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4.4 out of 5 stars
Sex, Lies, and Videotape [Blu-ray]
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66 of 67 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2005
This movie is truly a milestone in independent film, but it also updates a familiar theme: The unique, troubled soul is accidentally brought to someone who wants to save him, despite his best efforts to remain in bondage (think of Breakfast at Tiffany's, or Harold and Maude). The story and dialogue are SO tight, the characters so rich, and the images so perfect - it's a wonderful film, though disturbing for those who are unable to be satisfied by the main character's path to redemption. If you happen to remember the description / trailer of the movie, be advised that this is not a comedy, and is not even really about sex. It's about the mental prisons we build for ourselves...
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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
Okay, I'm highly biased. This is my favorite movie of all time.

It's a moody movie, set in the South, where emotion and dialogue carry me (and probably you) to the end. It's so good that, for me, it has become "peanut butter fiction," as if it's always been a part of my life. When there's nothing else to watch, I'll put it in. And I'll wonder why I waited so long to watch Sex, Lies, and Videotape again.

I've spent some time trying to identify the protagonist of this film. As with many great films, our hero is not clear. We have Ann (played by Andie MacDowell), the popular southern girl who, about a year ago, married a promising lawyer, John (Peter Gallagher), recently made junior partner of his firm. John is secretly sleeping with Cynthia (Laura San Giacomo), Ann's sister. This situation would have gone on indefinitely, were it not for the arrival of Graham (James Spader). Graham is John's old buddy who is moving back to town and, with John's permission, will be staying at John and Ann's upscale home. Although logically Graham should turn out to be just like John--a deceitful man--we quickly discover that the opposite is True. "True" with a capital T.

Graham has changed since the old days. He's artsy, mysterious, immediately strange and likeable, and Truthful. John doesn't know what to make of him. The dialogue in this movie is perfectly revealing, for instance, when Graham explains how he insists on having a car. John finds a need for a car humorous: "In case you have to leave someplace in a hurry." Graham counteracts this observation by adding, "Yeah, or go someplace in a hurry." The first response indicates guilt, the second determination. Graham has come back to town for a reason.

John sends Ann apartment hunting with Graham, which provides John the perfect opportunity to have sex with Cynthia in the marital house while they are away. Unbeknownst to him, Ann and Graham share a connection. So we have either Ann or Graham as our "hero." Ann subconsciously suspects infidelity, and Graham has come to town to show "someone" that he has changed--and we the audience come to realize that he is specifically NOT being John, although years ago he and John were probably exactly alike. Graham is specifically not a liar. He is also impotent.

Sorry if you feel I'm forcing "spoilers" upon your eyes. I could give a treatment of this entire movie and still make it worth watching. So far, the only thing I've left out of Sex, Lies, and Videotape is the videotape. Graham may not be able to have sex with another person, but he can "get off." He makes videotapes. He videotapes women talking about sex, and if you were to ask him if this is how he achieves sexual satisfaction, he'd say matter-of-factly Yes. He sits in the living room of the apartment that Ann helped him find watching women talk about their sexual experiences.

Perhaps this movie would have fizzled at this point, with Graham out of the marital home, but for the sexually oriented Cynthia who hears about Graham and his strange habits. Once Cynthia visits Graham in his personal space, the conflict of the movie becomes intereseting. This is a movie with few, if any, visual effects. O Trust me when I say you don't need them. The story is enough.

How will John react to Cynthia visiting his ex-best friend? How will John react to Ann, who is slowly becoming wise? How will John react to the fact that Graham is the center of attention? Until Graham's arrival, John lived in a perfect world.

If you press me, I'll say the protagonist of this story is Ann, because the outcome of events MOST affects her, and she is likeable. At first I thought the protagonist was Graham. There is a part of me that considers that John is the most affected by the plotline, because his perfect situation is in danger of falling like sand out of the palms of his grubby hands. In any work of fiction, he whom is MOST changed by story events is our hero. You'll have to decide that for yourself.

