Cannes, 1989. Steven Soderbergh receives the Palme d’Or at Cannes for his first feature film, Sex, Lies and Video. Thirty-five films and four seasons of series later, he has become a key figure in the American audiovisual industry. Prolific, daring, Soderbergh scrambles the tracks, linking blockbusters (the trialogy of the Ocean’s, Erin Brockovich, Contagion …) and intimate films (Bubble, Girlfriend Experience …). It is at the forefront of technical tests in digital capture and economic innovations for the production and distribution of films. Director, chief operator, cameraman, editor, producer and sometimes screenwriter, he redefines the production process of a work.
In his latest book, which has just been published on November 16, “ Steven Soderbergh, fluid anatomy “, Pauline Guedj paints a portrait of the artist and captures the themes that cross his career. Exploring time, spaces and bodies, Soderbergh is an observer of the contemporary world and the mechanisms that govern it.
We asked three questions of Pauline Guedj, author, anthropologist and journalist, based in the United States. She signs her third book.
Rachel Brunet: What made you want to write about Steven Soderbergh?
Pauline Guedj : After writing my previous book on Louis Malle, published last year, I wanted to shed light on the trajectory of another filmmaker. Louis Malle and Steven Soderbergh are quite different in their approaches but they have a few things in common. First, they are the two youngest directors to have obtained the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival (25 years for Louis Malle, 26 years for Steven Soderbergh). Then and above all, they are both filmmakers who could be described as eclectic in the subjects they bring to the screen and in the aesthetic choices they make to dissect the themes that are close to their hearts. Without trying to draw a comparison between their two approaches, I wanted to immerse myself in Soderbergh’s filmography as I had done for that of Malle, in order to identify the specificities of his gaze on art, cinema and the world around us.
Who do you think Steven Soderbergh is?
Since the end of the 1990s, Steven Soderbergh has been a key figure in American cinema. He is the author of blockbusters which revealed certain actors, such as Traffic, Erin Brockovich or the Ocean’s trilogy. He’s also the creator of much more intimate films that don’t hesitate to flirt with documentaries, like Bubble and The Girlfriend Experience. In addition, Soderbergh combines the functions of director, cinematographer, cameraman, editor, sometimes screenwriter, and producer, which allows him to exercise almost total control over his works and to support the projects of his collaborators and friends. As such, he is in Hollywood an artist of weight whose opinion is often taken into account beyond the projects in which he is invested. Steven Soderbergh experiments with new models of film production and distribution, new cameras, new filming devices, and he is constantly questioning and surprising himself. Finally, and this is also what interests me in the book, Soderbergh is a keen observer of American society, the contemporary world and its networking through transnational dynamics.
Can you explain to us why you speak of “fluids” to describe his cinematographic work?
In the book, I retained the notion of “fluids” as a common thread of his cinematographic work. Soderbergh is characterized first of all by fluidity in his very practice of cinema. He goes from one genre to another. Between comedy, film noir, science fiction and horror film, there are few genres he has never tackled. On the set, he also switches from one function to another. Already imagining the edit while it captures the footage and projecting itself back into the frame as it edits. Then, in the themes he deals with and the way he brings them to the screen, Soderbergh is interested in the fluidity of the world. The book is built around three parts. The first focuses on the idea of time and on the way in which the director seeks to portray a thought that circulates between time spaces. The second evokes the notion of the body and follows Soderbergh’s gaze on the constant redefinition of racial or gender identifications. Finally, the third is interested in the networking of the world by analyzing Soderbergh’s films that I call global (Traffic, Contagion, The Laundromat, Che) which are all reflections on globalization and on capitalism.
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“Steven Soderbergh, anatomy of fluids”, another work by Pauline Guedj