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Another Steven Soderbergh Experience

Another Steven Soderbergh Experience: Authorship and Contemporary Hollywood

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  • Book Info
    Another Steven Soderbergh Experience
    Book Description:

    How do we determine authorship in film, and what happens when we look in-depth at the creative activity of living filmmakers rather than approach their work through the abstract prism of auteur theory? Mark Gallagher uses Steven Soderbergh's career as a lens through which to re-view screen authorship and offer a new model that acknowledges the fundamentally collaborative nature of authorial work and its circulation. Working in film, television, and digital video, Soderbergh is the most prolific and protean filmmaker in contemporary American cinema. At the same time, his activity typifies contemporary screen industry practice, in which production entities, distribution platforms, and creative labor increasingly cross-pollinate.

    Gallagher investigates Soderbergh's work on such films asThe Limey,Erin Brockovich,Ocean's Elevenand its sequels,Solaris,The Good German,Che, andThe Informant!, as well as on theK Streettelevision series. Dispensing with classical auteurist models, he positions Soderbergh and authorship in terms of collaborative production, location filming activity, dealmaking and distribution, textual representation, genre and adaptation work, critical reception, and other industrial and cultural phenomena. Gallagher also addresses Soderbergh's role as standard-bearer for U.S. independent cinema following 1989'ssex, lies and videotape, as well as his cinephilic dialogues with different forms of U.S. and international cinema from the 1920s through the 1970s. Including an extensive new interview with the filmmaker,Another Steven Soderbergh Experiencedemonstrates how industries and institutions cultivate, recognize, and challenge creative screen artists.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-74422-6
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    Across his nearly thirty-year career as a screen-industry professional, filmmaker Steven Soderbergh has proven himself one of the most dynamic figures in the U.S. film industry, a prolific director and producer of blockbuster entertainments, idiosyncratic art films, low-budget video experiments, and television series. We can see the characteristic diversity of his work by bracketing an interval of his career. For the sake of illustration, I begin by briefly surveying his work between late 2004 and early 2006, one of many densely productive periods in his creative life. In September 2004, the omnibus international art filmErosdebuted at the Venice...

  5. Part One. Soderbergh and American Cinema

    • Chapter 1 Sex, Lies, and Independent Film
      (pp. 19-44)

      The success ofsex, lies, and videotapeat the Cannes and U.S. (a.k.a.Sundance) film festivals and in commercial release earned Soderbergh indelible associations with the discourses and institutions of U.S. independent cinema on a global stage. Measured in terms of commercial visibility, Soderbergh’s career floundered for much of the 1990s. The limited impact of his post–sex, liesfeatures stood as an apparent object lesson in the pitfalls of Hollywood authorship. For example, one 1998 profile, subtitled “The Return of Steven Soderbergh,” describes him as “the indie hero whose films nobody goes to see.”¹ While the view of Soderbergh as...

    • Chapter 2 Hollywood Authorship and Transhistorical Taste Cultures
      (pp. 45-72)

      Through investigation of Soderbergh’s 1990s activity, the preceding chapter has argued that he was and remains one of many contemporary filmmakers who gesture toward historical eras and modes to articulate their creative sensibilities and mobilize interest in their work. Some filmmakers gravitate repeatedly to particular movements and modes, as evident, for example, in Peter Bogdanovich’s multiple homages to the classical studio era of the 1930s and 1940s or Guy Maddin’s reworkings of 1910s and 1920s silent-cinema aesthetics. Others, including Soderbergh, cast a wider net through their film output and discourse outside filmmaking, expressing multiple affinities across screen media past and...

  6. Part Two. Authoring and Authorization

    • Chapter 3 Authorial Practice, Collaboration, and Location Production
      (pp. 75-108)

      While forging artistic affiliations with a range of historical forebears in U.S. and global cinema, Soderbergh has since early in his career sought to maintain professional partnerships with many of his contemporaries as well. In Soderbergh’s work world, as other chapters of this book demonstrate, discursive affiliations repeatedly evolve into collaborative production relationships. The strong emphasis on collaboration in Soderbergh’s discussions of filmmaking highlights the interconnection of creative relationships in screen-media production. These relationships in turn reveal the inadequacies of the casual privileging of directors as the focal points of claims about film authorship. This chapter uses production analysis and...

