Steven Soderbergh: A Forgettable Career
27 feature films (plus at least 10 other projects including television episodes, documentaries and shorts) in roughly 28 years; it’s no wonder there aren’t many of lasting quality. As Steven Soderbergh (supposedly) farewells the movie industry with Behind the Candelabra, it appears appropriate to reflect back on what was, ultimately, a forgettable career…
Personally, I’m not acquainted with Mr Soderbergh, so any accusations levelled at his views on the industry are based solely on written interviews in film magazines, but through said interviews it is painfully clear to see a man endowed with creative talent at a young age stripped of individuality towards the middle of his career and exiting early without leaving behind any trace of a legacy. He lacked passion, excitement and visionary qualities that renowned directors of even the most downbeat experiences often exert. The Oceans 11 franchise will in the future be referred to only for its star-studded cast (if referred to at all), Erin Brockovich for Julia Robert’s actually quite annoying performance (although most will say brilliant) in an otherwise average movie and Magic Mike for being a chapter in the career resurgence of Matthew McConaughey. His only directorial trademark, is not having a trademark. Each of his films plays out as if made for TV, with no cinematic qualities or big-screen endeavour to speak of.
To give credit where it is due however, as to be expected in a catalogue of 27 films there are a few that rise out of the mire and take on a life of their own: his debut Sex, Lies and Videotape (1989), the rich in chemistry Out of Sight (1998), Stirring Traffic (2000), curious The Girlfriend Experience (2009, best viewed as part of a double-bill with Andrew Dominik’s enthralling Killing Them Softly) and… actually that’s it. Despite being respectable, none of these films could be considered masterpieces.
For those unfamiliar, his filmography (excluding TV and experimental films) is as follows:
Behind the Candelabra (2013), Side Effects (2013), Magic Mike (2012), Haywire (2011), Contagion (2011), The Last Time I Saw Michael Gregg (2011), And Everything Is Going Fine (2010, Documentary), The Informant! (2009), The Girlfriend Experience (2009), Che: Part Two – Guerrilla (2008), Che: Part One – The Argentine (2008), Ocean’s Thirteen (2007), The Good German (2006), Bubble (2005), Ocean’s Twelve (2004), Eros (2004, segment “Equilibrium”), Solaris (2002), Full Frontal (2002), Ocean’s Eleven (2001), Traffic (2000), Erin Brockovich (2000), The Limey (1999), Out of Sight (1998), Schizopolis (1996), Gray’s Anatomy (1996), Underneath, (1995) King of the Hill (1993), Kafka (1991), Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989).
Another relevant way to prove Soderbergh’s mediocrity is taking a look at the careers of other American directors, whose debuts roughly coincided with his, and have recently released new films: Quentin Tarantino, Bryan Singer, Richard Linklater, David Fincher and Gus Van Sant among many others. If you removed all of Soderbergh’s films from cinema history, would that have less of an impact than solely removing Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction? Or Fincher’s Fight Club? The answer is yes, and that is extraordinary. 27 films from a supposedly revered auteur are of less importance than a single of many of his peers.
Steven Soderbergh is (or, was… though I think we’ll have to wait and see) a director-for-hire, far and away the worst kind. At least Uwe Boll injects his own style into the projects he undertakes, even if that style is ineptitude. He has given us films about sex and lies, now lets hope there really are no more videotapes.
I’m aware that for some reason he has his fans. To me though, he is a hack.
But it’s just an opinion.