Tuesday, 13 October 2009

the girlfriend lack of experience

What can be said about the Raindance closing night film and party?  Not much, really.  I shouldn’t be too much of a hater as a film I worked on won a big award, but….

Someone once told me you shouldn’t be late lest people start to question what they are waiting for.  So with a 25 pound ticket (luckily, I didn’t have to pay for mine), the festival chooses to start the closing night film, Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience, an hour late.  An hour.  Not one announcement, no festival staff anywhere.  We all just sit in the theatre and wait. 

When the festival staff arrive, there is no apology.  Minor explanation – the screens are interlocked – and then a ridiculously long intro which amounts to thanking every volunteer who worked at the festival individually, as well as all of the sponsors (whose names have been on the screen for the entire hour we’ve been seated there).  They also announced the awards and then left.  No intro to the film whatsoever.

The film.  The digital, rather.  Soderbergh’s work with 2929 can be brilliant and it can be exasperating. I actually liked Bubble, despite falling asleep while viewing.  I found it compassionate, bleak, touching, grounded and original in context.  I found my patience with Soderbergh’s process rewarded.  The Girlfriend Experience, on the other hand, plays like the soggy tissue on the floor near the bed.  Yes, that’s what I said.

Soderbergh’s own cinematography continues to disappoint, as well as, here, his shot choices.  I really don’t prefer this new trend of filming everyone from behind.  I don’t find actors’ backs that interesting.  On the other hand, I’m not sure any of these actors would’ve been very interesting while filmed from the front.  Porn star Sasha Grey looks like a low budget porn star from the Valley pretending to be a high-priced Manhattan escort.  Her eyes say nothing, her lips say nothing, her voice says nothing.  The other actors and non-actors are equally uninteresting.  One of my mentors, Peter B. Cucich used to say, “when you’re bored; you’re boring -- when you’re interested; you’re interesting.” The actors are bored, the characters are bored therefore the audience is bored.


I don’t think this is an exercise in boredom, though.  Soderbergh directed Spalding Gray's Gray's Anatomy – being familiar with good NY downtown performance, I’m sure he’s equally familiar with the bad, the boring, the self-serving, reflexive conceptual junk.  Soderbergh has made two of my favorite films, The Limey and sex, lies and videotape.  He's made a handful of great films, really - check out The Underneath one of his most underrated.  This one just seems woefully off the mark.  I think this is an exercise with one man’s obsession.  Unfortunately, the rest of us are forced to sit through it.

The two women I went with felt similarly.  Several women walked out.  Many people groaned when it ended.  And yet at the after-party there were men who actually liked this movie.  Called it “brave” and “feminist”.  Excuse me? 

Wasn’t it so poignant about women’s experience with men?



Men seem to be under the impression that women actually have experiences this good with men.  That they get taken out, treated decently and well-paid to spend time with the jerky and not so jerky, attractive and blatantly unattractive, the caustic and the needy.  That they get picked up in car services and whisked away to weekend retreats.  That they are valued for their mystique.


Most women I know have much worse experiences with men in their personal life than “Chelsea” has in her professional one.  And instead of getting paid, most end up holding the tab in one way or another.

Brave is engaging the emotional moment, using the tools of cinema to reveal human nature, going beyond the stereotype to explore your themes.  This is filmmaking cowardice.  Using “non-actors” and faux-documentary techniques to make the films cardboard characters feel real.  Using the multitude of facile characters to hide behind the fact that you have nothing real invested in any of them.  Using improv to make up for the fact that as a filmmaker you’re really just interested in looking at this chick for a three or four week shoot.

Steven Soderbergh – go make a classy porn with her, and forgo the fake art film stance.  Please.

The Raindance after-party was notable for the fact that all the extra ticket money got us was in the door.  We bought our own drinks and there was no food.  So just a room basically.  With people milling about.  The place was cool, but I can’t imagine that It would have cost 10 or 15 pounds to get in on a Sunday night.

Overall, a disappointing experience.  Or lack thereof.  But thanks for the award.  ; )

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