Steven Soderbergh, whose directorial career stretches from Sex, Lies and Videotape back in 1989 to Side Effects next month (with more than 20 movies in between, including Out of Sight and Ocean's 11) has decided he's not going to make films any more.
He has, he says, retired from cinema.
There's more than one reason for this. But the most telling ones come in the negative column. Hollywood, he argues, doesn't care about directors any more. It only cares about money. "I think the audience for the kinds of movies I grew up liking has migrated to television," he said this week.
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Such sweeping, end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it statements need to be taken with more than a pinch of sodium chloride of course. This year we can look forward to new films from Wong Kar Wai, Pedro Almodovar and Terrence Malick after all. And given that the current successes in British television veer between the cosy (Downton Abbey) and the imbecilic (I don't care what millions and millions of you say, Mrs Brown's Boys is bloody awful), you might argue that when Soderbergh talks about television he's really just talking about HBO, the channel behind everything from Mad Men to The Sopranos. (And perhaps not so coincidentally Soderbergh is indeed making a television film about Liberace for that very network.)
Let's give television its due for once. There is a growing appetite for small screen drama with intelligence and ambition. The HBO effect is spreading. Presumably that's why such former film directors as Neil Jordan and Jane Campion have moved to the small screen. Jordan is the director behind The Borgias and Campion has just made a new series, Top of the Lake, for the BBC. It's easy to moan about television when it churns out another comedy panel show (hello ITV's Hot Sauce). We should encourage it, then, when it comes up with something as compelling as Utopia.