Steven Soderbergh is a mad genius. From SEX, LIES, AND VIDEOTAPE, to a five-hour biopic of Ché Guevara, to a remake of SOLARIS, to MAGIC MIKE, to the OCEAN’S trilogy (of which the middle film, OCEAN’S TWELVE, is an all-time favorite of mine, but that’s for another piece), his career has been marked by both his choice of subjects as well as technical presentation. Often pulling double or triple duty as editor and/or cinematographer in addition to his directorial responsibilities, Soderbergh has been one of the most visible advocates for digital cinema, shooting almost exclusively digitally since 2005’s BUBBLE, while also filming CHE with then-prototype Red One cameras.
The huge digression aside, Soderbergh is the business, and his involvement in anything will pique my interest. This week, he released, via his personal website (where you can also purchase a Bolivian liquor he’s helped import into the country), a version of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK as a silent film, also drained of its color, in order to study staging and composition. With a different soundtrack also laid over the film (mostly from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ score to THE SOCIAL NETWORK), it’s interesting to see how much RAIDERS works even without any of its dialogue or iconic John Williams score.
So I want you to watch this movie and think only about staging, how the shots are built and laid out, what the rules of movement are, what the cutting patterns are. See if you can reproduce the thought process that resulted in these choices by asking yourself: why was each shot—whether short or long—held for that exact length of time and placed in that order? Sounds like fun, right? It actually is. To me. Oh, and I’ve removed all sound and color from the film, apart from a score designed to aid you in your quest to just study the visual staging aspect. Wait, WHAT? HOW COULD YOU DO THIS? Well, I’m not saying I’m like, ALLOWED to do this, I’m just saying this is what I do when I try to learn about staging, and this filmmaker forgot more about staging by the time he made his first feature than I know to this day (for example, no matter how fast the cuts come, you always know exactly where you are—that’s high level visual math shit).
See the film on Soderbergh’s site. (Extension 765)