Before I begin, most of you are aware the I have pre-written most of these Canon of Film entries, in many cases years ahead of time. I write new ones, and when I do, I post them, but the majority of these so far, were written longago. "sex, lies and videotape," is different though. I actually wrote on it twice. Once, I believe, six years ago, and again last year. I'm going to post both of these entries below. I hope you'll notice how my writing has improved vastly in the second version., but when they were written, they both accurately reflected my thoughts on the film, and how I read the movie differently years later. I hope you enjoy this.
THE 1st ESSAY
THE 2nd ESSAY
I keep coming back to “sex, lies, and videotape,” every few years. I always think I know this movie really well, and yet, I find it more mysterious on each viewing. Certain scenes I remembered well don’t play the same way twice, and other times, there are small details I might not have caught before. Graham’s apartment for instance, has a lamp that plugged into a wall, near the door to the kitchen. He has no table for the lamp to stand on, so it remains on the floor. One of his chairs is a director’s chair. He does tape women as they discuss their sexual experiences, apparently because it’s the only way he is able to become aroused, if that’s the right word for it. He claims he’s impotent; an aftereffect of a relationship with a mysterious girl named Elizabeth, but is it a voluntary impotency or is he actually impotent? In fact, what of Graham Dalton (James Spader)? Few characters in cinema are as fascinating as him, preciously because we don’t know his intentions, his desires, or why preciously he does what he does. He says he was once a pathological liar, but that might be a lie. Structurally to the story, his character is similar to a Picaro character, that comes in and affects the lives of all those around him, but unlike Picaro, he doesn’t seem out solely for himself. In fact, he’s barely out for anything. Whatever has tortured him is so deeply ingrained in him, that I doubt even he understands the depths of it himself. He is one of the most enigmatic characters is film history. Maybe it’s because Soderbergh, who wrote the screenplay in a week, according to legend, decided not to flush him out as well as he could have. It’s surprising watching the film to realize how little he is in the movie. An argument could be made that based on screen time, the movie has four lead characters and no supporting parts. The movie’s focus is on Ann (Andie MacDowell) whose married to a lawyer, John (Peter Gallagher) who’s so slimy, about the only time he doesn’t lie is in a phone conversation about how good a liar he is to his wife. He’s a fraternity friend of Graham, who he’s strangely invited to stay for a bit while Graham’s traveling through, even though they haven’t seen each other in nine years, and have taken very different paths. (although it appears as though Graham was as one point very similar to John) John’s biggest lie is that he’s sleeping with his wife’s sexually extroverted sister Cynthia (Laura San Giacomo). Why does Cynthia sleep with John and vice-versa? Probably because they can; maybe because they’re bored? No actress is shot from stranger angles that Laura San Giacomo is in this film. Cameras turned upside down, and on wide-framed as she curls up on a couch, and that great shot of her lying on the bed, her face and hair in frame but from upside down. Maybe an effect of Soderbergh’s limited budget, but fascinating and ingenious nonetheless. Eventually, Cynthia finds her way into Graham’s apartment, and finds out about these sex tapes and decides to have him make one. She changes ever so slightly after that, but in a way that makes her not have sex with John at one point. He can’t understand it. In an earlier review, I mentioned about how a barfly at the bar Cynthia works at quotes from “Apocalypse Now,” underlying the point about the film being more of a spiritual journey than a movie with a plot, but that’s not right. The spiritual journeys are the character's own. Graham is on one, which he has self-imposed on himself. Cynthia goes on her own, through Graham, and finally, Ann will let down her guard and take a long-needed spiritual journey. All of them are inner journeys, that lead to their changes. John has no inner journey, because he hasn’t changed. Too ingrained in his own ways, that the world he’s created for himself has to completely crumble before he can even begin to try. He’s the macho male character, and the rest, including Spader, and feminine characters who change and are constantly struggling to improve and find themselves, hidden cleverly within the two love triangles of “sex, lies, and videotape.”