acclaimed Ocean’s trilogy; three classic heist films that have made their way into the vocabulary of crime cinema lovers. He was also at the helm of the ambitious films Che, parts one and two, a five hour film about the life of Cuban revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara.
Soderbergh is one of those directors known sometimes as a ‘chameleon’: meaning he rarely, if ever, made the same film twice. He covered a wide variety of genres, from suburbian discomfort to experiments in outer space, and he did so with an undeniable skill and attention to detail. Things like dialogue are carefully considered and shot, as Soderbergh carefully guided his actors and crew members with his own creative vision.
His indie debut showed promise, and Soderbergh continued to deliver, with few blunders. However, it wasn’t until 1998 when his name was really thrust back into the headlines. Out of Sight was a commercial success, and a tremendously enjoyable action comedy. It’s follow-up, The Limey, received mixed reaction from critics, but some viewers have praised it as a masterpiece. While films like these showed promise, it was the next three films that really confirmed his place in Hollywood. Erin Brockovich is a compelling drama based on a true story that earned Julia Roberts an Oscar and was praised by critics. His next film, Traffic, earned even more praise. It earned Soderbergh the Best Director Oscar. A fantastic drama about the drug trafficking trade in America and Mexico, it remains one of Soderbergh’s true achievements. His next film, Ocean’s Eleven, was the beginning of an unforgettable saga of three films, all of which Soderbergh himself would direct. His next two films, Full Frontal and Solaris, are generally considered blunders and most critics disliked them, and many were angered by Soderbergh’s remake of Andrei Tarkovsky’s classic sci-fi drama Solyaris.
However, after completing the Ocean’s trilogy, Soderbergh returned to top form with his two-part Che. Since then, he has created generally smaller pictures, such as the psychosexual The Girlfriend Experience, the intriguing but somewhat disappointing The Informant, and the little-seen arthouse documentary And Everything Is Going Fine. His most recent film, Contagion, has received a generally positive reception from critics and audiences.
Now I turn the discussion over to you. As with all the subsequent Profile posts, I want you to talk about Soderbergh. Start a discussion; which of his films do you like, love, or loathe? What do you like about his style and technique, or what do you hate? What did you think of his latest movie Contagion? Leave a comment about something, anything related to Soderbergh below, and keep an eye out for my next Profile post, which will focus on Darren Aronofsky.