Well. “Fashion.” He’s making t-shirts. And selling random crap related to movies. So he’s not really quitting but I’ll get back to that later. Extension765, launched last week, is Soderbergh’s take on movie licensed products which – as we all know – are quite often sub-par. And – as we know – Mishka has provided some low-key relief to the matter, but there are still a lot of movies to be covered, and for that I salute the arrival of Extension765 and its cheeky bootleg approach.
For now the offerings are pretty timid: a Citizen Kane newspaper font thing, a French Connection stencil font thing, and a bunch of other declinations of font work related to Double Indemnity, Laura, Touch of Evil, Psycho, or Saboteur. So yeah, nothing transcendent, but enough to satisfy the average movie nerd’s lack of CaféPress-fueled irony. I would never wear it but the Network reference is perhaps the most interesting while the Airport is probably the most conceptually accomplished.
If there is one flaw I can see in this business model, it’s the very nich audience that the products are speaking to: not only you have to be old enough to understand the references, you also have to be cool enough to still wear t-shirts. But I suppose they don’t really have to fight for financial backing and or exposure. I have a strange relationship with Steven Soderbergh’s work, seeing how I work in a place where he used to work and live in a place that he chose as a setting for one of his movies. But even without that background, you should be aware by now that this is the same cinematographic mind that produced Ocean’s 11/12/13 and Traffic or more recently Magic Mike and The Informant!. I find it… Ironic? Revealing? that his garment offerings somewhat reflect the man’s movie career: understated, well-executed, half smart but at the end of the day, somewhat lackluster.
Not that I expect all over graphics or 3M, but a little more creativity wouldn’t hurt. Then again Mondo tried that, and they pretty much gave up on tees at this point, they’re even releasing music now. Which brings me to Soderbergh’s retirement announcement cum “state of the cinema address,” also from last week. It’s a very interesting piece that you should definitely read (over at Deadline) if you’re at all interested in the movie industry. But I take issue with his enthrallment in Rushkoff’s “Present Shock” thingie (which is fashionable, and I understand that). It’s a funny twist on Future Shock which you should read about on your own because this ain’t Com Studies 102. But. Really: are we all collectively victims of that Present Shock? Rushkoff’s argument applies mainly to the organizational level, but I’m talking about individuals here.
This is a “documentary” about the band Yes, directed by Soderbergh, dating back from 1985. Watch it.
Sure, it’s easy to be quote unquote enslaved by the social media and the CGI in our lives, but that doesn’t mean we cannot get out of it. Even for a second: see for example the Boston Marathon bombing suspect hunt, in which social media was first celebrated (pictures!) then despised (hate!) then celebrated (clues!) then despised (witch hunt!) then celebrated (got them!) all of which in the span of… 24? Maybe 48 hours? Step into the present, and it’s fucking crazy. Take step back, and watch it unfold. Isn’t that the point of cinema? and art, as a whole? Soderbergh sez “Art, in my view, is a very elegant problem-solving model.” Which is true, at least as far as an artist is concerned. But as a consumer of art (which he is, too) you know the experience of art is entirely different. Sure, you could perhaps try to analyze the kind of problem-solving that the artist attempted, but more importantly: it makes you take that step back.
Whether or not you think about it, art re-enacts life things that you don’t necessarily have time to think about, and gives you a new perspective. Whether or not the artist attempted to convey a specific point of view – which will probably be misunderstood anyway. But I understand his point of view: everything about his artform has changed so dramatically and so fast in the last thirty years that he feels at a loss when trying to adapt his old love to new methods. I see his t-shirt factory as both a strange way to capitalize on the bullshit he says he is at odds with and at the same time fight it with all the obliqueness that he is so keen on. That’s why I think he’s not really retiring at all. He’s just getting a bit older and grumpier and he had to say his piece, as an art-form commentary on the Present Shock he thinks he is experiencing, and as a way to move on. Let’s hope it all works out for him.- Gnou