I consider Sex, Lies, and Videotape to be "peanut butter" cinema. It's so good that you accept it as such; it's a staple of your refrigerator--er--your DVD shelf. It will wait to be seen, yearly, like Bob Clark's A Christmas Story. You can't watch it daily, but you'll want to. You can put it in your DVD player and do other things, occasionally tuning in for great dialogue and masterful plotting. But that's only after you've watched it too many times. The first time, you'll wonder why there aren't more movies like this. You'll wish you were a screenwriter. You might even sit down at a blank First Draft document. You might wonder why you can't make the words come, and when they do come, you wonder why you're such a plagiarist. Why didn't you write Sex, Lies, and Videotape first?
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43 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on August 10, 2000
"sex,lies, and videotape" is a well-crafted little gem about adultery, sexual perversion, and the value of honesty with oneself. This film tells the story of Graham (James Spader), a minimalist anti-yuppi, who goes back to his home town and stays with his long lost college buddy John (Peter Gallagher) who has become a lawyer and Ann (Ande MacDowell) his eccentric but conservative wife. John is a bit repelled by Graham's free-spirited honesty and liberalism, but it is intruiging to Ann... until Graham reveals to her that he is more-or-less impotent, and tapes women talking about sex to get off. John is having an affair with Ann's sister Cynthia (Laura San Giamoco) a sexually aggresive bartender, who is informed of Graham's indulgent practice and takes part in a "taping", which puts all four characters in a landslide of events. Ingeneously crafted by first-time director Steven Soderberg, this film was the sleeper hit of 1989, and probably the year's best film too. The performances are superb all around, and are backed by an excellent script. Though not a highly technical film, this film has some neat camera tricks to offer.
The DVD of "sex, lies, and video" has only one extra feature worth metioning besides the theatrical trailer. That is the feature length commentary by the film's director Steven Soderberg, who is interviewed during the film by Niel LaBute, the director of "In the Company of Men". Better than most commentaries, the director discusses the preproduction of the film and his experience with the actors, rather than the technical aspects.
This DVD is a great addition to anyone's video library.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on March 17, 2001
If you purchase "sex, lies and videotape" expecting to see erotica, you'll be disappointed. Steven Soderbergh's 1989 award winning film (Grand Prize, Cannes Film Fest) is a provocative, sometimes painful examination of how communication, or lack thereof, can affect relationships. The plot revolves around John, (Peter Gallagher) a junior partner in a law firm, his obsessive, repressed wife Ann, (Andie McDowell) her "extroverted" sister Cynthia, (Laura San Giacomo) and the enigmatic Graham, (James Spader) a friend John met in college. Through voice-over, sometimes overlapping narration and crisp editing, the characters are introduced at a rapid pace. While Ann is obsessing about the world's garbage to her shrink, John is in bed with Cynthia. Cynthia told John it would give her a "perverse thrill" to do it in her sister's bed, so when Graham moves to town, John suggests Ann take him apartment hunting. Ann tells Graham she thinks sex is over-rated. Graham tells Ann that for all practical purposes, he is impotent because he can't get an erection in the presence of another person. These events take place in the first 25 minutes of the film, which runs 100 minutes. The interactions between these four people is the film's core. However, the relationship which is most pivotal to the plot--between Graham and Elizabeth, a woman he dated in college--is never explored on film. The viewer can only surmise it from the dialogue. James Spader received the Best Actor Award at Cannes for his powerful, sensitive yet understated portrayal of Graham. Especially poignant in the last 30 minutes of the film, Spader's performance is also praiseworthy because we never doubt Graham's sincerity. The thought that he could be something other than he appears never enters our minds. This film is not for everyone. The characters discuss sex in a frank, yet natural way. Their motivations can be discussed for hours. It's possible some people will have an easier time discussing sex after seeing this film. It's also possible that, depending on your views of sex, this film might disturb you. It is not a film to be seen after a rough day. Rather, it's a film to watch with plans for a "post-film" discussion. Soderbergh also wrote the original screenplay, which was nominated for an Academy Award. Deliberately or not, there are some loose strings regarding Graham. However, this film is so powerful that this minor flaw adds to the film's mystique. No matter what else Soderbergh may do in his already distinguished career, this film will be considered a masterpiece.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
In 1988, an independent film directed by newcomer Steve Soderbergh (who would go on to direct the films "Erin Bockovich", "Traffic", "Oceans Twelve", etc.) would achieve prominence as the film was the spark that helped revolutionize the independent film movement in the 1990's. Winner of the Palme D'or at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival, winner of the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival, the indie film would also earn a nomination for an Academy Award and would be the beginning of a long, prosperous career for Steve Soderbergh but also the four main talents of the film: James Spader ("Stargate", "Boston Legal", "Pretty in Pink", "White Palace"), Andie MacDowell ("Groundhog Day", "Hudson Hawk", "Four Weddings and a Funeral"), Laura San Giacomo ("Pretty Woman", "Just Shoot Me", "Saving Grace") and Peter Gallagher ("The OC", "Short Cuts", "Californication").

