Friday, May 25, 2012

Soderbergh on the Girlfriend Experience

I've been meaning to watch the Girlfriend Experience for some time because it is Soderbergh being experimental.  It was mostly shot hand-held with a Red One camera (although by the time Netflix has gotten through stepping on it, it's hard to tell even though it is supposed to be running HD.)  These seem to be real people confronting real-life dilemmas.

What makes this story especially interesting is that is was shot just before the 2008 election in New York City.  The economy is crashing and everyone is scrambling to keep it together.  It's a portrait of the anthill where everyone is trying to make whatever scam they have invented pay off—as seen through the eyes of an expensive call girl whose hook is to pretend she is as interested in these guy's lives as she would be if she were their girlfriend.  These are men with mostly Predator-class jobs in lower Manhattan and their money pile is drying up.

On occasion, we get to hear their political / economic views and they are not especially different from the conventional "wisdom" of Wall Street.  The pressure to conform intellectually must be incredible because even though some of them have lost 90% of their incomes, they still cling to the received wisdom of the modern robber barons.  Because of this dialogue, this movie is really time-capsule material.

But it dawned on me that technology had rearranged this anthill too.  Part of the reason the .01% wind up with all the goodies is that armed with sufficient computing power, the truly rich don't need a lot of hangers-ons to scoop up a lot of loot.  So all the second and third tier actors can want are the crumbs that fall from the rich man's table—with the occasional chance they might displace the rich man.  So they believe they must parrot fat cat wisdom while waiting for that glorious day when the main chance arrives.

Trust me—this is NOT the mindset of the person who can figure out how to bore a railroad tunnel through a mountain made of rock.  Someone that scientifically organized cannot comprehend the anthill in Girlfriend Experience any more than they can understand why folks competed for the honor of emptying the chamber pots of Louis XVI.

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