Scene Unseen: The Limey's Audio Commentary

Film In keeping with the scattershot nature of the editing of The Limey the audio commentary begins, not with the usual 'Hello my name is Steven Soderbergh' 'And I'm Lem Dobbs' but with outtakes from the commentary sessions and other isolated moments of speech mixed with the sound of technical difficulties (with some luscious profanity). It's quite a shock but at the same time it makes an utter change that the film makers care as much about the presentation of their ideas on the dvd as the film itself.

What follows is one of the most entertaining, freewheeling and experimental commentaries you're likely to hear. Its as much about itself as the film its essaying. Example: Fifteen minutes in and we approach the introduction of Peter Fonda's character and as the explanation for approach begins, the sound cuts out then returns, it jumps and echos, speeds up and slows down the sounds and words overlapping and complementing one another the director and writers opinions running up against each other. Certainly makes a change from hearing Rob Reiner get caught up in watching his own film (see When Harry Met Sally).

The other clear distinction is the need to communicate about the making of the film. One of the real issues which continues with commentaries is the seeming need of those involved to say how good everyone was to the point that every scene has a background of someone saying -- I love what he did, she did, they did without actually mentioning why they did it. Here all of that is a given. Except that there also seems to be a certain animosity between Soderbergh and Dobbs -- at times its amazingly terse and confrontational. Time and again the same discussion/argument develops and generally follows the same pattern:

Dobbs: I did this in the script. But you didn't like it and took it out.
Soderbergh: I didn't like it. I'm the director.
Dobbs: Screenwriters never get their own way.
Soderbergh: Well direct your own film.

But it's the perfect way to understand the differences between a film and a screenplay and the process which the text goes through. There is a moment in the film where The Limey explores the house of his nemesis and at the top of some stairs he finds a photo of his daughter. It sits in isolation. The writer said that he'd envisaged a wall full of pictures with this one in the middle, but because he didn't write that and set people follow scripts literally, instead we have the picture -- he's really not happy because it gives the picture more romance than he thinks is logical. Dobbs also points out all the scenes that Soderbergh wrote that he doesn't like ('I could certainly do without that scene which I didn't write did I?'), and it's a measure of both men that they can continue to remain friends and colleagues and not like each other's stuff. There is bags full of ego involved, but also an understanding that they can have their own opinions, not agree, but still create art.

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