Steven Soderbergh  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Steven Andrew Soderbergh (born January 14, 1963 in Atlanta, Georgia) is an American filmmaker well known for his breakthrough film sex, lies, and videotape which greatly contributed to the 1990s independent film revolution in the United States.

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Breakthrough: sex, lies, and videotape

It wasn't until Soderbergh came back to Baton Rouge that he conceived the idea for sex, lies, and videotape (1989), which he wrote in eight days. The independent film won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, became a worldwide commercial success and — along with Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction — greatly contributed to the 1990s independent film revolution. Movie critic Roger Ebert dubbed Soderbergh the "poster boy of the Sundance generation."

Aesthetics

It is difficult to find a common thread between Soderbergh's movies. He has made big-budget Hollywood films as well as art-house independent films; worked with above-the-title movie stars as well as unknowns; and directed adaptations as well original material, both of which were written by himself as well as other screenwriters. His versatility is also apparent with the genres which he chooses to film and his trades as a filmmaker behind the scenes. Traffic screenwriter and Syriana director Stephen Gaghan named Soderbergh "the Michael Jordan of filmmaking" for his ability to assume so many distinct roles in film production.

His films are, in almost every instance, distinct with atmosphere and tone. And while he seems to be enamoured of dialogue, frequently sharp and hip, Soderbergh's incorporation of score and montage are equally as prevalent in his story-telling. Even his light-hearted affairs, such as "Out of Sight" and "Ocean's 11," contain scenes where images and score are the dominant story-telling mechanisms, while films such as "Solaris" and "Traffic" are heavily layered in scenes absent of dialogue altogether. Cliff Martinez, a frequent collaborator with Soderbergh, composes many of the scores that provide Soderbergh with the thematic and sonic landscapes in which he inserts his characters.

But while Soderbergh's subject matter is highly varied, many of his films feature as a central theme the exploration of the act or moral consequences of lying. For example, the protagonists in two early films, King of the Hill and sex, lies, and videotape, are both pathological liars (one in training, one in recovery), while most of the characters in both Oceans films are con artists. Directing Spalding Gray in Gray's Anatomy after King of the Hill was a striking, related transition to a monologue by Gray, an actor who often commented that he was unable to "make anything up". Full Frontal is another film in this thread, where seemingly the fundamental dishonesty of the entire filmmaking process is exposed. More distantly, Soderbergh's interest in Cockney rhyming slang, as seen in The Limey and the Oceans films, may be seen as part of this theme, based on the conjectured origin of Cockney rhyming slang as a language game.

Contrary to Soderbergh being dubbed a stylistic chameleon by Anne Thompson of Premiere Magazine, Drew Morton has extensively researched Soderbergh's consistent aesthetic ties to the French New Wave.

Filmography

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Steven Soderbergh" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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