The film which cost about a million dollars to make, went on to receive critical success and earn $24 million in the box office. "sex, lies, and videotape" became a big hit for independent film studio Miramax Films and the film was selected and preserved by the United States National Film Registry in 2006 as a film that is "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" and in 2009, to celebrate the film's 20th year anniversary, "sex, lies and videotape" receives its first High Definition Blu-ray release.


"sex, lies, and videotape" is featured in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1). For the most part, the picture quality has a fine layer of grain but also shows quite a bit of detail as we can see the skin pores of Andie McDowell. You can see the details of the characters quite clearly. The transfer is not perfect as I did see a few instances of dirt and even artifacting. But I have to admit that this is the best I've seen of the film compared to its Criterion Collection LD and DVD counterpart.

As for the transfer, the same Interpositive Element from the original 35mm Camera negative which was used in the 1988 DVD was scanned 4K DPX Files, as a potential source for future remastering. The 2K files were color timed at Technicolor using the 1998 transfer as a color reference. Also, a substantial amount of dirt was cleaned up utilizing version 7 of MTI DRS and splice bump correction using Autodesk Inferno.

The audio of the film is presented in English and French Dolby TrueHD 5.1. The sound although lossless sounds very good. Dialogue is clear and understandable but at the same time, audio doesn't utilize the surround channels as much as I was hoping for it too. But this is explained through the restoration special feature that Soderbergh felt it important to present this film with its original 1989 mix. The goal of the audio restoration was to remove any snap and pops throughout the film but focusing on audio being a front and center channel for "sex, lies and videotape" and minimal utilization of subwoofers and surrounds.

Subtitles are featured in English, English SDH and French.


"sex, lies, and videotape" comes with several special features new and old (some from the original Criterion Collection LD release) and are featured in High Definition or Standard Definition and in English Stereo.

* Movie IQ - Real-time movie information about the cast, crew, music and production via BD-Live.
* Commentary with Writer/Director Steven Soderbergh and Neil LaBute - A very good commentary that filmmakers and commentary fans will definitely enjoy. From the setup of a scene and learning from Soderbergh about his mindset of what he wanted to accomplish for the film plus comparisons to an Eric Rohmer film.
* 20 Year Reunion at the Sundance Film Festival - (3:26) Featuring Steven Soderbergh, Peter Gallagher, Andie McDowell and Laura San Giacomo for a reunion 20 years later at the Sundance Film Festival. The group fields questions from the audience and more.
* Deleted Scene with Optional Commentary- (3:26) Director Steven Soderbergh sets up a deleted scene featuring Ann (McDowell) with her therapist.
* Steven Soderbergh on "sex, lies and videotape" trailers - (4:40) Director Soderbergh talks about shooting the theatrical trailer for the film. View Soderbergh's trailer and the Miramax trailer.
* Steven Soderbergh on "sex, lies and videotape" - (8:22) Soderbergh talks about his influences in creating the film. About not utilizing nudity in the film and more.
* Notes on Remastering and Restoration - Text info. on what was digitally restores for the Blu-ray release.


When "sex, lies and videotape" was released, I can remember that I was thinking that this would be a bold film that showcased a lot of nudity. Of course, the film is not anything like that. But I felt that watching it now 20 years later versus watching it when I was in my teens, I felt that I have much more appreciation for the film more now than ever.

