The Philosophy of Steven Soderbergh

The Philosophy of Steven Soderbergh

The Philosophy of Steven Soderbergh

The Philosophy of Steven Soderbergh


Widely regarded as a turning point in American independent cinema, Steven Soderbergh's sex, lies, and videotape (1989) launched the career of its twenty-six-year-old director, whose debut film was nominated for an Academy Award and went on to win the Cannes Film Festival's top award, the Palme d'Or. The Philosophy of Steven Soderbergh breaks new ground by investigating salient philosophical themes through the unique story lines and innovative approaches to filmmaking that distinguish this celebrated artist.

Editors R. Barton Palmer and Steven M. Sanders have brought together leading scholars in philosophy and film studies for the first systematic analysis of Soderbergh's entire body of work, offering the first in-depth exploration of the philosophical ideas that form the basis of the work of one of the most commercially successful and consistently inventive filmmakers of our time.


R. Barton Palmer and Steven M. Sanders

Not Orson Welles Redivivus

Orson Welles was twenty-six when, having given himself a crash course in filmmaking, he directed and starred in Citizen Kane (1941). If its peculiar artistry and penetrating dissection of American culture went underappreciated at the time, the film has long since been recognized as one of the masterpieces of the national cinema. Steven Soderbergh was the same age when his initial directorial effort, sex, lies, and videotape (1989), for which he also wrote the script, received, among other accolades, the coveted Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Even at twenty years remove, Soderbergh’s first film arguably remains the most influential independent film ever made. Because it is in many ways a minimalist production, however, it seems unlikely to rival Citizen Kane in the pantheon of greatest American movies. But, much as Citizen Kane did for Welles, slv established Soderbergh as a wunderkind whose writing and directing talents were already fully formed. Also like Welles, Soderbergh seemed in no need of a lengthy apprenticeship in the business. Both directors instead began their careers at the top, a mixed blessing that in each case created expectations that, as subsequent events have proved, were difficult to fulfill.

But there the comparison between Welles and Soderbergh, made by many during the height of slv’s popularity, begins to break down. Unlike Citizen Kane, slv aroused no controversy within the industry; its politics were interpersonal, not national, and its stylizations were subtle, not ostentatious, suiting a limited budget form of cinema more dependent on talk than spectacle. Following the commercial/independent (or, in the now popular expression, Indiewood) model established earlier in the decade by filmmakers such as the Coen brothers and Jim Jarmusch, slv combines an intelligible, essentially melodramatic narrative with art house themes. The . . .

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