In both those films, Soderbergh and his screenwriters build a grand tapestry, whether it be the life of Che Guevara or the three intertwining stories on drugs, where the character detail and the personal is what’s important. The 4 hour long Che was 4 hours long not because of the telling of a political biopic in context, but it was because Soderbergh chose to focus on the man. To a certain extent it was a film that was about Che’s motivations and where his political stance came from and yet, it was a humanist story, not one motivated by taking sides.
In Traffic, the length of the film was not due to an Oliver Stone style examination of the laws on drugs, but because the focus of the drama was in the relationships between characters. The most effecting of which is the segment where Michael Douglas (playing a senator trying to pass legislation on recreational drugs) discovers his daughter is a crack addict spiralling out of control. The human drama is the foreground, while the politics is the background, and that works perfectly.
In looking over Soderbergh‘s career and filmography, he is man who managed to replicate and blend Stanley Kubrick‘s eclecticism with Woody Allen‘s production rate. He shifts genres, budgets and styles of filmmaking so effortlessly and he’s directed a movie a year since 1998, sometimes more than one. He works incredibly fast and chooses projects very quickly but these are projects that interest him.
Although Soderbergh has been highly critical of the industry in the past few years, with his producing partner George Clooney, he has managed to bring some of the most fascinating films to the screen. Soderbergh‘s name can be seen on the credits for We Need to Talk About Kevin, Michael Clayton, A Scanner Darkly, Syriana and Insomnia, to mention only few. He is a man dedicated to getting films made that he would make himself: intelligent, impeccably crafted and confrontational films that make cinema a whole lot more exciting.
You should all be very sad that Steven Soderbergh has decided to leave for a while, people take him for granted, but by 2014 and 2015 when you realise you haven’t had a Soderbergh product for a couple of years, you will recognise a large hole in the market.