Archives / 2009 Sundance Film Festival

sex, lies, and videotape

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Screenwriters: Steven Soderbergh

Institute History

Description

Twenty years ago, Steven Soderbergh arrived at the Sundance/United States Film Festival carrying the print of sex, lies, and videotape; he left with the dramatic Audience Award. The film went on to win the Palme d' Or and the best actor award for James Spader at Cannes and became one of most popular and critically acclaimed independent films. Suddenly, for good or bad, Sundance was on everyone's radar.

Sex, lies charts the complex interrelationship linking four characters in a southern town: Ann (Andie MacDowell); her husband, John (Peter Gallagher); her sister, Cynthia (Laura San Giacomo), who is having an affair with John; and John's old college friend Graham (Spader), who drifts into their lives and, through his videotapes, changes the way they see themselves and relate to each other.

What makes the film unique is the counterpointing between the images and the soundtrack, enabling you to follow two strands of the story simultaneously and see their connection. In the film's opening scene, for example, we hear Ann telling her analyst about her poor sexual relationship with John while we watch John and Cynthia making torrid love.

Some films run dry over time, but sex, lies keeps getting richer. With each viewing, new subtleties emerge. All the performances are impressive, but Spader is mesmerizing. His Graham is disarmingly direct yet maddeningly elusive; at one point, he tells Ann, "I don't have the slightest idea who I am." Neither do we, but that just increases our fascination.

— Barbara Bannon

Screening Details

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