Sony Pixel Power calrec Sony

How sex, lies and videotape Turns Our Gaze Inward

14/01/2024

By Shahnaz Mahmud

Thirty-five years ago, Steven Soderbergh debuted his feature film sex, lies and videotape at the Sundance Film Festival, forever changing the filmmaking landscape. At its core, the film demonstrates that there's immense power in creating art that is deeply personal, especially as a means of self reflection. Sex, lies and videotape is timeless because it reaches people on a very human level. It still asks viewers to hold a mirror up to how we conduct relationships with other people - and ourselves.

Set in Baton Rouge, Louisiana., the film follows Ann, (Andie MacDowell) who feels the growing distance in her marriage, both emotionally and physically. In fact, Ann tells her therapist that she feels sick at the very thought of John (Peter Gallagher), her husband, touching her. The divide between husband and wife becomes evident when Ann learns Graham, an old college pal of John's, will be staying with them for a short spell. Graham (James Spader) shows up on their doorstep one day with plans having already been set - unbeknownst to her.

Certain cliches run through the narrative which manage to work to Soderbergh's desired effect. John is having an affair with Ann's sister Cynthia (Laura San Giacomo). Added to that: he's a bit of a smarmy lawyer. And it's pretty much a given that Ann and Graham will inevitably end up together. But, it's the how that shocks us into submission.

Nowadays, filmmakers, particularly first-time directors, are advised to make art that in some ways serves as a prism into their own lives. It's here where the beauty of sex, lies and videotape emerges - we aren't just viewing Soderbergh's view on the world, the film connects with viewers as though we were looking at our own lives unfolding on the screen. Soderbergh himself admitted: I went through a period of my life, in my personal relationships, when I was lying. The filmmaker says he was bent on hurting the people around him. I became, he says, someone I hated. This was the foundation for Graham's character and the journey he willingly takes himself on, as seen in the film.

In 1989 Soderbergh also said that sex, lies and videotape was the sum total of what he had learned about relationships. He spoke about how after filming, he traveled to New York to re-establish contact with the woman who inspired the script. Soderbergh was able to see clearly what the film was: It's all about people who will not say what they're thinking unless they're really pushed into a corner and poked. I realized how much I was like the film, how much I'm still struggling with the distance I feel between myself and other people, and my feelings, and how difficult it still is for me to feel and not instantly analyze.

The idea of the personal story wasn't revolutionary, of course. Just look at 1971's The Summer of '42, based on the memoirs of screenwriter Herman Raucher as he recollects a summer in Nantucket, Rhode Island, when he struck up a one-sided romance with an older woman whose husband had just gone off to fight in World War II. George Lucas' 1973 coming-of-age drama American Graffiti, is entirely based on his teen years cruising around his hometown of Modesto, California, in the early 1960s. Then there's Barry Levinson's 1982 film, Diner, which depicts a group of friends as they move into adulthood. Legions of personal films came before those, but these had major studio muscle behind them. Summer belonged to Warner Bros., Graffiti to Universal Pictures and Diner to MGM/United Artists. sex, lies and videotape, however, was produced by the indie company Outlaw Productions and later got distribution. Miramax landed its first hit as its distributor.

Soderbergh said the initial script poured out of him in eight days, though he'd spent a year prior jotting things down in a notebook that would culminate in the film. With life reflecting onto the page, one thing led to another in the process, he also said. The relevance of this strikes the right cord: as in life, once we start opening ourselves up to others in relationships, what's closest to the vest begins to pour out.

He filmed it in several weeks in Baton Rouge, where he called home at the time, on a budget of roughly $1.2 million. Sex, lies and videotape garnered $36.7 million at the worldwide box office.

When the film premiered at the 1989 Sundance Film Festival it won the inaugural Audience Award. It was a defining moment for the Festival, which celebrated its eleventh anniversary that year - still fairly nascent. Later in 1989, sex, lies and videotape won the Palme d'Or at Cannes, making Soderbergh, just 26, the youngest filmmaker to achieve such status. Sex, lies and videotape went on to win numerous awards and Soderbergh was nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the 1990 Academy Awards.

The film is still lauded today for its fearlessness in showing the stark truth of the filmmaker's struggles with intimacy - and in being vulnerable- to the masses. It stands the test of time as a piece of cinema that resonates with viewers who wrestle with these same issues-those that can ultimately make or break a relationship and prevent us from truly living life to the fullest.
LINK: https://www.sundance.org/blogs/how-sex-lies-and-videotape-turns-our-ga...
See more stories from sundance

More from Sundance Institute

17/04/2024

Sundance Institute Launches RFI and RFP Process to Explore Host Locations for the Sundance Film Festival in 2027 and Beyond

Opening today, the exploration is aimed at selecting a location that will preser...

16/04/2024

Give Me the Backstory: Get to Know Silje Evensmo Jacobsen, the Filmmaker Behind A New Kind of Wilderness

By Lucy Spicer One of the most exciting things about the Sundance Film Festival...