Soderbergh has went on to create many wonderful films since "sex, lies and videotape" but what has captured my attention about this film is his how he kept the film simple and concentrated on the details around the four characters. He mentions in the commentary of his influence of Eric Rohmer (who created the popular films as part of his "Six Moral Tales") and the long dialogue between characters. Maybe it made no impression to me back then but now, any director who can have their characters engage in dialogue with meaning and profoundness is wonderful.

Andie MacDowell was the surprising star because in the beginning, I thought she would be the typical jilted housewife but we see her character emerge as one that is confused to one that finally gains perspective. Laura San Giacomo did well in portraying the free-will Cynthia (which she would go on to do again in "Pretty Woman"), John Mullany (Peter Gallagher) was the ultimate sleezeball and for Graham (Spader), his character was mysterious and although the viewer doesn't know exactly what had happen to him, it's how the character was changed after changing the character he videotaped.

As the film itself, one can see how this independent film helped revolutionize indie films and allowing media coverage. Sure, we see independent films, arthouse films receive media coverage today but in the context of independent films getting seen by a wide audience, "sex, lies, and videotape" was definitely instrumental in being part of that small group of films that Hollywood would give a chance to. And of course, without this film, we wouldn't have awesome films by Steven Soderbergh such as "Erin Brokovich", "Traffic", "Out of Sight", "The Good German", "Che" and "Schizopolis" (although we can leave Soderbergh's "Oceans" films out of the list).

As for the Blu-ray release, this is the best the film has ever looked and the restoration was definitely important for this 20th Anniversary release. The only problem that I have with this release is that if they were going to show that 20th Anniversary reunion, why not show the entire Q&A session? They show bits and pieces of it and that is my main peeve of this release. We are seeing more and more films given the anniversary treatment on Blu-ray with the reunion Q&A sessions featured in its entirety, I would have loved to see this Q&A at Sundance in full. Also, some of the features are from the original Criterion Collection LD from nearly 20 years ago, so quality is not exactly that great. But nevertheless, it was good to see Sony include that on this Blu-ray release.

Overall, for those who enjoyed the film or Soderbergh's work will definitely want to add "sex, lies and videotape" to their Blu-ray collection. Although the film was once a Criterion Collection release (on LD), it was great to see this release have almost a Criterion feel with is restoration technique explanation and also amateur filmmakers will enjoy Soderbergh's audio commentary as well. Definitely a solid Blu-ray release worth owning!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 2004
The story is about a married couple named Ann and John, portrayed by Andie MacDowell and Steven Gallagher. The marriage lacks any sparks plus the fact that John is having sex on a regular basis with Ann's sister, Cynthia, played by Laura San Giacomo.

John is a lawyer moving up the ladder, Ann consults her therapist regularly, with whom she discusses her lack of interest in sex and compulsive ways. Cynthia tends bar at some dive with one regular customer that gets on Ann's nerves.

One day an old college buddy of John's appears wanting to face his past and find a place in town to live for an unspecified period of time. Graham is played by James Spader and spends a night or two at Ann and John's place before apartment hunting.

While John sends Ann off to look at apartments with Graham, he calls Cynthia for a quick romp before heading to the office. There is an interesting scene in a restaurant with Graham and Ann afterwards where the topic turns to sex. For some reason Graham confides in Ann that he is impotent.

What I found funny is the number of times Ann and Cynthia are talking on the phone and then Cynthia and John planning their next tryst. Once Graham moves into town the talk between these three at separate times is based on what they know and want to know about Graham.

Each time Cynthia and John are together it becomes apparent that once the sex is over Cynthia wants him gone. They really have nothing in common but the sex is intense after Cynthia relays the videotaping incident.

It sure looked like Cynthia spent more time with Ann and John separately than Ann and John were together. I did not see why they were even married in the first place. Ann seemed to be attracted to Graham in an off sort of way.

The ending left gaps for me because the sisters discussed their Mother's birthday and I did not see the significance of this discussion. The drunk in the bar got on my nerves always saying the same thing. I could not tell what line of work Ann was interested in pursuing or involved in.

I still sat glued to my couch watching Sex, Lies and Videotape wanting to see something that never came to light. I hoped that Ann and Graham would connect because I never saw a relationship between her and John. The sisters had a bond but also were jealous of what the other had. Graham mentioned spending nine years structuring his life, which was not really explained.

