Sex, Lies, and Videotape Diary – Film Book Review
Steven Soderbergh has enjoyed two divergent careers. He was a wunderkind 25 year old who made the only film that won best picture at Cannes and Sundance. He fell off the map. Decided to make a first film all over again and transformed into a director of hire who dp’ed and edited all of his films under aliases (a la the Coen Brothers’ Roderick Jay).
“Sex, Lies and Videotape” was released in August of 1989, the second of the one-two punches of independent cinema (“Do The Right Thing” was the first in May). It didn’t destroy the box office, but it was out in such limited released, there were droves of people waiting to see at every theatre that showed it. When you asked these people what they were waiting for, you thought they would say “Lock Up” (the latest Sylvester Stallone action film), or any number of Hollywood movies out at that time, but instead they said, “we’re waiting for Sex, Lies, and Videotape.”
This Miramax film became a phenomenon, frequently copied and never even close to duplicated “Sex, Lies, and Videotape.” The 25 year old wunderkind’s journey from living in his car, developing his script, directing his movie, editing his movie, accepting the Palme d’Or and trying to figure out what to do next (it would be the Lem Dobbs script, “Kafka”) is documented in juicy film geek detail known as the “Sex, Lies and Videotape” diary.
This book is the white version of the Spike Lee diaries, which is full of struggle, rejection, and anger. “Sex, lies” is brimming with bewilderment of good luck, aw shucks amazement, but offers tremendous insight into the making of a unique film that will never be forgotten. The casting of then Mabileen model, Andie McDowell, casting of brat pack actor James Spader, the videotape deal that financed the movie. There’s even a diary entry when Soderbergh is high off his awards (James Spader won Best Actor) at Cannes, when he runs into crestfallen Spike Lee and his crew, who announce that their film didn’t win a single award.
Spike was told “Do the Right Thing” wasn’t awarded anything because no one did anything “heroic.” Spike’s retort was that, he didn’t understand what was heroic about a character jerking off. Soderbergh was probably just as baffled that his career took off thanks to a film about a guy who can’t jerk off, and you can feel it reading the diary. It is a tale of luck, yes, proving once and for all that, yes, this can happen. But while many directors before and after Soderbergh vanished, this guy managed to have two careers. In fact, he retired two years ago only to announce he’s coming back again. Make that, three careers. The seeds to his success are in this book.
Written by: Norith Soth