“I’ve always tried to approach each film as if it destroys all the films that come before it.” That’s how Steven Soderbergh once described his eclectic career. Ever since his provocative Palme d'Or-winning Sex, Lies, and Videotape, Soderbergh has darted between breezy star-studded hits, odd micro-budget experiments, and playful genre pieces.
He’s shockingly prolific – despite often also shooting and editing his films under assumed names – and yet a new Soderbergh will always be at least interesting. (That’s rarer than it sounds.) His version of the classic sci-fi Solaris is one of the best kinda-remakes in recent memory, and even the smug Ocean’s Twelve is more entertaining than you remember. Cinema needs more like him – and that makes it even sadder that he says he’s retiring from making movies.
His last two features are paired together at the Astor, both showcasing his unpredictable appeal. Magic Mike is a crowd-pleaser about male strippers that shows as much heart as skin; his latest is a chilly thriller set in the world of mood-altering pharmaceuticals. It’s hard to say too much about Side Effects without spoiling its fun, but it has plenty of moments that’d make Hitchcock proud. (In fact, some US critics were turned away from media screenings if they arrived too late for the first scene. Overkill? Absolutely – but Hitchcockian overkill.)
There’s one more Soderbergh project to come: a telemovie about Liberace called Behind the Candelabra. We wish there was more. Come back soon, Steven Soderbergh. If you don’t, thanks for the risks you took, fun you had, and stories you told.