Monday, September 22, 2003

you tell him, you tell him I'm coming ... tell I'm f*****g coming

As Wilson, Terence Stamp defines the essence of the revenge drama/throwback to the 60s anti-establishment spirit that is The Limey. Steven Soderbergh scores again. Playing with film convention and lore he effectively turns a Lem Dobbs screenplay about a vengeful father into a watchable melange of homage (the anti-establishment sentiment of the 60s and 70s), reused iconography (Easy Rider Peter Fonda, The Vanishing Point Barry Newman and Billy Budd Terence Stamp, along with a cast who "brought their own 60s baggage" including Lesley Ann Warren), and prismatic filmmaking. Soderbergh splices together fragments from different portions of the narrative's linear spectrum and wonderfully depicts the subjectiveness of memory. The best examples of this style are:
(a) Wilson talks to Elaine (Warren) about his past. What we see are snatches from three different places: a restaurant, a pier and Elaine's home. Soderbergh shot the same scene at all three locations (allowing the actors to explore the different dynamics of the space) and then, in the editing room, spliced together portions from each of them to give us a fine example of the fuzziness of memory (you might remember what was said, but it's always hard to remember who said what when)
(b) Soderbergh pieces together different shots featuring Fonda from the rest of the film to create an introduction to Terry Valentine, when we see him for the first time in the film
(c) The film begins with words that occur at the very end -- we also see (with cool simple titles running in the foreground) Wilson on a journey. It is only towards the end of the film, that we realize that the whole film has been one big memory flashback -- and the editing no longer seems haphazard. Everything makes sense. Mostly. For another cool mainstream experiment with time and memory, see Memento.

Not to forget the great intercutting of footage from Ken Loach's directorial dé Poor Cow to serve as flashes from Wilson's past in his introspective moments.

Great colours. Nice background score by Cliff Martinez, enhanced with the songs used on the soundtrack (including a different Steppenwolf song when Terry Valetine (Fonda) is driving a car -- remember Born to be Wild from Easy Rider?)

Other Soderberghia include rhyming Cockney slang (see also: Ocean's Eleven) {especially the priceless "butcher's hook" -- usage: Take a butcher's hook around = Take a look around (hook, look, get it?)}

Don't miss the special features: especially the technical specifications and the two commentary tracks (one has Soderbergh and Dobbs abusing each other -- quite typical if you've heard other Soderbergh commentaries; the other is a "60s docu-commentary" featuring Dobbs, Stamp, Fonda, Warren, Soderbergh and extracts of an RFK address). The director/screenwriter commentary track also augments itself with audio echoes and refrains -- cute.

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