A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Sex, Lies, and Videotape (Steven Soderbergh, 1989)

Peter Gallagher and Andie MacDowell in Sex, Lies, and Videotape
Graham Dalton: James Spader
Ann Bishop Mullany: Andie MacDowell
John Mullany: Peter Gallagher
Cynthia Patrice Bishop: Laura San Giacomo
Therapist: Ron Vawter
Barfly: Steven Brill
Girl on Tape: Alexandra Root
Landlord: Earl R. Taylor
John's Colleague: David Foil

Director: Steven Soderbergh
Screenplay: Steven Soderbergh
Cinematography: Walt Lloyd
Art direction: Joanne Schmidt
Film editing: Steven Soderbergh
Music: Cliff Martinez

Steven Soderbergh's dialogue for his very first feature, Sex, Lies, and Videotape had wit, candor, and originality, and his sharply drawn characters were beautifully played by a quartet of up-and-coming actors, winning him the Palme d'Or at Cannes and launching a major career. Sex and lies are still very much with us -- videotape not so much -- so it's no surprise that this deftly accomplished film still feels fresh going on 30 years later. My only reservation about the film has to do with its ending, which feels a little pat and formulaic, almost as if Soderbergh didn't know how to stop without tacking on a moral. So Graham, whose addiction to sex and lying is the most egregious of the four, gets punished by losing his job -- or so we surmise, since we never see him after he's been summoned to the office of the head of his law firm. Ann reconciles with Cynthia, which feels a little pat, considering that she broke up Ann's marriage, though on the other hand it wasn't much of a marriage to begin with and they are sisters, so she might as well make future Thanksgiving dinners less of an ordeal. But why do we get the pairing of Graham and Ann? Are we expected to believe that the various revelations and the destruction of his video collection has cured him of his voyeurism and impotence and her of her frigidity? There's a kind of obligatory quality to the ending -- movies have to round things out -- that feels at odds with the otherwise sharp exploration of the hangups of its characters.

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