Monday, October 7, 2013

Positif - Soderbergh

"Today I feel really detached from filmmaking," concludes Steven Soderbergh in an exclusive interview in the newest issue of Positif (September '13, N.631). The French film-criticism magazine is famous for its lengthy Dossiers and this one, Steven Soderbergh: À 50 Ans, put together by Michel Ciment and illustrated by Christian Viviani, with its 8 articles that take up 28 pages, overwhelms with is depth and breath.

It's not only of interest to general Soderbergh fans but to cinephilies everywhere as a Dossier in Positif is the equivalent of a symbolic gesture towards the history of cinema that this is a major event: the release of Soderbergh's 28th and apparently final film Behind the Candelabra.

As Ciment writes in the Dossier's introduction,
"Soderbergh begins in the last generation of American cinema, but he is distinguished from his contemporaries Tim Burton, the Coen brothers and Quentin Tarantino by the extreme diversity of his creative choices, by giving the impression of never wanting to impose his signature, which follows in the example of other great classic filmmakers like John Huston, who he cites several times in his interviews, which we are now publishing our 11th with him in this dossier."
This September issue comes after their special Summer issue (this year on Italian Neorealism) and it includes their yearly Rentrée française Actualité where they highlight three new French films (Critique + Entretien): Emmanuelle Bercot's Elle s'en va, Arnaud Desplechin's Jimmy P., François Ozon's Jeune et jolie (last year the films were Stéphane Brizé's Quelques heures de printemps, Noémie Lvovsky's Camille redouble and Christian Vincent's Les Saveurs du palais).

The only other Événement Critique is for Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine which gets 2 essays, Franck Garbarz' L'art de détourner le regard and Eithne O'Neil's Un tramway nommé Argent, while the Actualités Critiques include: La danza de la realidad (surprisingly reviewed by Ciment, who usually just writes the Editorials), Gare du Nord, Ilo Ilo, and Moi et Toi. The other Présences du cinéma sections are up to their standard high quality, and the Le cinéma retrouvé section with reviews of Sept d'un coup, Fedora and Plein Soleil looks especially good.

But to return to the Soderbergh dossier which I will like to bring up to discuss what makes Positif particularly unique.

The review of Behind the Cadelabra is written by Jean-Loup Bourget, who is a senior Positif critic (having joined the magazine in 1971) and whose specialty is Classical Hollywood cinema (his most recent book is on Cecil B. DeMille, which is also reviewed in this issue). In his review, Narcisse à Las Vegas, Bourget provides a general biography of Liberace, contextualizing him along his pianist peers, is able to identify the film that Liberace appropriated the chandelier over the piano novelty (e.g. Charlers Vidor's A Song to Remember), and elevates the film to the level of Proust. This enthousiasm and artistic evaluation is typical of a good Positif Critique. The review's authority also comes from Bourget's reputation and that he does not contribute Critiques too often so when he does write them they stand out (his other recent review was for Before Midnight, which he compares to a Lubitsch film).

Along with the Critique and Entretien, the Soderbergh Dossier includes articles by Michael Henry on his entire career, Adrien Gombeaud on Soderbergh's post-American-economic-bubble-burst films, Fabien Gaffez on women protagonist in Soderbergh's films, Pierre Berthomieu on Soderbergh's transition to digital filmmaking, Alain Masson on the Ocean films, and Fabien Baumann reviews the DVD of Gray's Anatomy.


Unknown said...

Hello David,
it's great to have this "resume" for Positif number of september. Dossiers in this magazines are always very great, rich and presents various aspects of a filmmaker or a cinema genre. I think that you must have enjoyed Mr Bourget and Berthomieu's articles... :)
Nevertheless, I liked this number of September yet I dislike the one of October, which is a little disappointed in his choices. Positif focuses on a french film that I didn't like ("Mon ame par toi guérie", François Dupeyron), and I don't understand why it chose this movie (because it is a very bad movie, I think). In Positif, now, I prefer dossiers and articles on old movies or classiques rather than the choices in actual cinema.

David D. said...

Hey Oriane,
It's fun to resume issues of Positif to make better sense of it, and I guess to convey it in English.
The Dossiers, depending on the subject and the quality of the papers, are one of my favorite things in the magazine.
The September issue just came out on Friday here, so it will be another month before the October issue.
The Kechiche film on the cover looks good (Cahiers also gave Adele its cover).
I find Positif's taste of French cinema to be really different then mine (which is more Cahiersiste). But the thing is most of these French films never come to Canada, on the screens or even on DVD, so I focus more on their readings of Hollywood films.
Their readings of films are very literal (cf. Stendahl, Proust etc) which I find can be used to create very stimulating readings, but there is more to films then the purely literal qualities, which I think they rely to much on.