Interviews: Soderbergh and More

Angela Watercutter’s interview with Steven Soderbergh is actually a sidebar to her piece for Wired on the making of Mosaic—not the browser that put the World Wide Web in the global spotlight back in 1993, but the iOS app that tells the “tale of a children’s book author, played by Sharon Stone [image above], who turns up dead in the idyllic ski haven of Park City, Utah. After watching each segment—some only a few minutes, some as long as a standard television episode—viewers are given options for whose point of view they want to follow and where they want to go next.”

“With all chapters helmed by Soderbergh, Mosaic boasts the director’s assets and suffers from his weaknesses,” finds Inkoo Kang at Slate. “As expected, the filmmaking is elegant and moody, with a sustained interest in the ways money twists up lives and some very swanky architecture porn. It’s also impersonal bordering on cold, with little regard for character development.”

Soderbergh tells Matt Zoller Seitz at Vulture that he’s already at work on a second season. “This new one goes a lot deeper. It deals with a group of characters who are constantly on their phones and communicating with each other, and so that component is going to be very central to how information is transmitted. It’s going to be a much more active piece, I think, narratively for the viewer.” Soderbergh also “proposed to HBO a six-episode, linear broadcast version of Mosaic” to cover the costs of developing the app, “and they said, ‘Yeah, absolutely.’” That’ll air in January. As Seitz notes, his interview’s “led into a wide-ranging discussion of the evolution of his directing style, his brief ‘retirement’ from filmmaking, and the fallout from the Harvey Weinstein scandal, which Soderbergh sees as a watershed moment for show business.”

Back to Angela Watercutter, who also gets Soderbergh talking about Weinstein, but also about what happened to The Knick, shooting Unsane, “a super low-budget thriller/horror type thing,” on an iPhone, another “small film that I’ve been developing with Andre Holland, who was in The Knick, and is being written by Tarell Alvin McCraney, who wrote the play that Moonlight was based on,” producing the all-female Ocean’s 8, and his Panama Papers project: “That script just came in and it’s insane. Scott Z. Burns, who’s written three scripts for me, wrote it. He pitched a very unusual approach to telling that story, and he really delivered. I’m trying now to see if I can do that next fall.”

For the Hollywood Reporter,Gavin J. Blair talks with Soderbergh about Logan Lucky and how its distribution model is turning out, Unsane and the future of the theatrical experience, and George Miller: “I just watched Mad Max: Fury Road again last week, and I tell you I couldn’t direct thirty seconds of that. I’d put a gun in my mouth. I don’t understand how [he] does that, I really don’t, and it’s my job to understand it. I don’t understand two things: I don’t understand how they’re not still shooting that film and I don’t understand how hundreds of people aren’t dead.”

Honorary Oscars

The Academy presented its Governors Awards over the weekend and, along with a special commendation to Alejandro González Iñárritu for his virtual reality installation, Carne y Arena, there were four honorees, all interviewed in the run-up to the ceremony for the Hollywood Reporter. All four have also been interviewed for the Los Angeles Times.

THR’s Gregg Kilday’s got Donald Sutherland reminiscing about discussing fascism with Bernardo Bertolucci, a trip to Milan with Federico Fellini, and reshooting a scene for Ordinary People in which director Robert Redford stood in for Mary Tyler Moore.

Sutherland tells the LAT’s Josh Rottenberg about his first film audition in 1962: “The next morning, the director, the writer and the producer all called, and the producer said, ‘We loved you and we all wanted to call together to explain why we aren’t casting you. We’ve always thought of this character as a kind of guy-next-door sort of fellow. And, to be absolutely truthful, we don’t think you look like you’ve ever lived next door to anybody.’ So that’s the foundation of how you have to approach life when you’re me.”

Jordan Cronk asks Charles Burnett (Killer of Sheep, 1978) about the movement now referred to as the L.A. Rebellion. “We were all sort of making films en masse around the same time, and black independent film came up on its own during that period. We’d all lend each other support. I’m still in contact with many of the people I went to school with. We still call each other up and talk about the things we want to do. So with this award we kind of all share in that. I’m very happy for them as well.”

The LAT’s Tre’vell Anderson asks Burnett about the documentary he’s working on now. “It's about integrating hospitals. It’s a part of the civil rights movement people don't know about, because one of the most difficult things to explain and imagine is the fact that people of color weren’t treated fairly or equally in general hospital care. A lot of people died because they couldn’t get into the hospital because of their skin color. It took a long struggle.”

Carolyn Giardina’s conversation with cinematographer Owen Roizman focuses on The French Connection (1972). “Producer Phil D’Antoni just saw Bullitt, and he said to me, ‘The only thing I’m asking is make this car chase even better.’”

