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geezer cinema: no sudden move (steven soderbergh, 2021)

We're up to 104 films in our weekly Geezer Cinema, going back to July of 2019, and Steven Soderbergh becomes the first director to get four movies on the list. (Earlier choices were Contagion, Logan Lucky, and Haywire.)

I've seen nine of his movies, now, and I guess you could say I like him. Toss in his TV series, The Knick, and count me impressed, even if I've never found any of his pictures superb. (In my recently-updated ranking of directors, he finished #52.)

I know more informed people than I who can recognize a Soderbergh film as soon as they start watching. I can't say the same, but only because I sometimes forget to pay attention to directorial style. I will say that I am rarely lost in a Soderbergh movie ... OK, the plot of No Sudden Move is complicated to say the least, but Soderbergh always makes sure you know where people are in a scene, a talent that is more rare than it should be. I've assumed that actors like him, because he always seems to have these amazing casts, the kind you don't get if you have a bad rep. No Sudden Move's cast includes Don Cheadle, Benicio del Toro, David Harbour, Ray Liotta, Jon Hamm, Brendan Fraser, Kieran Culkin, Noah Jupe, Julia Fox, Frankie Shaw, Bill Duke, even an uncredited Matt Damon. It must be said that there is an extreme male tilt to that list. (He did direct Julia Roberts in her Oscar-winning role, and managed to get a decent performance out of Gina Carano, a former mixed-martial artist in her first leading role.)

I watched a few interviews with the cast of No Sudden Move, and I was taken with how often they would mention the experience of having a director right there as you acted. (Soderbergh famously does his own camerawork and editing, using pseudonyms.) They all felt this helped them ... that's not something I would have thought of on my own.

There isn't anything new about No Sudden Move, but what's there is well-done. It's easy to recommend to anyone who likes noirish movies with great casts.

Finally, I have to mention this. I'm going to quote Jeffrey Wells, since he raises this issue while adding something I also found odd: few to no critics even mentioned this (link also includes images):

Soderbergh apparently used some kind of spherical wide-angled lens that occasionally delivers what looks like a 2.2:1 aspect ratio, and which compresses images on the sides.

In other words, Soderbergh doesn’t seem to be delivering a standard 2.39:1 (or 2.4:1) Scope aspect ratio but something closer to the slightly distorted cinematography seen in portions of Around The World in 80 Days — i.e., portions that used a spherical bug-eye lens.

The No Sudden Move visuals also struck me as similar to the distinctive framings that were seen in Alfonso Gomez-Rejon‘s The Current War, which was shot by Chung Chung-hoon. Lots of headroom and elbow room. Objects squeezed on the sides.

And yet very few critics have even mentioned this curious (or certainly noteworthy) visual approach.

I noticed this. I didn't think it mattered, and I wouldn't avoid the film just because some of it looks slightly off. I don't know why Soderbergh did it.

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