ASK YOURSELF WHAT YOU'VE COME TO EXPECT FROM AMERICAN independent cinema. Quirkin quotable dialogue? Criminals in sharp suits debating the merits of popular culture to a bubblegum pop soundtrack? White trash lovers on the run or sophisticated Manhattanites experiencing relationship difficulties?
What used to be by definition an eclectic and individual area of the film industry has now developed cliches of its own. as over-familiar as any from the Hollywood machine. Thankfully Steven Soderbergh — whose SKY. lies & videotape began the boom in indie movies — is here to change and challenge this sorry state of affairs with .S't'lziznjmlis.
‘This sounds really self-serving.’ the director says. 'but I had a friend of mine who came out of a screening and said to me. “Boy. you just really drew a line in the sand". When somebody calls a movie independent. this is what they're supposed to be attempting to do. ,
To challenge and confront and provoke and take When the risk.‘ somebody
And risky it certainly is. because there's - nothing in the director's previous oeuvre to calls a mov'e prepare an audience for .S'r'liiznpnlis. The film is independent, an absurdist satire. attacking the cult ofcelebrity the Ire self-help gurus who earn a dishonest crust y exploiting the hopes and fears of middle SUPPOSQd to America. Soderbergh himself stars as a Challenge and corporate underling who could do with a little guidance — his marriage is on the rocks. and he confront and begins the movie masturbating in the executive provoke and bathroom. lt‘s immediately apparent that we are . , a very long way from Tarantino country and. for take the "Sk' the remainder of its running time. the film pays Steven Soderbergh
homage to the unfashionable likes of Bunuel. _ Monty Python. and Richard Lester.
Shot over a period of two years. with a cast and crew made up of
unpaid friends. the film was clearly a labour of love for its director. but why move out of the mainstream and into the avant garde'.’
'I just thought I needed to start over. go back and become an amateur.‘ Soderbergh recalls. ‘lt's like being an adult and going back to school. It was the right thing to do. because the energy injection it gave me is still working.‘
It wasn‘t just the style and subject matter of the piece which were out of the ordinary for the bespectacled auteur: he also deliberately abandoned the safety of his own techniques.
‘I didn‘t talk to my actors the way I normally do. It was the first time
on a movie that l purposefully made it clear that I wanted to see what they could come up with.‘ he says. ‘I bought re-canned film stock for ten cents a foot and thought. “Let‘s just roll. let's burn some of it”. And it was so good I‘ve adopted that way of working for my other films. including 011! ()_/‘.S'iglzt. The energy in that film came directly from doing .S'c/iiznlmlis.‘ The film‘s delay in reaching these shores may have had something to do with the mixed reviews it received Stateside. ‘(‘ritical reaction has been completely polarised. as you can imagine.’ laughs Soderbergh. ‘People either really respond to it and to its ideas. or there
are reviews like the one in New York that called it a complete waste of
celluloid from beginning to end.‘
The director also takes perverse pleasure in the discomfort caused to the more straight-laced members of the US critical establishment. ‘What was great was the very idea of some of these critics having to sit through it. People whose minds are so linear. so rigid. just imagining them sitting through it made my day. Rog *r libert was supposedly foaming at the mouth. he hated it so much.‘
British audiences are unlikely to experience such an extreme reaction should they decide to spend their money on .S't'lzim/m/is. You may find it amusing or intelligent. indulgent or infuriating. but there is one thing upon which everyone can agree. .S't'ltizopolis is an independent movie.
Edinburgh Filmhouse, Fri 30 Apr, Sat 1, Tue 3 May; Glasgow Film Theatre, Sat 22, Sun 23 and Tue 25 May.
SIN MEMORY or - ._
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THEIR LIVES WERE TAKEN BY UNKNOWN TARTIES 0N SEPTEMBER 17': 1963 WHEN THE SIXTEENTH STREET BAPTIST CHURCH WAS BOMBED
"MAY IE! IEAU to REPLACE BITTERNEST, IND VIOLENCE WITH LOVE AND UNDERSTAFNM
A quintet of American's finest join Schizopolis in the indie season.
If there’s a criticism to be levelled at Spike Lee, it's that his anger often hits out at too many targets in a single movie, losing its force on the way. Not so with his documentary Four Little Girls, which examines the murder of four black children in church bombing in 1963 - a truly affecting film. Four women (including Friends’ Lisa Kudrow) are also at the heart of Clockwatchers, an office-set character comedy; while Eye Of God pulls together two stories, one featuring a mute teenager, the other about a woman who marries her penpal. Robin Tunney won Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival for her performance as a Tourette’s sufferer on a road trip crime spree in Niagara Niagara. Finally, a 505 pulp novel writer is transported to modern-day New York in cerebral sci-fi movie The Sticky Fingers Of Time. Variety is, as they say, the spice of life.
506’ film listings and Index for st fee/nut} (fetal/s
29m 13 ’v'av 1999 THE LIST 109