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Old January 7 2012, 05:18 PM   #38
stj
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Re: Movies Seen in 2012

Harvey wrote: View Post
stj wrote: View Post
This goes to the scriptwriter, who of course did not have his name repeated enough for me to remember.
The writer was Scott Z. Burns, who also wrote the criminally underrated The Informant! for Soderbergh.

As near as I can remember this has no resemblance to any of Soderbergh's previous works, illustrating the relative unimportance of the director.
The film closely resembles Soderbergh's Traffic, something pointed out by countless film critics when the film was released. Of course, whether or not the film resembles any previous ones he's made has little to do with Soderbergh's importance as the director (it's worth noting that, like most films he's made, Soderbergh is also the credited cinematographer on the movie). In this particular case, the director was quite important, since the film was re-structured several times during editing (resulting in the reduction of Marion Cotillard's role, among many other changes).
Previous movies directed by Soderbergh that I remembered were Sex, Lies and Videotape; The Underneath; Che, and Ocean's Eleven. I never bothered with the Ocean's Sequels. How anything in that sample strongly resembles Contagion really needs explanation. If it's cinematography, then Soderbergh's role as cinematographer is obviously just as important as I thought it was.

I have seen Traffic, but, having seen Traffik on its original US broadcast, was never impressed with the movie. I found the Academy attention inexplicable. Since I think that movie was not very good at all, when I am told that it strongly resembles Soderbergh's Contagion, I don't think that it's because of the importance of Soderbergh's directorial contribution. If Soderbergh's directorial work were so creatively important, then Traffic would have been a genuinely good movie. I think the difference is because the script for Contagion was much better, which is not the director's work.

The directors who like Soderbergh act in other, more creative capacities such as cinematographer, editor and writer do have much more creative input than the director as director. And I have to add that even the director has a major influence on execution, if not in a directly creative capacity. (And to be complete, the director really is the primary creator of the unscripted portions, if any parts of a movie are left improvisation anymore.)

As to the specific issue of the editing in Contagion, how do you separate Soderbergh's contributions as director and editor? The director as director has the least creative importance. The more he or she assumes other, more creative roles, the more important she or he is creatively, most of all when the director is also the writer. But then, it's a matter of the writer getting a chance to execute the script properly instead of having a director bungle it. I criticized the movie specifically for a tendency to melodramatize the dark impulses of the unwashed masses, and the Cotillard subplot was the single worst instance of that. Soderbergh may have reduced the time but he didn't reduce the problem. In fact, I suspect the cut scenes showed the unwashed masses not to be so darkly impulsed, which would mean that Soderbergh made the movie a little worse than it had to be! In other words, the director as auteur was just the guy who fucked up something. This is creativity?

If the question is the issue of who is in fact more "important," i.e., powerful, in the completion of the final product, the tendency nowadays is obviously to award the director the power. Giving the most power to the person who has the least creative contribution I think explains one of the fundamental problems with Hollywood's creative process. And yes, I do think there's a creatively flawed process at work.

The funny thing is, the real issue may be the belief that Contagion is a bad movie, and Traffic is a good one.
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