When you hear the name Steven Soderbergh, what do you think of? My guess is that the first thing that pops into your head is either George Clooney or Ocean’s Eleven. While there is nothing wrong with that since he and Clooney made a lot of money together, Soderbergh stands for so much in the film era that we live in. He has recently announced that once his two films in pre-production are completed, he will retire from his craft. Just like Kevin Smith announced his final film, Soderbergh has been a big influence on the same generation and shows that unlike most directors from previous eras who stick around too long (Oliver Stone, are you reading this?) once the enjoyment of their artistry is gone, they move into something new and let their life’s work to be loved by all.
Soderbergh’s secret to making great films was borrowing styles from many different directors. He used some Tarantino, a little DePalma, a splash of Scorsese and a pinch of Ridley Scott (to name a few) and the result was a film that everyone could enjoy. The first film anyone gives him credit for is 1988s Sex, Lies & Videotape. This was an indie flick that put him on the map but it would take another ten years before he was a household name (at least in my house). His first box office success may very well be my favorite of his films to this very day. It was 1998s Out of Sight starring Clooney and Jennifer Lopez as an escaped convict and an extremely sexy U.S. Marshall trying to catch him. This was the beginning of the Soderbergh/Clooney partnership that has garnered enough money to cover the GDP of some countries. This film not only kickstarted his big-budget career, it ignited his talent as his next string of films in order were The Limey, Erin Brokovich, Traffic and Ocean’s Eleven. That group of films seemed to take a lot out of him as the only films that you may remember after those (besides Ocean’s Twelve and Thirteen) is the four hour Che based on the life of Che Guevera (which was great) and The Informant with Matt Damon (which was not). He tried a few things unsuccessfully like a low budget indie movie with A-list actors called Full Frontal which is supposed to be a companion movie to Sex, Lies & Videotape and a remake of Solaris starring Clooney (which I can personally tell you was the longest two hours of my life) but he never got back to that zone that he was in from 1998-2001. He is walking away because he is ready and he has earned it and I applaud him.
Someone needs to remind Oliver Stone that Platoon, Wall Street and JFK were amazing films and since he has made nothing worth watching since, he should take a page from Steven’s book and hang ’em up already.