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EDITIONS
Thursday, 27 February, 2003, 17:39 GMT
Solaris
Steven Soderbergh - the only director apart from Francis Ford Copolla to have been nominated for two Oscars in the same year - has a reputation for never making the same film twice.

His 1989 debut success, Sex, Lies And Videotape, had almost nothing in common with Out Of Sight which revived his career 10 years later after a series of flops.

Erin Brockovich and Traffic - the movies which brought him his double Oscar listing - were also very non-identical twins.

But - in a different sense - Soderbergh is now repeating material.

Traffic was adapted from a TV series, while his next film - Ocean's 11 - was based on a 1960 Frank Sinatra flick.

And now Soderbergh has made his third remake in a row: Solaris, starring George Clooney as a widowed psychiatrist sent to a space station where deaths have taken place.



(Edited highlights of the panel's review)

MARK LAWSON:
Sam, this has two different potential audiences with Andrei Tarkovsky fans and George Clooney fans. Would either or both get much out of it?

SAM TAYLOR-WOOD:
I went along with cynicism because I thought a Hollywood remake of a Russian classic sounds terrible and then George Clooney on top.

I thought this will be dire and also Solaris. I thought it would be terrible and I would come out feeling a waste of a few hours. But I thought the opposite.

I think Steven Soderbergh is an extremely clever director in the way that he handled it.

I thought the film clips that were shown didn't really do it justice, because you don't get the sense of the claustrophobia and the intensity of the film through those clips.

I think it was uncompromising for an American remake.

I thought it was quite brave to make it, because it won't bring in lots of money and I thought it was quite a challenging film.

MARK LAWSON:
It failed in America because they tried to sell it as a romance with a trailer using George Clooney's buttocks.

They are trying to sell it here as a sci-fi mystery with a bit of philosophy thrown in. Do you buy that?

MICHAEL GOVE:
No, I think all the supporting parts of the film can't sustain the central ideas that Soderbergh is trying to sell.

I think that George Clooney is miscast. He's a light actor, a modern Cary Grant. He's inappropriate for the role.

I think Natasha McElhone is playing a Sloane lost in space.

SAM TAYLOR-WOOD:
I disagree, I thought she was brilliant.

MICHAEL GOVE:
There is nothing to their love affair, we don't know why they fell in love.

There are a few meaningful significant glances. There is no psychological depth to their relationship.

SAM TAYLOR-WOOD:
I can see why they fall in love, they are both gorgeous, of course they are going to fall in love!

MICHAEL GOVE:
Pretty faces don't make a brilliant movie and certainly not if you've got a director of Soderbergh's calibre.

MARK LAWSON:
I thought it was half the length of Tarkovsky, and about twice as good. I thought he had improved it?

MICHAEL GOVE:
I think we have to judge the film in its own right. You can say it's half the length of Tarkovsky's already overlong faux classic.

What's the game? You are wasting 90 minutes rather than 3 hours.

The other thing is for anyone who is a genuine sci-fi fan, a lot of the science is hocus-pocus.

They lay on the science in an effort to give it an air of sophistication and all they make any genuine sci-fan do is roll his eyes.

MARK LAWSON:
And they cure weightlessness in it as well. Germaine Greer.

GERMAINE GREER:
Well, I thought it was Ramsay Street in space. Here we have the great monogamy number, how did I mislay my wife?

Here I am in space and I'm going to get a second chance to do it all over again.

What I couldn't believe and I couldn't believe anything about it really and I don't like science fiction, the thing that I was amazed by is I saw Andrei Tarkovsky on video after I saw this version of Solaris and I thought it was wonderful.

MARK LAWSON:
Not the Tarkovsky one?

GERMAINE GREER:
I thought it was wonderful because it was not as stupid as the Soderbergh.

Here is a psychiatrist who thinks that people remember things accurately, in particular himself, who is surprised to be told by the incarnation of his memory that it is not she and not correct and I'm suicidal because you remember me as suicidal and so on.

In fact, the Andrei Tarkovsky is much tougher psychologically and philosophically because you start off knowing that these are projections of your memories and they are made of neutrinos.

He gets told this as soon as he gets there.

But instead Clooney has to work it out and I thought maybe they were going to be intelligent about what kind of a bully he was. When he is being a psychiatrist.

All you can think is I hope he's never my psychiatrist, the bastard. He's chopping them off in mid-word.

MARK LAWSON:
It's deliberate that he's a bad psychiatrist. It's supposed to be a shock moment when you realise it is his image of his wife that he's remembering.

It's entirely on his terms and that's his selfishness and brutality.

GERMAINE GREER:
I think you do it too much credit. I don't think it's that smart. I think he's just meant to be manly.

I don't think he learns anything much. In the end he emulates himself, great, terrific, I am in favour of that.

MARK LAWSON:
Sam and I were on the other side of this one.

What I think might appeal to you as an artist, is this is his third remake and I think it's one of the great things about Steven Soderbergh that he wants to take on the history of cinema and play with previous versions.

I think he's does fascinating things with them.

SAM TAYLOR-WOOD:
Yes, I think so. I think it's a tough film to attempt to remake. I'm not a big fan of science fiction either because I find it cold.

But I felt this was so full of grief and confusion and the ideas and the way that he has filmed it.

I felt the intensity of the relationship and I didn't expect what I went along to see.

I know it was a remake of a tough film but I still found it tough and I felt it dealt with the issues that Andrei Tarkovsky was dealing with.

I thought I would be alone on liking this film.

This transcript was produced from the teletext subtitles that are generated live for Newsnight. It has been checked against the programme as broadcast, however Newsnight can accept no responsibility for any factual inaccuracies. We will be happy to correct serious errors.


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