Mr/Dr Soderbergh @ 2016-02-19


Some time ago I posted the PSYCHOS mash-up, which seemed like an obvious and fun thing to do, given Gus Van Sant’s religiously faithful re-creation. The idea there—yes, there was an idea—was each character was someone different when they were alone or feeling like “themselves”. This twinning notion stuck with me, and a few weeks ago, when presented with the challenge of delivering some audio/visual material for a series of three Singani 63-related events organized by the Houston Brothers in LA (these guys know how to throw a PARTY, btw), I decided to start with PSYCHOS and then create two new pieces in the same vein. An obvious choice seemed to be THE KILLERS, since Criterion had issued a Bluray of both films together, and since the piece would be “screened” on a series of walls in a club, I thought a cool way to go would be to sync the films up, checkerboard them across the various surfaces, and sprinkle a party-friendly mix track on top. With a little (hopefully subtle) trimming of the Siodmak to make it EXACTLY the same length as the Siegel, I was off to the soundtrack races. There was one hitch: I was delivering two separate files to be started simultaneously, so the interplay between the films was not only going to be random, but unseen by me, as I was going to be in New York at the time of the (second) event. Joanna Bush, the creative director of Singani 63 and Extension 765, was present, however, and said the juxtaposition of the cutting patterns and the color and B&W imagery with a specially created soundtrack worked well, but I sensed there was another iteration to be had, one in which the interplay would NOT be random AT ALL, so when I sat down to start twinning CRISS CROSS and THE UNDERNEATH, I got Corey Bayes, my associate editor, to whip up a little picture-in-picture effect so I could build a single timeline and see both images simultaneously. As soon as I began, the HUGE, nearly infinite number of possibilities became apparent to me, and I marveled at the fact WOODSTOCK isn’t still being edited as I write this. With only a few days to work on this last piece, I had to come up with some ideas and some rules, fast. One idea was to occasionally insert some footage/imagery that was not from either film to serve as a kind of interstitial palette-cleanser. I’m not even sure why I felt this was necessary except to try and keep the viewer from falling into a place of incipient predictability. With a lot of random personal video and stills to choose from, I tried to choose things that—in my mind—had SOME kind of relevance, even if that relevance was only discernible to me. Also, I didn’t want to merely duplicate the party mix approach from THE KILLERS, so I delved into a sounds effects library I’ve compiled from a collection of sound effects LPs to massage the transitions between cues. The result, THE RETURN OF DON TRACY, is shorter than the other two pieces, mostly because I simply ran out of ideas in the time allotted, but I’m okay with that, for this reason:

"My freedom consists in my moving about within the narrow frame that I have assigned myself for each one of my undertakings. I shall go even further: my freedom will be so much greater and more meaningful, the more narrowly I limit my field of action and the more I surround myself with obstacles. Whatever diminishes constraint diminishes strength. The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees oneself from the chains that shackle the spirit."  Igor Stravinsky

I know you love when I drop some Stravinksy knowledge!But he’s right—it’s helpful to have parameters, something to push against, whether it’s time, money, or…well, it’s usually time or money in my case. So why spend sixty hours on stuff designed to be shown as video wallpaper at a party? Because I came out the other end different somehow; through experimenting in a format that probably has no bearing on my day job, I saw some things that made me think HMM, THAT’S INTERESTING. Maybe some of it will find its way into my “normal” work, maybe not. Maybe, in order to satisfy the intrigue sparked by this project—one I didn’t know I would even have to do six weeks ago—I will start thinking about a project which IS designed from the beginning to be presented in this way. Or maybe it’s just something other people can use to show on a wall at their own parties—it’s all good. Because time spent creating ANYTHING is never wasted.