Thursday, February 19, 2009

Track talk

I recently discovered the AV Club's "New Cult Canon" series, a weekly essay on a film that should be in your collection. Last week's piece recalls the classic Lem Dobbs-Steven Soderbergh duel on the commentary track of The Limey, an often hilarious Master Class on what happens to a film from script to editing room.

From that opening salvo, Dobbs and Soderbergh scrap pointedly about The Limey’s evolution from a violent B-movie written by a 19-year-old (“the stupid version,” Dobbs calls it) to a shooting script with richer backstories and character detail to the stripped-down, achronological, semi-experimental daylight noir that Soderbergh created. At bottom, Dobbs respects the choices that Soderbergh made, and the two have fun teasing each other over issues minor and major, but the discord is genuine, too. Dobbs snipes at critics (like “that motherfucker in Variety”) who failed to give him credit where it was due, challenges Soderbergh over the ruthless pruning of his script, and even laments scenes that were filmed exactly as written, but didn’t come out like he’d imagined. At a certain point, Soderbergh can only sigh and ask, “When are you going to direct?”

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