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Sex, Lies, and Inauguration Day

I am sitting in the filmmakers lounge at Sundance headquarters watching the historic inauguration of Barack Obama.  I am amongst a crowd of filmmakers, and there is a clear sense of hope and relief that this day has arrived.

sex, lies, and videotape director and cast celebrate the 20th anniversary of their landmark indie feature.

written by Cam Christiansen

I am sitting in the filmmakers lounge at Sundance headquarters watching the historic inauguration of Barack Obama.  I am amongst a crowd of filmmakers, and there is a clear sense of hope and relief that this day has arrived.  Cheers and boos accompany politicians as they show on TV (take a wild guess who gets the boos). It’s an event that rightfully will overshadow the Sundance film festival but fitting when thinking about the 20th anniversary screening yesterday of sex, lies and videotape, by Steven Soderbergh, as a celebration of the 25th anniversary of Sundance.

Whenever you go to an event at Sundance you always wonder who will be there. Stephen Soderbergh is the kind of director many admire and one I was really looking forward to see.  His film sex, lies, and videotape is generally considered one of the films that put Sundance on the map and gave some “cred” to independent film.  When you think of it, what an enviable career with all the high notes of indie darling movies (sex, lies, and videotape, now Che) mainstream blockbusters (Ocean's 11 etc.) and Oscar fare (Traffic).  He has really done it all.  So much so that there should surely be something to dislike about him, some chink in his armour, but no, not to be.  In person he was very approachable and even self-effacing, and I would say a filmmaker’s filmmaker. He’s the kind of guy that would be fun to dissect movies with over a coffee.  He even joked about how he overheard two younger girls saying, “What’s on there? sex, lies, and videotape. Oh it’s a movie that was made like a million years ago.”

Well for a million year old movie it really holds up well. The acting is really good.  Peter Gallagher is such an amazing “prick” that he said, “no wonder I was one of the most hated actors in Hollywood for 10 years after the movie.”  Andie MacDowell was also fantastic in her self-admitted only good role as an actress. “How often do you get the chance to play a woman that can’t have an orgasm?”  The story is so economical and unfolds in a crisp way, each scene cutting inventively to the next. Stephen Soderbergh mentioned how “quaint and tame” the sex tape part seems now in comparison to what you can now find in two clicks. Sure there is 80’s hair and shoulder pads but maybe having no money was a good thing.  It holds up a lot better than something like Pretty in Pink and luckily there is no acid washed jeans. Steven Soderbergh. After the movie Soderbergh and cast sat on the edge of the stage casually reflecting on the movie, its impact and anecdotes. He playfully expressed disappointment that Harvey Weinstein didn’t show up though he is in Sundance.  “Its like being at a horror film without the monster.” (I don’t know if its really true but I heard sex, lies and videotape made Mirimax, so you’d think he would drop by for a wave, no?) The cast took turns talking about the amazement they felt once the movie was catapulted into public attention.  James Spader thought it was going to be the worst movie ever made.  They also went on to feed the indie filmmakers fantasy of making a movie with no money, sneaking in as a driver in Sundance and launching a meteoric career.

There is a lot of looking back this anniversary year.  With the economy people are all making note if it has the same crowds or if independent film should be considered in decline now.  Perhaps, but It’s hard to remember movie life before the influence of Sundance.  Would we have seen Hoop Dreams, The Blair Witch Project, Reservoir Dogs, Little Miss Sunshine, Napoleon Dynamite , El Mariachi, Clerks, Inconvenient Truth, and on and on? Or heard of Kevin Smith, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, Steven Soderbergh, and Jim Jarmusch?

Anyway the inauguration is now over, life moves on (thank god).  Film life also moves on and history gets forgotten but in terms of sex, lies, and videotape, I also say thank god.

Dan Sarto's picture

Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.