15/04/2024

The Rise and Fall of The Synanon Fix: Like Frogs Boiling Slowly in Water

(Robin Marshall/Shutterstock for Sundance Film Festival)...

12/04/2024

Mexico City Watchlist: 7 Sundance Festival Films Written by Women

[Pictured: A still from Sujo] By Stephanie Ornelas There are so many stories and layers to be told within Ciudad de M xico, Paloma Riojas says over Zoom. T...

10/04/2024

Give Me the Backstory: Get to Know David and Nathan Zellner, the Filmmakers Behind Sasquatch Sunset

By Bailey Pennick One of the most exciting things about the Sundance Film Festi...

09/04/2024

It's Only Life After All, but Indigo Girls Bring It to Life in New Documentary

By Peter Jones Amy Ray shuffles through a rack of clothing to find an unusual s...

08/04/2024

Choose Your Partners Wisely: Highlights From a Discussion With Mira Nair, Director of Mississippi Masala and Monsoon Wedding

By Stephanie Ornelas Mira Nair first aspired to be an actor, but working as a ...

05/04/2024

A Love of Movies Is the Real Star of Kim's Video

Kim's Video premiere at 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Photo by Becca Haydu By Peter Jones What goes around comes around, or at least rewinds back to the be...

04/04/2024

SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: LONDON 2024 ANNOUNCES OPENING AND CLOSING NIGHT FILMS

KNEECAP WILL OPEN THE 11TH EDITION OF THE FESTIVAL, D DI ( ) SELECTED AS CLOSING NIGHT FILM...

04/04/2024

Go, Sugar, and More Celebrate Anniversaries in April

Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck were inspired to make Sugar after reading about the rising number of Dominican athletes who go to the U.S. to play baseball....

03/04/2024

From the Collection: SLAM Reunion Is a Celebration of Freedom

Richard Stratton, Marc Levin, and Henri Kessler attend the 2023 Sundance Film Festival SLAM Premiere at Egyptian Theatre on January 22, 2023, in Park City, Ut...

02/04/2024

Sundance Film Festival CDMX 2024 by Cinpolis announces the official program for its first edition

The Sundance Film Festival CDMX 2024 will take place from April 25th to 28th at ...

01/04/2024

Release Rundown: Docs on Indigo Girls, Synanon, and Girls State Among Sundance Titles Reaching Wider Audiences in April

2023 Sundance Film Festival documentary Indigo Girls: It's Only Life After ...

29/03/2024

Give Me the Backstory: Get to Know Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss, the Filmmakers Behind Girls State

By Lucy Spicer One of the most exciting things about the Sundance Film Festival...

28/03/2024

Give Me the Backstory: Get to Know 8 Women Filmmakers With Shorts at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival

A still from Jasmin Baumgartner's Bye Bye, Bowser, which screened as part ...

27/03/2024

Inside the Archives: It's Lights, Curtains, Action When Sundance Films Become Stage Productions

By Jen Scott It's time to unwrap those noisy candies and put your phone on ...

26/03/2024

CHOOSE CHICAGO, CITY OF CHICAGO ANNOUNCE SUNDANCE INSTITUTE X CHICAGO 2024 COMING THIS SUMMER

New event championing creative independence will feature three days of screening...

25/03/2024

Give Me the Backstory: Get to Know Mel Eslyn, the Filmmaker Behind Penelope

By Bailey Pennick One of the most exciting things about the Sundance Film Festival is having a front-row seat for the bright future of independent filmmaking. ...

21/03/2024

Give Me the Backstory: Get to Know Brett Story, the Co-Director of Union

By Lucy Spicer One of the most exciting things about the Sundance Film Festival is having a front-row seat for the bright future of independent filmmaking. Whi...

19/03/2024

2025 Sundance Film Festival Taking Place January 23-February 2

PARK CITY, UTAH, March 19, 2024 - Save the date to be the first to see next year's independent films and projects that entertain, spark cultural conversatio...

13/03/2024

Give Me the Backstory: Get to Know Klaudia Reynicke, the Filmmaker Behind Reinas

By Bailey Pennick One of the most exciting things about the Sundance Film Festival is having a front-row seat for the bright future of independent filmmaking. ...

11/03/2024

Give Me the Backstory: Get to Know India Donaldson, the Filmmaker Behind Good One

By Lucy Spicer One of the most exciting things about the Sundance Film Festival...

08/03/2024

Back to the '80s: Women Documentary Filmmakers Remember the Festival's First Decade

Paula de Koenigsberg and Lucy Winer in front of a porn shop while filming Rate I...

07/03/2024

Film Festival Watch: 23 Sundance-Supported Films to See at SXSW

[Pictured: Doppelg ngers ] By Stephanie Ornelas The sun is shining, the brisket is smoking, and cinephiles are making their way to Austin, Texas, for the 202...

05/03/2024

Four Weddings and a Funeral and Sin Nombre Among Films With March Anniversaries

dgar Flores stars in Cary Joji Fukunaga's feature debut, Sin nombre, which won two awards at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival....

