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Interpersonal Communication 101: a review of "SLV",
This review is from: Sex, Lies, and Videotape [VHS] (VHS Tape)
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.