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Interview: Steven Soderbergh Talks The “Eye Candy” Of ‘Candelabra’ & What His Retirement From Filmmaking Actually Means

The Playlist By Rodrigo Perez | The Playlist January 30, 2013 at 2:26PM

Filmmaker Steven Soderbergh is winding down and this has been the case for a while now. His five-year plan meant retiring from filmmaking at the age of 50. Having just reached this touchstone earlier this month, Soderbergh is essentially done with the business of moviemaking. His final theatrical film, “Side Effects” starring Rooney Mara, Jude Law and Catherine Zeta-Jones, is complete and his final, final film, “Behind The Candelabra,” is also complete and will air on HBO later this year following a likely premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. So what’s left? Aside from promoting these last two movies, he’s done… for now.
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Steven Soderbergh
I saw “Upstream Color” at Sundance and it reminded me of you and what you’ve said was your problem with filmmaking – the tyranny of narrative.
Oh boy, it's good. Look what he did with that movie for – I know what it cost and I can tell you it looks like 20 times that but that's because he's very talented and very specific. He and I have been in touch for years and I happened to email him out of the blue when he was halfway through shooting and he sent me this script and even that, which I loved, didn't really show you what he ended up doing with it. I was really happy to see somebody taking advantage of all of the things that you can do like Shane [Carruth] was doing in that movie. There's so many ideas packed into it. You know? If you love movies there's a lot to be happy about. You know I'm very curious to see the sort of general response to it.

That’s what I mean. There are so many ideas in it and it seems to do exactly what you’re talking about – breaking free of the tyranny of narrative. Could you ever see yourself taking that approach to filmmaking that’s more about fragmented imagery?
Well, the question will be, “Where's the line?” How far can you push it before people go, “I need more than that?” And you know the other thing that’s possible – I could make something that isn't designed to be seen by more than four people at a time, you know? And you have to go to a museum to see it and you sit in a certain environment and that's how it's built to be seen and experienced. That's quite possible.

Schizopolis
“Schizopolis” seems, in retrospect, similar to what you’re doing now: a self-imposed way to try and recharge your creative batteries.
Yeah, but it certainly was an act of terrorism as it was deigned to annihilate everything that came before it and that's why it needed to be done. I didn't know if that was going to work, I just knew that it had to happen. This time, the good thing is I have time to think about it, work on some other stuff and see if I can come at it from a different angle. But it's clear to me that I need to just literally be away from [filmmaking] in order to clear my head and see if I can find a back door into being a different filmmaker.

In that sense it does strike me that "Schizopolis" was reboot number one and this is reboot number two.
Yeah, I hope there's another one. I hope there's another reboot. The difference there was I had drifted off compass and that was the way to radically get myself back on track. This isn't that. This is something else. I knew what I had to do to get to where I wanted to get back then. In that case I'm not sure what to do other than to just drop off the grid for a while. I'm sure one of the things that I'll consider as I try and rebuild or reboot or sort of come to some different place about filmmaking, I’ll consider is see if working backwards helps at all.

Such as?
Conceptually starting with some images and then working with those images to see if I can create meaning out of them and a narrative out of them even though on the surface they wouldn't seem connected and then work my way backwards to see if I can build something out of it that will hold your attention. Do you know what I mean? It's sort of starting at the end and going back to the beginning. That may be one way of, of taking away some of the crutches and the tools that as a director you have when you start the other way.

"I could make something that isn't designed to be seen by more than four people at a time... That's quite possible."
You're writing a book, is that similar to some of your lectures?
Yeah, it's another attempt to download whatever I can about this job.

Is it going to be similar to your last book at all [Getting Away With It: Or: The Further Adventures of the Luckiest Bastard You Ever Saw]?
Yeah, I think so. I don't know how many other characters are going to appear in it, but it will have a similar tone.

I started re-reading it briefly. It reminds me of your commentary tracks with other filmmakers. You seemed fascinated by other people's creative process.
Oh yeah. That's where I end up colliding with another filmmaker or anybody. You know the first thing I start doing is asking very kind of rudimentary questions about just how they work like, “What kind of hours do you keep? Where do you work? Do you have an office/ Do you have an assistant?” I want to know the nuts and bolts of how they make stuff day today you know? I think inspiration comes from everywhere if you're looking for it, if you're antennae is sensitive enough. I don't really need to talk to them about that. But I love hearing you know how something is made, “How long did it take? Were there multiple versions, did you throw stuff out?” I love hearing that stuff, just demystifying it making it human scale. When you see something that blows your head off, you know asking those kind of almost banal questions helps you to keep going. You think “Okay, they started somewhere too.” You kind of start and then you keep going.

So are you quizzing people in the fields of photography and painting then since those are two fields you’ve said you want to move into? [ed note: Soderbergh already paints and has his own studio]
Yeah I haven’t yet but I've gotten a couple of contacts that as soon as I'm done promoting this movie I'm going to pursue people that I’ve run into that I’ve said, “Can I come talk to you? Can I come see your studio,” who have said, “Yeah absolutely.” So as soon as all this wraps up that phase is going to start.

“Side Effects” opens in theaters on February 8th. Much, much more from this lengthy interview next week.

This article is related to: Steven Soderbergh, Behind the Candelabra , Side Effects, Interviews, Interviews, Features


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