    • Chapter 4 Critical Reception and the Soderbergh Imprint
      (pp. 109-134)

      To better understand the many voices involved in the manufacture of film authorship, this chapter interrogates a sample of critical reception of Soderbergh’s directorial efforts, focusing on four features released from 2006 to 2009 that bridge numerous production, textual, and exhibition categories. While film studies has identified the role of discursive formations in constructing film authorship and textual meaning, the tools and goals of mainstream film criticism have received limited scrutiny. Critical discourse plays key roles in the circulation of authorial personas, shaping subsequent reception discourses surrounding authorship and textual meaning. Critical reception of popular cinema responds to prevailing taste...

  7. Part Three. Soderbergh and Textuality

    • Chapter 5 Reading Soderbergh: Textuality and Representation
      (pp. 137-167)

      This book thus far has sought to distinguish responsibilities for particular creative tasks in films directed by Soderbergh and to map the construction of his wider authorial profile across film texts and surrounding film-cultural discourses. Many viewers are drawn to Soderbergh’s films for their textual features, particularly those features recognized not as purely formal but as linked to sociocultural concerns. According to numerous commentators, many of Soderbergh’s features manifest Hollywood cinema’s progressive potential, inclined toward political questions, power relations, and periodically, narratives attentive to marginal social subjects. Academic film studies, though, regularly untethers films from their producing agents, circumventing questions...

    • Chapter 6 Intertextual Conversations: Genre, Adaptations, and Remakes
      (pp. 168-194)

      Soderbergh’s many adaptations of novels and other preexisting texts, as well as his direction of numerous remakes of earlier Hollywood and international films, represent a core component of his diffuse artistic imprint. His diverse creative work in screen and print media constitutes a series of dialogues—with collaborators on particular screen projects, with fellow filmmakers past and present, and with numerous eras and movements in U.S. and global film culture. Creative dialogue around existing cultural texts and generic fields demonstrates shared investments in particular artistic expressions, investments motivated by taste and cinephilia as well as by artistic processes involving elaboration...

  8. Part Four. Soderbergh and Screen Industries

    • Chapter 7 Soderbergh and Television
      (pp. 197-212)

      Following on from the intertextual contexts of Soderbergh-directed feature films, this chapter examines his limited work on television series, a format routinely distinguished from cinema in its textual characteristics and mode of authorship. Soderbergh’s work in television affords the opportunity to consider a different range of critical issues. The television programs Soderbergh has directed or produced merit scrutiny in particular for their narrative appeals, stylistic experimentation, and improvisational performances. Eschewing artificial distinctions between media forms, however, I wish to emphasize the continuity of style, content, and address among Soderbergh’s projects in film and television, as well as his consistent role...

    • Chapter 8 Boutique Cinema, Section Eight, and DVD
      (pp. 213-234)

      As argued in the previous chapter, Soderbergh’s television work further exemplifies a creative practice attuned to topical discourses such as politics and current events as well as to formal experimentation in the parafictional mode. The execution of this creative sensibility involves a range of practitioners across different projects. The output, meanwhile, addresses different groups of viewers based on subject matter, tone, genre, exhibition venue, and other distinguishing characteristics. While no precise pattern connects Soderbergh’s multifarious output to the diverse communities drawn to that work, we might characterize this relationship as that of a boutique sensibility catering to boutique tastes, and...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 235-248)

    Between 2009 and 2011, interviews with Soderbergh and some collaborators suggested that he would soon retire from filmmaking. “I feel like I’ll hit the ceiling of my imagination,” he told theSan Francisco Chroniclein 2009, on the eve of the release ofThe Girlfriend Experience.¹ At the end of 2010, interviewed during production of the Soderbergh-directedContagion, Matt Damon discussed Soderbergh’s plans for retirement, noting that “[h]e’s kind of exhausted with everything that interested him in terms of form. He’s not interested in telling stories.”² But while Soderbergh confirmed his interests in turning away from filmmaking and toward painting,...

  10. Appendix. Interview with Steven Soderbergh New York City, Saturday, July 23, 2011
    (pp. 249-278)
    Steven Soderbergh
  11. Notes
    (pp. 279-299)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 300-317)
  13. Index
    (pp. 318-326)