Movies Are My Wife

Married to the Movies — Mdino's Blog


FULL FRONTAL (2002) is one of several Steven Soderbergh digital video experiments, the most famous of which is the 2005 work BUBBLE.  The former is concerned with a lot of things, from Hollywood’s depiction of the sexuality of black men to a more severe form of fascism – as a theater group prepares a satirical low-budget play about Hitler.  But ultimately it seems to be an exploration of the relationship or conflict between art and reality.  Several of  the characters in FULL FRONTAL are actors involved in the creation of a film called RENDEZVOUS, which tells the story of a film journalist falling in love with a black movie star.  The actors who star in this film within a film (Julia Roberts is “Catherine” who portrays “Francesca”  and Blair Underwood is “Nicholas” acting the part of “Calvin”) are among the unhappy people preparing to attend a party for a movie producer (David Duchovny) who ends up committing suicide the day of the gathering.  The screenwriter of RENDEZVOUS, Carl (David Hyde Pierce) is involved in a failing marriage to Lee (Catherine Keener), a successful business woman who is having an affair with Nicholas. 

An engaging moment from RENDEZVOUS has Calvin reciting a rap poem about Hollywood’s fear of black male sexuality, and when an interracial sexual encounter between Lee and Nicholas occurs, Soderbergh shoots it in a distorted blur, implying that Americans in general are not ready for such things.  (He may be selling us short, considering the mixed racial identity of our current President). 

In FULL FRONTAL’s sharpest scene, Lee tosses around a balloon globe with her employees, demanding they name all the countries in Africa.  This presses the African/black theme further while simultaneously reminding us of Chaplin balancing that globe in THE GREAT DICTATOR.  Could Soderbergh be commenting on what he feels are the fascistic aspects of big business?   Another Hitler knock off (Nicky Katt) amuses us in the experimental play “The Sound And The Furher”, scenes of which periodically pop up in FULL FRONTAL

The scenes of the daily interactions between all these disparate characters are cunningly shot on home digital video, while the scenes from RENDEZVOUS are filmed on glossy 35 millimeter film stock.  The glamorous Hollywood images are contrasted with the drab reality of everyday life as depicted in the digital footage.  However, even those “realistic”  images, as the last shot of the film reminds us, turn out to be artifice: The creations of  skilled story tellers – director Soderbergh and screenwriter Coleman Hough.  Film (and video by inference) is fake, in spight of or perhaps because of  the efforts put into its presentation.  FULL FRONTAL is ostensibly a piece of cinema verite, but the director (as he had planned all along) eventually throws up his hands implying that capturing reality on film or video is impossible.  And what about the reality of Soderbergh’s pronouncements on race and big business?

Directed by Steven Soderbergh.  Written by Coleman Hough.  Director of Photography: Peter Andrews.  With David Duchovny, David Hyde Pierce, Catherine Keener, Julia Roberts, Blair Underwood and Nicky Katt


June 10, 2012 - Posted by | American Film, film directors, independent film | , , , , , ,

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