Saturday, May 31, 2014

Indie Review: Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989)


                They said Pulp Fiction was a game-changer for independent cinema, mainly because of how director Tarantino was able to allow independent filmmaking to cross over to the mainstream. But back in 1989, there was one small film that came out which was said to be a game-changer for indie cinema in general. That film was called sex, lies, and videotape by Steven Soderbergh.

             sex, lies, and videotape follows a sexually repressed woman named Anne (Andie McDowell) whose husband John (Peter Gallagher) is having an affair with her sister Cynthia (Laura San Giacomo). John's old friend Graham (James Spader) then enters the picture and he has a rather unnatural interest in filming women while they discuss their sexual experiences.

             What I Liked About It:
          First off, I really liked the film's premise. I liked the whole idea of a man getting pleasure in listening to women discuss their sexual experiences while avoiding emotional attachment. Normally people actually have sex to avoid attachment but the idea of "getting off" by watching the point of view of other people explaining how they "get off" is very interesting and the way Soderbergh handles that idea is very believable. Plus, the different characters that he creates are very interesting. Anne and Cynthia are like the yin to each other's yang as Anne is more restrained and stiff, while Cynthia is much more sultry. Graham is the stranger that is rather enigmatic and makes the women in the film weary yet drawn to him, while John is the lecherous husband caught in the middle. The ways the actors portray each character are also something to behold as they all bring in their A-game. They also bring in their dramatic A-game in a rather subtle way which is nice because I usually prefer performances that are subtle and unassuming.

          I also liked the way Soderbergh directed this film. I'm not quite sure to explain his process, but I'll do my best. He doesn't use any special color schemes or shoot it with a grainy look to make it look too realistic. But I noticed one possible motif when watching the film. There are a few scenes where Graham offers Cynthia and Anne iced tea when they each visit his place. Then there is one scene towards the end where Graham offers Anne water. The iced tea is like a representation of "tastiness" or the somewhat sensual relationships he forms with these women and the water symbolizes how pure Graham might become towards the end. Maybe I'm overthinking it, but that's how I saw it.

         What I Didn't Like About It:

        Overall, sex, lies, and videotape is a sultry and humanistic drama that is very much the whole package: It has brilliant writing, directing, and acting. This is one I would highly recommend and despite the fact it has the word sex in the title, (*possible spoiler alert*) it doesn't have sex throughout so no need to worry about it being too explicit. Plus, it has become an essential piece of independent filmmaking over the years.

Rating: A+

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