The Soderbergh Experience

From July 4 through August 6, the Gene Siskel Film Center presents The Soderbergh Experience, five films highlighting the prolific career of one of Hollywood’s most versatile and respected directors.

Steven Soderbergh came to the attention of critics and audiences with his breakout hit, 1989’s SEX, LIES, AND VIDEOTAPE. For most of the 1990s, Soderbergh continued on the indie path with such unpredictably diverse works as the Depression-era coming-of-age drama KING OF THE HILL (which we show in this series), the surreal biopic KAFKA (1991), and the relentlessly odd comedy SCHIZOPOLIS (1996). In 1998, he branched out into the mainstream, taking on Elmore Leonard’s OUT OF SIGHT (also in the series), and he solidified his status as an A-list director in 2000 with the smash hits ERIN BROCKOVICH and TRAFFIC, whose numerous honors included an Oscar for Soderbergh as Best Director for TRAFFIC.

Throughout his career, Soderbergh has continued to innovate and surprise. He seamlessly shifts back and forth between mainstream Hollywood (the immensely popular OCEAN’S films), art-house indie, and sometimes in between (2002’s SOLARIS and 2006’s THE GOOD GERMAN). Since TRAFFIC, he has handled the cinematography for all of his films (using the pseudonym Peter Andrews). He has also become a prolific producer, collaborating with George Clooney on such projects as the HBO political series “K-Street” and two of the star’s biggest critical successes, SYRIANA (2005) and MICHAEL CLAYTON (2007).

We round out this series with three of Soderbergh’s most recent efforts, 2006’s haunting BUBBLE, last year’s epic CHE, and his most recent stunner, the uncomfortably poignant THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE, all of which highlight both his willingness to experiment and his craft as a filmmaker. We hope this midsummer sampling will give you a taste of The Soderbergh Experience.

-- Christopher Sanew

Soderbergh double-bill discount!
Buy a ticket at our regular prices for the first Soderbergh film on July 18, August 1, or August 5, and get a ticket for the second Soderbergh film that day at this discount rate (tickets must be purchased at the same time): General Admission $7; Students $5; Members $4. (This discount rate applies to the second film only.)

2008, Steven Soderbergh, USA, 257 min.
With Benicio del Toro, Franka Potente, Catalina Sandino Moreno

“CHE is Soderbergh’s most interesting film in years, defiantly eccentric and absorbing.”--Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

“CHE surely deserves the overworked, frequently misapplied name of epic...Soderbergh once again offers a master class in filmmaking.”--A.O. Scott, The New York Times

“At its best, CHE is both action film and ongoing argument…the two parts are best seen together.”--J. Hoberman, Village Voice

Soderbergh’s biopic of Marxist revolutionary and countercultural icon Ernesto “Che” Guevara was conceived in two separate parts, shot back-to-back and applying a distinct visual identity to each part. Part One, “The Argentine,” details Che’s rise to lynchpin leader of Castro’s Cuban Revolution. Soderbergh envisioned the first part as “a Hollywood movie,” and he delivers gorgeous widescreen images along with several exhilarating action set pieces. Part Two, “Guerilla,” chronicles Guevara’s fall and capture in the Bolivian jungle and, true to its title, was shot digitally utilizing only handheld shots or simple camera setups. Holding everything together is del Toro (winner of the Best Actor award at Cannes), who captures Guevara’s military cunning, humanity, determination, and even madness, in a performance that encompasses both the man and the legend. 35mm. (CS)

CHE was released in a Roadshow Edition, combining both parts into a single film, for a limited run before its conventional release as two separate films. The Film Center is pleased to present CHE in this version, as it was originally meant to be seen. A special collectible program booklet will be given to all audience members.

There will be a 15-minute intermission.

Special prices for CHE (ROADSHOW EDITION)
General Admission $17; Students $14; Members $10
Note: No free passes or blue tickets will be valid for this event.

Saturday, July 4, 3:00 pm
Monday, July 6, 3:00 pm
Wednesday, July 8, 6:15 pm

1993, Steven Soderbergh, USA, 103 min.
With Jesse Bradford, Jeroen KrabbŽ

“A lovely piece of work...its portrait of life during the Depression is pungent and wholly believable.”--Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

One of Soderbergh’s finest and most neglected films, KING OF THE HILL tells of a 12-year-old boy left to fend for himself in the harsh world of 1933 St. Louis. Adapted from A.E. Hotchner’s memoir, the film’s depiction of the Depression era is filled with vivid details and superb, offbeat supporting turns by the likes of Spalding Gray, Elizabeth McGovern, Lisa Eichhorn, Karen Allen, and young Adrien Brody. 35mm widescreen. (MR)

Saturday, July 18, 3:00 pm
Monday, July 20, 6:00 pm

1998, Steven Soderbergh, USA, 123 min.
With George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez, Don Cheadle

“It’s a nice mix, an elegantly smoky and dangerous cocktail--just like the old noirs, but in a more modern, shinier glass.”--Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

Smartly written, intricately structured, and sophisticatedly sexy, this adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s novel was a late entry in the post-PULP FICTION neo-noir craze, but, as Roger Ebert noted, “It is the first film to build on the enormously influential PULP FICTION instead of simply mimicking it.” When bank robber Clooney escapes from jail with the help of a friend (Ving Rhames), they end up taking a U.S. Marshal (Lopez) hostage. Inevitably, sparks fly, and, once released, she’s hot on his trail again as he plans his next job--only partly for professional reasons. 35mm. (CS)

Saturday, July 18, 5:00 pm
Wednesday, July 22, 6:00 pm

2006, Steven Soderbergh, USA, 73 min.
With Debbie Doebereiner, Dustin James Ashley

“Everything about the film--its casting, its filming, its release--is daring and innovative.”--Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

“The best thing Soderbergh’s done in years.”--Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

Ever the chameleon, Soderbergh followed up his big-budget OCEAN’S TWELVE with this shot-on-HD indie using a cast of unknown and non-professional actors. He further pushed the envelope by releasing the film simultaneously in theaters, pay TV, and digital on-demand. Beautifully shot, this surprisingly chilling tale of obsession, jealousy, and murder involves workers at a plastic manufacturing plant in the heart of the rust belt. 35mm widescreen. (CS)

Saturday, August 1, 6:15 pm
Wednesday, August 5, 7:15 pm

2009, Steven Soderbergh, USA, 78 min.
With Sasha Grey, Chris Santos

“[Grade:] A ...A mysterious and arresting look at how the culture of money turns love and desire into something you want to control.”--Owen Gleiberman, EW

“**** ...This film is true about human nature. It clearly sees needs and desires.”--Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

In his latest DV indie project, Soderbergh taps directly into the vein of our current fear and loathing as we follow Chelsea, a $2000-an-hour escort (played by adult-film star Grey) as she visits clients in the weeks leading up to the 2008 Presidential Election amid the dawning days of the financial meltdown. Soderbergh really twists the knife--in a telling scene, a wealthy client watches Chelsea undress as he frets he may lose everything in one breath and then advises her to invest her earnings in gold in the next. 35mm widescreen. (CS)

Friday, July 31, 8:00 pm
Saturday, August 1, 4:30 pm
Wednesday, August 5, 8:45 pm
Thursday, August 6, 6:00 pm