Roizman would work with William Friedkin again on The Exorcist (1973). And with Sydney Pollack on Three Days of the Condor (1975), with Sidney Lumet on Network (1976), and so on. Steven Spielberg wanted him for Jaws (1975). Roizman tells Josh Rottenberg why he had to turn him down.

Jordan Riefe talks with Agnès Varda. “I know I was a pioneer. I made a radical film [La Pointe Courte] in 1954 and what they called the New Wave started in ’59, ’60, those years. . . . That film has been accepted into the Cinematheque, but it never made a dime. It opened maybe two weeks. But then it was in every university.”

“I came here for the first time with Jacques Demy in ’67, and I made a film in ’68 called Lions Love (. . . and Lies) with Viva, James Rado and Gerome Ragni, who had written Hair,” Varda tells the LAT’s Justin Chang. “Then I came back here 10 years later and I made Mur Murs, about the murals. In 1980, nobody spoke about street art. Thirty-five years later, it’s everywhere. The street artists are famous now. I love the people in Los Angeles.”

More Interviews

“Spike Lee and Dee Rees first met at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in 2005, where he is artistic director and she was a film student.” Now Eliza Berman’s brought them back together for Time to discuss World War II movies—Lee made Miracle at St. Anna in 2008 and Netflix is releasing Rees’s Mudbound on Friday—the return of She’s Gotta Have It as a series (Netflix again), the KKK (Rees grew up next door to a Grand Dragon), and their next projects: A horror movie “based on being the only black women in an all-white town” for Rees and a “full out” musical for Lee.

“I don’t know that the golden age of television is really television as we know it,” David Fincher tells Matt Thrift at Little White Lies. “I really do feel that what’s interesting about the Netflix model—that they don’t have to worry about capturing an audience on a given night, that they don’t have to worry about cliffhangers—is that the way people experience it is much more like literature. You can set the remote down like you’d set the book down, on your bedside table. It has a different relationship to its audience. The movie business has become about the urgency of Friday to Monday, and network television has become about, ‘From the makers of . . .’ using the hit show as the introduction to the new show. Then there’s Netflix, which is about, ‘Look, when you get around to it, we’ll be here.’ It’s a different problem, it requires different things of the audience’s time. Ultimately I think it requires a different kind of television.”

Takashi Miike’s “status among gorehounds and genre cineastes is underscored in the contemporaries who flocked to fete him [on November 3] in Beverly Hills, where directors Walter Hill, Quentin Tarantino, Edgar Wright, John Landis, and Oliver Stone held court all evening at a private party held in Miike’s honor,” notes Jen Yamato, who talks with Miike for the Los Angeles Times. “It’s not that I had the goal of making a lot of movies; that wasn’t really my intention,” he tells her. “But by making movies at a natural pace, and also because I had a lot of work and the requests for my work just never stopped, that just kind of led to 100 movies.”

“Exploring all of cinema and the powers that can take you over, then wanting to reveal the artifice of that drives me,” Jesse McLean tells Z. W. Lewis in the Notebook. “Using an effect to lull the viewer in, then immediately ending it.”

The twenty-fifth Camerimage International Film Festival rolls on through Saturday in Bydgoszcz, Poland, and Will Tizard’s been taking the opportunity to conduct interviews for Variety.

  • Frederick Wiseman on Ex Libris: The New York Public Library: “Trump has made it a political film. Because everything the library represents is in such stark contract to everything he represents. Interest in others, helping poor people, helping immigrants, you can go right down the line—everything. Access to knowledge, interest in science . . .”
  • Cinematographer John Toll on shooting Ang Lee’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk at 120 frames-per-second, in 4K and 3D: “Ang is preparing to do another one as we speak—a film called Gemini Man with the same technology. He’s very committed to the idea of the high frame-rate 4K technology.”
  • Paul Hirsch, who edited Brian De Palma’s Hi, Mom! (1970), the first Star Wars movie (1977), three John Hughes films, and dozens more: “I feel I came along at the right time. I’m very unhappy with the state of the movie business at this point—these endless superhero movies and so much time and money spent on fantasies. They kind of bore me.”

“I hope First Reformed is not my last film but if it is, it’s a good last film,” Paul Schrader tells Variety’s John Hopewell. “With that in mind, it makes you think twice before you commit to something. I’m in a nice position, I’ve rounded it off here.”


Elvis Mitchell, host of The Treatment, talks with David Simon about The Deuce (29’24”).

Thelma director Joachim Trier is Sam Fragoso’s guest on Talk Easy (46’56”).

For news and items of interest throughout the day, every day, follow @CriterionDaily.

You have no items in your shopping cart