Director Steven Soderbergh has reiterated his intention to quit the film industry after his next feature. The Oscar winner made a similar threat back in 2011.
Now, in an interview with New York magazine, Soderbergh revealed that Side Effects will be his last theatrical release and blamed the poor treatment of directors and in particular the influence of financial backers, as the reason behind his decision.
He said: “The worst development in filmmaking – particularly in the last five years – is how badly directors are treated. It’s become absolutely horrible the way the people with the money decide they can fart in the kitchen, to put it bluntly.
“It’s not just studios – it’s who is financing a film. I guess I don’t understand the assumption that the director is presumptively wrong about what the audience wants or needs when they are the first audience, in a way. And probably got into making movies because of being in that audience.”
The 50-year-old Traffic director then pointed to the 1970s, which is widely regarded as a high point in American cinema, as a time when the director was king.
He said: “It’s true that when I was growing up, there was a sort of division: respect was accorded to people who made great movies and to people who made movies that made a lot of money.
“And that division just doesn’t exist any more: now it’s just the people who make a lot of money. I think there are many reasons for that.
“Some of them are cultural. I’ve said before, I think that the audience for the kinds of movies I grew up liking has migrated to television. The format really allows for the narrow and deep approach that I like. Three and a half million people watching a show on cable is a success. That many people seeing a movie is not a success. I just don’t think movies matter as much any more, culturally.”
Of course, Soderbergh is right to lament the dumbing down of mainstream cinema. During the 1970s, art house directors would cut their teeth with smaller budgets and were then rewarded with massive budgets and artistic freedom. Most notably, Paramount Pictures and producer Robert Evans made a string of high brow hits such as Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown and The Godfather 1 & 2.
Soderbergh himself burst onto the art house scene with Sex, lies and Videotape (1989) winning the Palme d’Or, heralding a new era of American film makers. However, aside from Quentin Tarantino , who rather fortuitously carved out his own niche in popular culture, very few of the art house house film makers from the 1990s have been rewarded with the kind of big budget artistic freedom that their predecessors enjoyed.
Soderbergh’s versatility and genius has never been in doubt, however, despite this, he still has projects re-buffed by studios.
Recently, his Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra , starring Matt Damon and Michael Douglas, was deemed ‘too gay’ by studio bosses, leaving TV network HBO to pick it up instead. Can you imagine a studio saying that to Stanley Kubrick 30-years ago?
Now that the director has worked with HBO it would seem likely that his future will lie in creating television of the highest quality, rather than cinema that has been compromised from start to finish.