04/03/2024

Sundance Film Festival Asia returns to Taiwan in 2024

Submissions Now Open for the 2024 Short Film Competition supporting local artists...

01/03/2024

Inside the Archives: One Degree of Sundance Institute at the 2024 Oscars

Director Mira Nair and cinematographer Edward Lachman on the set of Mississippi Masala. Photo by Mitch Epstein...

01/03/2024

Release Rundown: What to Watch This March, From Love Lies Bleeding to Shayda

(L-R) Katy O'Brian and Kristen Stewart star in Rose Glass' thriller Love Lies Bleeding, which premiered in the Midnight section at the 2024 Sundance F...

29/02/2024

Cinpolis and Sundance Institute partner to launch the first edition of the Sundance Film Festival CDMX

Sundance Film Festival CDMX 2024 will take place from April 25th to 28th in Cin ...

29/02/2024

Film Festival Watch: Catch These 10 Sundance-Supported Docs at True/False Film Fest

By Stephanie Ornelas One of the rewards of being part of a filmmaker's jou...

29/02/2024

Give Me the Backstory: Get to Know Angela Patton and Natalie Rae, the Co-Directors of Daughters

By Lucy Spicer One of the most exciting things about the Sundance Film Festival...

28/02/2024

Give Me the Backstory: Get to Know 6 Black Filmmakers With Shorts at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival

A still from Tajana Tokyo's Salone Love, which screened as part of Short F...

27/02/2024

Give Me the Backstory: Get to Know J.M. Harper, the Director of As We Speak

By Bailey Pennick One of the most exciting things about the Sundance Film Festival is having a front-row seat for the bright future of independent filmmaking. ...

26/02/2024

Past Lives Wins Big as Sundance Institute Projects Are Honored at the 2024 Spirit Awards

The vibe inside the big white tent of the 2024 Film Independent Spirit Awards wa...

26/02/2024

More Life: An Appreciation of Steve Buscemi in Parting Glances

Parting Glances. 1986. USA. Written and Directed by Bill Sherwood. Courtesy First Run Features...

23/02/2024

5 Takeaways From a Sundance Collab Conversation With Alexander Payne, Director of The Holdovers

By Stephanie Ornelas Alexander Payne has deep roots with Sundance Institute, h...

22/02/2024

Sundance Institute Announces 2024 Momentum Fellows

PARK CITY, UTAH, February 22, 2024 - Today the nonprofit Sundance Institute announced eight storytellers selected for the 2024 Momentum Fellowship. Now in its s...

16/02/2024

Give Me the Backstory: Get to Know Nzingha Stewart and Keyonna Taylor, the Director and Co-Writer of Me/We

By Lucy Spicer One of the most exciting things about the Sundance Film Festival...

15/02/2024

Film Festival Watch: 12 Sundance-Supported Films Screening at the 2024 Berlin Film Festival

By Stephanie Ornelas If your film is ready for Sundance, that means you'r...

14/02/2024

Give Me the Backstory: Get to Know Titus Kaphar, the Filmmaker Behind Exhibiting Forgiveness

By Bailey Pennick One of the most exciting things about the Sundance Film Festi...

13/02/2024

Hard Eight, Velvet Buzzsaw, and More Celebrate Anniversaries in February

Rene Russo and Jake Gyllenhaal star in Dan Gilroy's darkly comic Velvet Buzzsaw....

12/02/2024

Give Me the Backstory: Get to Know Dawn Porter, the Filmmaker Behind Luther: Never Too Much

By Lucy Spicer One of the most exciting things about the Sundance Film Festival...

09/02/2024

Release Rundown: What to Watch in February, From Drift to God Save Texas

Cynthia Erivo is mesmerizing as Jacqueline, the lead character in Anthony Chen's film Drift....

08/02/2024

You Have to Feel Safe to Fail: Quotes From a Conversation With Emerald Fennell, the Writer-Director of Saltburn

By Lucy Spicer From what she jokingly describes as a hostile hotel room in Lo...

07/02/2024

Give Me the Backstory: Get to Know Kobi Libii, the Filmmaker Behind The American Society of Magical Negroes

By Bailey Pennick One of the most exciting things about the Sundance Film Festi...

26/01/2024

2024 Sundance Film Festival Announces Award Winners

Grand Jury Prizes Go To In The Summers (U.S. Dramatic Competition), Porcelain War (U.S. Documentary Competition), A New Kind of Wilderness (World Cinema Documen...

24/01/2024

2024 Sundance Film Festival Announces Short Film Award Winners

PARK CITY, UTAH, January 23, 2024 - Tonight at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival the short film jury awards were announced during the Shorts Awards Party presente...

23/01/2024

Past Lives, The Eternal Memory, and 20 Days in Mariupol Are Nominated for Oscars

As we continue to dig into the best of what's next at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival, it's always nice to be reminded of our storied past and the incre...