Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Nice Design, Empty Results

Little Steven Soderbergh is determined to experiment his way through the Hollywood gloss of his big budgets efforts like the Ocean’s 11 franchise, and for that we tip our hat to him. Last year brought The Good German (Warners, $27.98, 105 minutes) an admirable attempt to make 40’s styled studio film, utilizing a setting, a plot, and many of the visual and camera techniques of the past. The end result is a sumptuous black and white endeavor, chock full of clever camera movements, atmospheric lighting, evocative misc-en-scene, and wonderful set pieces, with George Clooney attempting go all Bogart and Cate Blanchett settling into the spiked heels of Marlene Dietrich. As well executed (and well-intentioned) as Soderbergh’s full-length homage is, it never comes close to approximating its models (Casablanca, The Third Man) in the categories of intrigue, plot layering, wartime atmospherics, or pure inexplicable movie magic---The Good German’s plodding plot, lifeless characterizations and the glaring lack of romantic chemistry between the leads absolutely drain the movie of any life, despite the heartfelt mechanics Soderbergh successfully brings to the making of it.

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