Steven Soderbergh's hypnotic black and white version of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" is a fun way to appreciate a classic's craftsmanship.
Steven Soderbergh has been one of the most troubled and future-oriented artists in modern American cinema for the entire duration of his career (and short-term retirement) "Sex, Lies & Videotape" and only to penetrate deeper into the avant-garde from there. When the film industry started flirting with daily news, Soderbergh was at the forefront. When iPhones became usable professional film cameras, Soderbergh relieved himself of the Hollywood apparatus like an itchy little child who took off his suit on Sunday after church. And when a pandemic brought the world to a standstill, it turned out that Soderbergh had made the final film around 2020 almost 10 years earlier with "Contagion". Good or bad, the agile indie deity was ahead of the curve.
And yet You never get the feeling that he is more interested in breaking shit than making the films better, and that the business around them is less willing to compromise. It's the difference between "mosaicAnd Quibi. Ultimately, Soderbergh loves cinema with an Erin Brockovich-like passion, and he just wants to cut through the noise that can make it difficult for art to get through.
Usually this means treading a new path into the future. But every now and then – perhaps during this endless, sartre-like long night of the soul between finishing one film's post-production and beginning another's pre-production the next morning – Soderbergh is forced to look in the rear-view mirror and show people why he was obsessed with films at all.
This brings us to Soderbergh's "Raiders", his 2014 recut of "Raiders of the Lost Ark", which derives the full color from Steven Spielberg's whip-cracking adventure classic and replaces his sound with a thick, chaotic and deliberately obstructive Wall by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross Tracks from "The Social Network" and "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo". Remember that he is not trying to improve Indiana Jones' legendary debut. This is not the time when he has gathered a 108 minute "Butcher & # 39; s Cut" from "Heaven & # 39; s Gate" to turn Michael Cimino's epic fiasco into something tastier. It's not even like him seamlessly edited Gus van Sant & # 39; s shot-for-shot remake of "Psycho" in the original;; This experiment had an additive character, while "Raiders" is about removing Spielberg's upholstery so that you can see the incredible craftsmanship underneath.
The main thing Soderbergh wants to show people with new eyes is Spielberg's flawless mastery of the cinematic space. Like one cool Soderbergh, a college film professor who (right?) Insisted that you learn as much about editing from Tony Scott as he did from Sergei Eisenstein, slips into a tweed blazer and transforms the top-earning movie from 1981 into a hypnotic master class of movement and time. "I want you to see this film and just think about the staging, how the recordings are structured and arranged, how the patterns are," wrote Soderbergh alongside his contribution about the editing. "See if you can reproduce the thought process that led to these decisions."
"Raiders" certainly makes it easier to try. The fractal beeps and bloops that Fincher commissioned for "The Social Network" are so obvious not correct For the soundtrack from the moment the film begins, it separates the relationship between sound and image and separates every aspect of the film into its own discrete element. You will wince at the title card "John Williams Music", but this madness has a method. And then there's the lack of color that enhances the contrasts in Douglas Slocombe's brilliant cinematography and turns every shadow into a signal where it should look, like a glowing flaw in a video game boss fight.
The effect is quite extreme, even for those of us who have always gotten drunk with the kinetic grace of Spielberg's direction. The famous opening sequence of Indy's first adventure, stripped of its expositional usefulness, suddenly draws new (or at least far more pronounced) attention to repentance Move of everything – to the sheer unreality of how Spielberg shoots himself into this story.
The New Hollywood prodigy was brought up in a way that taught him to look at the world through the lens of a camera, and of course he gives the most basic information about how to better contextualize his characters. In a Spielberg film, everything you see (and how you can see it) exists for a single purpose because it can be different from what it is in real life. When Indy and Satipo pause in the foreground of a shot and consider how they can grab the glittering idol from the other side of the chamber, the small golden statue can be seen in the space between them, which seduces them both in soft focus and in anticipation of the conflict get. When Indy gets up, the forced perspective of Spielberg's framing looks like the archaeologist's hand is eagerly hovering over the treasure.
It's a bit fraudulent that almost everyone who sees "Raiders" comes with a working knowledge of the source material, but it's still remarkable to see how clear and articulate the film's prologue is without a word of dialogue. The camera shows you everything you need to know about Indy and Satipo. Your jokes are really just a bunch of tasty dressings. In fact, the silent cinema purity of Spielberg's direction only becomes clearer when someone starts to flutter his gums in black and white without a voice. Harrison Ford isn't really known for being overly expressive, but his panicked reaction to the snake on his plane would feel at home in a Harold Lloyd comedy.
Shortly thereafter, the film's longest dialogue scene follows when army officials drop by Marshall College to tell Indy about some bad Nazi hijinks. It is the rare spread of "Raiders" that is narratively incomprehensible without dialogue – and which has been converted into any recognizable shot / reverse shot pattern – and yet Soderbergh's version emphasizes the simple ways in which Spielberg tensions between Indy and its visitors from the government. The academic stands and the agents sit. Indy looks down on her from his ivory tower, and the soldiers look at him from her place in the gutters of government work. The shots become narrower as the urgency increases, and everyone meets in the middle and gathers around the table between them when the conversation becomes biblical. You know that something is serious when archaeologists and Army officials are also concerned about this.
It is a scene about Nazi magicians that was blocked and cut like a sequence from "Citizen Kane" and sprinkled for a good degree with playful playfulness. Not only does this sequence seem to have been torn from a Fritz Lang film, but Soderbergh's version emphasizes how Spielberg uses motion to fill even the smallest action sequence in the film with the kinetic energy of its climax.
You can see it at the point where Indy asks Marion to give him a glass bottle while Spielberg waves between the two characters and the prop to create the spatial relationship between them and to give a simple gesture breathless tension. You can see it by the way the line of fire blazes across the bar, making it feel like Indy was out of the way in time. And you can definitely see it in the setting that starts with Indy, who shoots shadows outside the screen, watches him leave the frame to the right, and then follows the evil as he runs to the left and hides behind a burning table. Such a fluid staging not only enables us to keep track of where everyone is in relation to each other, but also emphasizes the well-choreographed chaos in which they are all trapped together.
Spielberg composes each shot as if it were a celebration full of opportunities for what films can do. Whether it's the crane shot that falls on Indy and his rocket launcher on the top of the ridge, or the piece our hero’s eyes pop out after seeing Nazis on his tail in the rearview mirror (a gag like that it is good that Spielberg even used it again) greater effect in the "Jurassic Park"), the whole picture is designed for the joy of his movement.
There's no denying that Soderbergh's geeky experiment has a hint of "you should see this at film school or not at all." But the longer you stick with it, the more hypnotic it gets. Accept the terms of Soderbergh's experiment and you will be rewarded with a love letter to an invaluable Hollywood artefact arranged with the musicality of a Beethoven symphony. "Raiders" effectively opens the hood of a movie you've watched a million times to show you why you should watch a million more.
"Raiders" is streamed for free on extension 765.