Steven Soderbergh - The Wilderness Years

Following the back to back successes of "Out of Sight", "The Limey", "Erin Brockovich", and "Traffic", the rejuvenated career of Steven Soderbergh shows little sign of abating. An all-star remake of 1960s Rat Pack caper "Ocean's Eleven" looms and then there's the proposed update of Tarkovsky's "Solaris" to consider.

After his initial success with "Sex, Lies, and Videotape" in 1989, Soderbergh chose to follow his instincts and made "Kafka" (1991), an inky black and white look at the life of the celebrated Czech author. Hugely entertaining - though not to the studio that bank-rolled it - and riddled with an off-kilter absurdist humour, the film took a hammering from critics and sank without trace.

Relatively unchastened by the experience, Soderbergh directed "King of the Hill", a slightly more conventional Depression-set coming of age drama about an imaginative young boy whose parents are embroiled in constant struggle to make ends meet. Though wholly sensitive, affecting, and yet astringently intelligent, the film found little critical or commercial favour. Soderbergh's career appeared to be over.

In an attempt perhaps to regain some ground, Soderbergh next turned to "The Underneath" (1995), a remake of Richard Siodmak's "Criss Cross". It set him back even further. Self-proclaimed as being his weakest picture, it's certainly his most generic and yet still highly allusive and richly rewarding all the same.

"Gray's Anatomy (1996) was a fairly straight recording of Spalding Gray's monologue concerning a potentially debilitating eye condition and his attempts to cure it. It's wonderfully funny and imbued with Soderbergh's customary eye for the abstract. "Schizopolis" (1996), which Soderbergh appeared in, shot, scripted, and partly edited is an all-too-little seen Godard-style movie which stands as one of the strangest, wilfully eccentric movies to emerge from American cinema. A satirical swipe at male paranoia, New Age philosophies, and America's obsession with health, it's a film of real daring which demands repeated viewings.

Perversely, while Schizopolis was being completed the phone rang. It was an offer to direct "Out of Sight". The rest is history. Or is it? Word is that Soderbergh is planning a vacation from success to make "Son Of Schizopolis". Why? Well presumably his new found clout means that he can, but also because, typical of his inquisitive nature and desire to continue to satisfy his own perverse creative urges, he likes the idea of making a sequel to a movie that few people have seen.