Steven SoderberghEclectic, Unpredictable Hollywood Maverick By Josh Ralske
A creative chameleon, surprisingly consistent in his work’s thoughtfulness and wit.
Steven Soderbergh began his cinematic career with the astonishing success of Sex, Lies, and Videotape, the 1989 movie credited with changing the industry's perspective toward the Sundance Film Festival and independent productions in general. From the beginning, he wrote and chose projects based on his own intellectual curiosity, seemingly without regard for genre or public appeal. This trend reached its apotheosis with his bizarrely hilarious Schizopolis, perhaps the most uncomfortably personal film ever made by a major Hollywood director. After that, he had his first studio hit, the superb Elmore Leonard adaptation Out of Sight, his initial collaboration with George Clooney, who would become his producing partner. Soderbergh has kept up this unpredictable pattern for most of his career, mixing wittily executed mainstream fare such as Erin Brockovich and the Ocean's Eleven series with more experimental work, including his remake of Andrei Tarkovsky's pensive sci-fi drama Solaris and the low-budget digital feature Bubble. Later in his career, Soderbergh merged Hollywood production values with more challenging material, as in his gritty, ground-level epic about the revolutionary career of Ernesto Guevara, Che, and his enjoyably oddball character study of compulsive liar Mark Whitaker, The Informant!, starring his frequent collaborator Matt Damon. Soderbergh often shoots and edits his own work under the aliases Peter Andrews and Mary Ann Bernard, respectively. Cinephiles can only hope he continues to follow his gratifyingly restless muse wherever it takes him.