Thursday, October 10, 2013

Episode Fifteen: Solaris and Solaris

This week, tying in with the high-profile release of Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity, Mike and Sean take a look at one of that film's star's earlier sci-fi films, George Clooney in Solaris, directed by Sean's directorial Kryptonite Steven Soderbergh, along with an earlier adaptation of that same material by Russian auteur Andrei Tarkovsky. They also recap Sean's trip to the Vancouver International Film Festival, discuss George Clooney's career and make their picks for the Essential Film Wherein People See Dead People.

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  1. I had to chime in with complete disagreement about your guys thoughts on Solyaris and Solaris. I much prefer the Soderbergh version, it's a near masterpiece that does everything right that Tarkovsky's version did not.

    My main beef with Solyaris is that it's cold and empty, devoid of the humanity needed to explore the ideas it fails to explore. Tarkovsky deals in junior college, or dime store, philosophy. The type that dopey college kids bring up in class when they went to make their professor look stupid. Much like those kids, Tarkovsky can't go further than the idea, so he quickly tries to move onto another idea to try and hide the vacuous nature of his film. This ties into the dull visuals and pacing of the film, where Tarkovsky uses breadth to try and make up for lack of depth. He has very little to say, so he hopes that longer takes, slower pacing, and drawn out visuals will make up for the emptiness of his philosophy. It never does, and the more I write the more Solyaris downgrades in my memory. When I first watched it I thought it was pretty good, the second time I thought it was decent, I have a feeling that any future viewings will only serve to lower the film more in my mind.

    Contrast this with Soderbergh's Solaris, which is lean, visually interesting, and actually bothers to explore its ideas and human nature. Soderbergh keeps things smaller, the scope and breadth of his exploration of humanity is only through the characters we meet. By keeping things simpler Soderbergh is able to explore humanity in a much deeper fashion than Solyaris ever does. Solaris is about control, specifically the control that humanity, in the form of Clooney's character, has over their fate. The way Soderbergh films Clooney supports this, he's almost always center frame, because his fate is his own and he controls everything about himself. When he's asleep he;s off center frame, because he's not in control. The ending ties into this, because he's finally letting go and no longer in control.

    In short, Solaris is great, a film I can rewatch over anbd over again and get more out of it every time. Solyaris is a mediocre work, that only lessens with time and is as empty as most of the rest of Tarkosky's filmography.

    Oh, and I recently rewatched Batman Returns, and it's still a great film. Easily the best non-animated version of Batman that film has gotten. It's gothic fantasy that manages to work in the best elements of the 70s and 90s era Batman.

    P.S.: I do really dig the podcast, don't get me wrong there, I simply vehemently disagreed with you guys when it came to Solyaris and Solaris.

    1. Hey Bill! Thanks for commenting. Sean and I love getting feedback on the show, even when it's someone telling us we're dead wrong.

      I am intrigued by your ideas (and would like to subscribe to your newsletter) but I just can't make the connections you did with Soderbergh's version. I didn't think any of the characters in his version were fully formed human beings which is essential if I am to, as you say, "explore humanity".

      I find it interesting that you perceive the Tarkovsky as the colder film because to me that version better portrays a wide range of human emotions. It is certainly less direct than Soderbergh but feelings are abstract entities. Making them FEELINGS as Soderbergh so bluntly does just pushes me further away.

      On a different note, thanks for mentioning the animated Batman world. To me, Kevin Conroy is the quintessential Caped Crusader (and Mark Hamill is the definitive Joker.)

      Thanks for listening! Disagree with us again sometime!

  2. Clooney didn’t beat up Roseanne’s sister. That was a different Jackie boyfriend on a later season.