It was an interesting movie that was on the dark side with sexual undertones but never showing anything sexual but the language was of adult matter. I liked the brutal honesty of the characters and how they were all motivated in some way by sex.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on July 21, 2004
I keep thinking about Hitchcock's Notorious everytime I watch Sex, Lies & Videotape. With a different plot and genre, both masterful films tell the story of all the lies that veil people from the truth. Visually, they give us clues or icons. A key is not just a key, and a houseplant is not just a houseplant. The line about villains being the heroes in their own imagination could easily explain the thrust of not just the cheating husband but even the more morally appealing characters. The trick is how the drama changes or doesn't change people.

Stylistically, it is very sparse but frugal. The cast and cameras make the most of what they have. Gallagher spins John's wedding ring and wears a queen's ivy. McDowell blushes and laughs as Ann. Spader lays Graham open to disarming vulnerability. San Giancomo asserts Cynthia's chin and takes up another challenge in her rivalry with her sister, Soderbergh?s camera doesn't waste any of it. McDowell and San Giancomo act like sisters. Even the videocamera and television take on semblance of character. (Compare Hitchcock?s use of doors dramatically shutting and the video ending in tv snow. It is the same finality.) The barfly cracks me up with his improvised drunken wooing. It is welcome comic relief and accents a very subtle charm in the drama and comedy bundled together.

In his commentary with a fellow director on this DVD, Soderbergh makes all sorts of references to other filmmakers. I was disappointed, at first, that he didn't mention Notorious but reveled that we viewers bring something to the to the table on our own. Film may seem like a passive media, but it ain't.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
This 1989 film, written and directed by Steven Soderberg, was certainly the beginning of an important career for him. This low-budget film captured a wide audience and a large box office. It's a seemingly simple film, but it makes an important statement. Basically, it demonstrates that our most erogenous zone is the mind. And it is the conversation, rather than the act itself where eroticism lies.
The story is about four modern people, all with relationship problems. Andie MacDowell is a frigid wife. Peter Gallager is her lawyer husband who cheats on her with her own sister, Laura San Giacomo. And James Spader is the husband's friend Graham, who, because of his own dysfunctional needs, can only get aroused one way - by watching videotapes of women talking about their erotic life. Otherwise, he's impotent in a real life situation.
I found this film slow and talky but it was also intriguing. It goes deeper than the surface and I was fascinated by its creativity. And it uses the medium of videotape to do it all. This, of course was filmed before the Internet, cell phones and even DVDs. And so there is a certain datedness to it. But yet it deals with some universal truths. And a willingness to explore the lies. I enjoyed it but it's more for film buffs than a general audience. Recommended.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on April 2, 2003
Without showing any flesh, Steven Soderbergh has managed to make an erotic classic of the sexiest kind. The movie is so full of erotic tension and dialogue, it doesn't have to expose anyone to get it's message across. A breakthrough film at the time, and while many other flesh filled boinkfests have appeared since then, none have been as original or stimulating. Soderbergh's first and best film. From what I've seen in the rest of this films, he may never top this.
The acting performances are all dead on and completely believable. While James Spader wins the awards and acting accolades, I think it's Andie MacDowell that makes this film.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on July 2, 2004
Although this film is low budget and somewhat outdated, it is still intriguing and captures the attention of the viewer. Despite being slow in some spots, it has a great deal of depth and feeling to it and provokes a lot of thought.
The story revolves around an uptight woman named Ann, whose husband is cheating on her with her own sister. When one of the husband's old college friends, Graham (James Spader), comes into the picture, he gets mixed up in the scenario and finds out information that he really shouldn't know. Because he is impotent, Graham can only find sexual pleaure through taping women talking about their sexual experiences. When he interviews Ann's sister, Cynthia, she reveals information about the affair. I won't talk about what happens after that, to avoid spoiling the movie.
I wasn't too impressed by the acting in this film. With the exception of James Spader, the cast was nothing spectacular. Spader's performace as Graham was terrific, as are all of his performances, and he is the reason why this film worked. His character is pathetically vulnerable and he does a fantastic job with the role.
Overall, I would recommend this film as something to check out. You probably won't be blown away, but it may make you think about your personal feelings and relationships in a new way.
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