Tinseltown loses its sheen for disillusioned director

George Clooney in Out of SightGeorge Clooney in Out of Sight
George Clooney in Out of Sight
Nick Cave calls it “dog work”. Steven Soderbergh goes further, describing today’s Hollywood and the people that run it as “absolutely horrible”.

Now Soderbergh has apparently concluded his long goodbye – he announced he was quitting movies three years ago – by apparently lining up his new film, Side Effects, as his last.

Meanwhile rocker-turned-screenwriter Nick Cave has intimated that he has lost his fascination with penning scripts after suffering death by committee over his most recent outing, the Prohibition era thriller Lawless.

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Soderbergh and Cave each have their supporters and detractors. The former, now 50, was just 26 when his debut sex, lies and videotape grabbed the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1989.

There followed a period in the wilderness when his indie follow-ups failed to generate any heat. Then he made Out of Sight and enjoyed a career resurrection.

He also turned George Clooney from a handsome TV face into a bona fide movie star.

Soderbergh’s instant hit gave him tremendous cachet and he enjoyed vacillating between big-budget studio fare like Ocean’s Eleven and funky little gems like The Limey, arguably his best film.

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But clearly he has been beaten down by a business that seemingly seeks only the next mega smash. He laments the loss of respect for filmmakers who make good movies, claiming they are being sidelined in favour of filmmakers who make films that make money.

“I just don’t think movies matter that much any more, culturally,” he is quoted as saying.

Nick Cave segued into films in 1988 with Ghosts… of the Civil Dead – the first of his three collaborations with fellow Antipodean John Hillcoat. Their best work was on 2006’s The Proposition, a wild and violent portrait of life in 1890s Australia.

Working with Hillcoat on Lawless was a wake-up call the 56-year-old neither expected nor wanted. He provided multiple rewrites for a studio that took his script far from his original concept. He remains dissatisfied with the result, refers to the process of writing as “bottom feeding” and is clearly irked that his vision is inked onto the page not for him but for someone else. 
He hates taking the dollar. 
It’s not fun anymore. He can do it without breaking a sweat. But there’s a faceless 
someone out there making him twist his creation into something else.

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There’s a line in a Tom Hanks film: “when that thing you love becomes that thing you do.” It sounds as if for Soderbergh and Cave that thing they loved has become corrupted and bent out of shape. Like them or loathe them, these two believe in what they do. Intelligent cinema – it’s a rare concept.

So, what’s next? Will Soderbergh really kill off his ongoing partnership with George Clooney? Will he slink off to lick his wounds before returning with another crossover indie/mainstream stunner à la Out of Sight? Or has he had his fill of dead-eyed suits who awaken only when they scent hard cash?

Has Cave shot himself in the foot with his brutal candour? And, if so, does he actually care? I doubt it.