The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
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by Jesse Walker

Tuesday, December 03, 2002
SOLARIS 2: THE REVENGE: The first time Steven Soderbergh remade an older picture, he turned the minor classic Criss Cross into The Underneath, a watchable but far too stylized neo-noir that replaced the original movie's intensity with an almost clinical detachment. If he found a lesson in the experience, it may have been that it's usually unwise to remake a film that doesn't require much improvement.

And so he turned his attention to the rat pack's Ocean's Eleven and Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris, two very different movies with a significant feature in common: both are tedious and overlong. Last year, under Soderbergh's direction, Ocean's Eleven was transformed from a bland heist picture into a pleasantly glib piece of Hollywood entertainment. And now we have his Solaris, which takes a film weighed down with ponderous philosophizing and replaces it with something more than an hour shorter yet no less intellectually charged. If Tarkovsky were still alive, he could have learned a lot from the economy with which Soderbergh tells his tale, revealing more in a few short scenes than ever emerged from the original picture's long yet superficial speeches. Even in the one area where the first film deserves the praise it received -- its sometimes remarkable visual style -- Soderbergh has matched and perhaps outdone his predecessor. (Impressively, he shot Solaris himself, under a pseudonym.)

Having just recommended a movie, I should tack on a warning: when it comes to this filmmaker, my tastes can be pretty far removed from both critical and commercial opinion. Soderbergh's two most popular pictures -- sex, lies, and videotape and Erin Brockovich -- are the two I most firmly dislike; meanwhile, I've enjoyed such much-derided efforts as Kafka and the hilarious Schizopolis. And while there's plenty of people who share my fondness for The Limey, I may be alone in thinking it's the director's sole masterpiece.


posted by Jesse 2:22 PM
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