Soderbergh: Retiring from Movies?!

I just read on The Huffington Post yesterday that director Steven Soderbergh is seriously contemplating retiring from Hollywood to become a painter. The first thing that came to mind was (sadly) Brett Favre and all of the other famous athletes who have proclaimed a hasty “retirement” only to come back to their sacred ground before the new season even begins. So my feeling here is that although I’m sure Mr. Soderbergh is genuine in his feelings for wanting to explore new artistic ground, I’m sure that in due time the lure of money and familiarity of making movies will suck him back in. And this, for most movie buffs, is a good thing.

I vividly remember seeing Soderbergh’s feature-length debut Sex, Lies, and Videotape 22 years ago (Jeez, has it been that long?!). To this day, I think this is one of the strongest debuts of any director to come out in the last 50 years and remains one of his strongest efforts. To his credit, Soderbergh is one of the few filmmakers who dare to explore new ground and take artistic risks with new experiments. They may not all work or make for great movies (see Full Frontal or The Girlfriend Experience), but you tip your cap to a man seeking to push the boundaries and test new concepts. His style has a unique vision and “look” to it – the lighting in his films and use of color always stand out and immediately tells you that you are watching a Soderbergh film. Since Sex, Lies, and Videotape, the Oscar-winner has made some of the strongest films over the past two decades, including (the often-overlooked) Out of Sight, King of the Hill, Traffic, and Erin Brockovich – all mostly coming in his earlier years. The last decade – which includes the insulting Ocean’s Twelve and his poorly received Che – has not been nearly as impressive. I enjoyed Ocean’s Eleven thoroughly. It is a stylish, well-made film, but also a helluva lot of fun too with a terrific all-star cast. It wasn’t until the subsequent two sequels that I felt he perhaps “sold out” just a bit, and this is a shame because he still is one of America’s finest directors.

But I digress. Announcing your retirement from Hollywood? Is this not a wee bit dramatic? David Lynch manages to balance a number of artistic mediums. He makes a film every few years (and the rarity of it makes a new release of his seem more like an event), while still dedicating himself to his other artistic outlets such as painting, photography, and music. Lynch is a true artist – and can never be accused of being a sell-out by anyone. With three films currently in pre-production and his movie Contagion set for release, it will be interesting to see how Soderbergh segues into his new endeavor, if he does at all. The trailer for Contagion (see below) is very intriguing and personally, I can’t wait to see it. It has the look of being his best in years, but I won’t get ahead of myself.

I hope that Soderbergh proves to be more Michael Jordan (or Joaquin Phoenix, if you will) and less Barry Sanders when it comes to the act of retiring — because it would be a shame not to have his films to look forward to. I have a feeling this is all much ado about nothing — and coincidentally garnering much publicity at the very time his new film is set to be released. For fans of the director, I wouldn’t let this get to you and I wouldn’t be overly distressed. He’ll be back – -just cross your fingers that it isn’t for an Ocean’s 14.

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10 Responses to Soderbergh: Retiring from Movies?!

  1. Dan says:

    This doesn’t surprise me too much, I haven’t enjoyed a Soderbergh film in what seems like years.

  2. 5plitreel says:

    Hmm… I would like to not think of this as a gimmick to sell his latest films but it kind of feels like that. I mean if you’re an athlete you need to announce your retirement. Actors, directors and musicians? Not really. I mean do you remember the Jay-Z thing.. I mean he retired.

    • I thought Soderbergh would be above the gimmicky thing. Maybe it was just a momentary thing. My feeling is that there is no way that he stays away from directing films forever. I would think that it is in his blood and keeps him going.

  3. Sebastian says:

    Je ne sais pas.

    I think he’s a real talent, with a flair for serious drama and popcorn entertainment. I’m getting the sense that you don’t think too much of them, but I loved the Ocean’s movies, Twelve notwithstanding, and Contagion looks friggin’ awesome.

    If Contagion does well, which I think it will, he’ll stick around. He doesn’t strike me as the kind of dumb to retire on a winning streak.

    • I very much enjoyed the first Ocean’s. I also think he is one of our most talented filmmakers, though he has been very hit-or-miss the past ten years or so. Contagion was not seen by many people at all (I don’t think). Did you see it? What were your thoughts on it?

  4. Castor says:

    “The first thing that came to mind was (sadly) Brett Favre”

    Ahahaha 😀 Yea, I think it’s a temporary “retirement” as well. Maybe he is some kind of genius who feels he has to explore some other artistic avenues 😉

  5. Red says:

    I’m a huge Soderbergh guy, so I’ve been hoping for quite a while now that this is something that is temporary. From the interviews that I’ve read, it just sounds like he doesn’t believe that films have the impact on the real world anymore, and have become too disposable.

    Really stinks to see a director that will try his hand at a variety of genres kick the bucket so early. Even his failures weren’t all that completely horrible. As much as I could’ve lived without Part 2 of Che, Part 1 was absolutely brilliant and one of my favorite films of it’s year.

    • Like I said, I think he’ll be back very quickly, Red. And he’s got at least 3 works in the pipeline. There is no way that he doesn’t come back. I love most of his films, though I feel like he has lost a bit of steam since 2001. I admire his guts and desire to try new things. Thank you for reading. Hope you have a crappy draft on Sunday night! 🙂 It’s my year, baby!

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