Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Solaris (IMDB) (Netflix)
What would you do, given the opportunity to correct a tragic mistake and re-unite with the one you love, or at least a re-created version of your inamorata? How far would you go, and what would you sacrifice to get there?

The 1961 classic novel by Stanislaw Lem inspired a highly respected 1972 Russian film (playing now on the Turner Classic Movie Channel and the Independent Film Channel), but this is the first Hollywood version, by director/writer/cinematographer Steven Soderbergh, with George Clooney as the man with the black hole in his life, and Natascha McElhone as the chance to fill it. Although technically in the sci-fi genre, this is really a love story made possible by a writer's imagination, and Soderbergh wisely strips the technology to the bare essentials, keeping the story in the foreground.

The dialog is equally spare, as are answers to tough questions about the power of human longing. Clooney challenges those who think he's just an empty T-shirt, and McElhone impresses as the too-real and increasingly self-aware apparation. Soderbergh's photography is arresting without being too clever by half, which is more than can be said about Jeremy Davies, who might be one of the most mannered performers short of the early Jim Carrey. You might want it to move faster, and you might leave wondering what the film was all about, but you'll also know that you've been somewhere new.