Streaming: Soderbergh’s slam-dunk undertake racism in US sport
It’s Three decades since Steven Soderbergh unveiled his debut film, Sex, Lies, and Videotape, at Sundance, starting with win the Palme d’Or at Cannes and changing a dark tone of yankee independent cinema in the process. To this day, a huge clutch within the offbeat indies unveiled at Sundance owe something for that film’s scratchy, scrappy, on-a-shoestring confessional comedy – additionally, the comparison isn’t going to usually flatter them. (If you have ever forgotten its grungy power, it’s readily accessible online.)
Twenty-seven films, many much loftier budgets and something Oscar later, Soderbergh was extremely popular snows of Park City last month – not for Sundance, in reality, but Slamdance, the Utah festival’s simultaneous, lower-profile sister event. If this appears like a strangely off-the-radar destination to premiere his excellent new film High Flying Bird, that’s style of the time. Soderbergh’s relationship for the mainstream film industry has become an ambivalent one ever since he announced his retirement from big-screen film-making in 2019.
The announcement was premature: we’ve since had his films Logan Lucky and Unsane in cinemas. But the director has somewhat stuck to his guns by embracing the possibilities of Netflix distribution: days after its pointedly quiet festival debut, High Flying Bird is now open to stream.
It’s essential, too. Soderbergh’s liveliest, most big-thinking work since Magic Mike, it’s a quick, zingy, all-business sports drama that plays like Jerry Maguire with twin degrees in economics and sociology. Written by playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney (fresh from his Oscar for Moonlight), it stars superb Andr Holland as Ray, a wily, up-against-it sports agent who tasks himself with ending a stalemate labour dispute during the Nba, challenging the league’s gatekeepers and power-players en route.
If that sounds slightly niche, feel comfortable knowing that no NBA knowledge or enthusiasm is necessary to take pleasure in the ricocheting plot that ensues, as you move the fractious racial politics within a sport largely reliant on black athletic talent, but controlled by white fatcat executives comes spikily to the fore. Such as Bennett Miller’s Moneyball, probably the most compelling gamesmanship here’s happening out of the arena.
Soderbergh shoots all this with candid, agitated energy on an iPhone. This is the second time he’s tried the technology, and delay to crisper, more limber effect compared with last year’s deliberately grimy thriller, Unsane.
In taking his iPhone-shot film to Netflix, then, Soderbergh does his wise to redesign the form of cinema at their production and exhibition stages. As some film-makers cling romantically to film over digital, giant screen over small, the director who winkingly promoted it is likely that video within the earliest film – and confounded Hollywood by shooting his 2005 miniature Bubble on HD, before which had been standard – continues to looking to stay ahead of the experience.
By adjusting to make films that play naturally on tiny formats, which includes because that’s the way they were shot first of all, Soderbergh may yet function as the quintessential Netflix auteur. He already has another, bigger project, the Meryl Streep-Gary Oldman political drama The Laundromat, set up while using the streaming giant. In the meantime, High Flying Bird finds him fully in control of his shifting medium.
New to streaming and DVD this week
A Star Is Born
(Warner Bros, 15)
Bradley Cooper’s stout-hearted accept a classic Hollywood chestnut soars for their first half. He and Lady Gaga’s all-in performances look at it through the rougher second.
(Curzon Artificial Eye, 15)
Chilean director Sebastin Lelio films Naomi Alderman’s novel of repressed lesbian desire in north London’s Jewish enclave with elegance and empathy.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Fortuitously timed, with Boy Erased now in cinemas, Desiree Akhavan’s Sundance winner gives a wry, delicate female perspective on gay conversion therapy.
Gaspar No’s latest doesn’t shock in the way of his most abrasive work, however vertigo-inducing night during the collective lifetime of an LSD-crazed dance troupe may be a memorable trip.
Also going from Sundance to Netflix, Dan Gilroy’s flashy mixture of art-scene satire and slasher film has a amusing Jake Gyllenhaal turn, but is a step down for both from Nightcrawler.