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Steven Soderbergh
Andie MacDowell, James Spader, Laura San Giacomo, Peter Gallagher
Writing Credits:
Steven Soderbergh

A sexually repressed woman's husband has an affair with her sister, but the arrival of a visitor with a rather unusual fetish changes everything. MPAA:
Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
French Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 100 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 11/17/2009

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Steven Soderbergh and Filmmaker Neil Labute
• “20 Year Reunion” Featurette
• Deleted Scene
• “Steven Soderbergh On…” Featurettes
• Previews & Trailers


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-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Sex, Lies and Videotape [Blu-Ray] (1989)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 13, 2018)

Back in 1989, Steven Soderbergh made a strong impression with Sex, Lies and Videotape, his debut as a feature film director. He’d go on to even greater glories in subsequent years, but Lies set the table for him. 1989 was a long time ago, so I felt curious to see if it held up after all these years.

John Mullany (Peter Gallagher) works as a junior partner at a law firm, and his spouse Ann (Andie MacDowell) stays at home. She lacks much interest in sex, so John gets his kicks elsewhere – and in this case, “elsewhere” means with Ann’s sister Cynthia (Laura San Giacomo).

Into this dysfunctional picture steps Graham Dalton (James Spader), John’s old college pal. Graham likes to videotape women and get them to open up about their intimate feelings, a fetish that eventually impacts the whole clan.

As noted earlier, 1989 resides long in the rear view, so I find it hard to conjure specific memories of my theatrical screening of Lies. I think I felt somewhat underwhelmed, as all the film didn’t quite live up to all the praise it received.

Nearly 30 years later, I see the movie through a different prism for a number of reasons, and I now can better appreciate it. While not Soderbergh’s best work, Lies does achieve its goals pretty well.

Actually, when you consider youth and inexperience, Lies seems more impressive. The then-25-year-old Soderbergh made a remarkably rich, self-assured piece in his first time behind the chair.

Given the story involved here, it feels astonishing that Soderbergh avoids the usual lurid depiction of events. After all, we find a tale of a frigid woman whose husband screws around with her own sister – and then interjects an oddball who videotapes women as they discuss sex so he can get his jollies.

Soderbergh resists the urge to exploit this material for the usual tawdry melodrama. While I won’t say he approaches the story in a clinical manner, he brings a sense of detachment that suits the film and makes the result more engaging.

That’s because Soderbergh never tells the audience how to think or what to feel. Even when emotions run high, the movie stays subdued and doesn't “overheat” along with its characters, a choice that allows the characters to become more engaging.

All four of the principals do nicely as well. All of the actors benefited from their appearance in the film, and none more than MacDowell, as Lies single-handedly resurrected her dormant career.

MacDowell started as a model, and when she leapt to acting with 1984’s Greystoke, she wound up humiliated when the producers decided to have Glenn Close loop all her lines. After a supporting part in 1985’s St. Elmo’s Fire, MacDowell stayed away from movies for four years.

Lies showed that MacDowell could actually act, and she became a star after it. She deserved this boost, as she does awfully well as Ann. MacDowell manages the character’s intricacies in a natural manner that underplays potentially shrill tendencies and makes Ann a solid lead role.

Possibly the most challenging part goes to Spader, as in the wrong hands, Graham would seem like a creepy perv. Spader walks a fine line, as he allows us to view Graham as “off” but not some kind of dimestore freak. It’s another excellent performance.

Really, I find little about which to criticize with Lies. It avoids both melodrama and pretension, a remarkable feat from a first-time director. Lies remains a fine effort.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio C+/ Bonus B-

Sex, Lies and Videotape appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The image held up pretty well.

Overall sharpness worked fine, as the majority of the movie offered nice delineation. A few interiors felt a little soft but most of the film seemed accurate and well-defined.

I saw no issues with jagged edges or moiré effects, and the image lacked edge haloes. The movie came with a nice sense of light grain and a handful of small specks.

Colors tended toward a mix of reds and ambers, and the Blu-ray replicated them well. This meant the tones appeared full and warm.

Blacks seemed dark and dense, while shadows were largely appealing, though a few low-light shots seemed a bit thick. Overall, the visuals worked nicely.

A chatty character piece like Lies doesn’t seem like a project ripe for dazzling audio, and the film’s Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack appeared appropriately subdued. Effects remained subdued and in the background, while music only occasionally appeared.

This meant a soundscape without much scope. Those periodic instances of music used the front sides well enough, and effects fleshed out the forward channels in a mild way, but much of the mix felt monaural, and surround usage became essentially non-existent.

Audio quality seemed fine, with speech that appeared natural and concise. Music showed nice range and fidelity as well.

As noted, effects didn’t bring much to the table, but they seemed accurate within their low-key development. Given its modest goals, the soundtrack became satisfactory.

When we head to the set’s extras, we open with an audio commentary from writer/director Steven Soderbergh and filmmaker Neil Labute. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at story/character areas, cast and performances, influences, sets and locations, editing, music, cinematography and connected domains.

Recorded in 1998 for a DVD, this becomes an engaging chat. Soderbergh seems willing to criticize his own work and he shows a nice sense of openness. We learn a lot about the film in this strong track.

A 20 Year Reunion reel lasts three minutes, 26 seconds and includes notes from Soderbergh and actors Andie MacDowell, Peter Gallagher and Laura San Giacomo. They reflect on their experiences and the movie’s impact.

The featurette’s too short to tell us much, though I like Soderbergh’s belief that the film probably hasn’t aged well – usually this kind of clip comes with nothing but praise, so it’s funny to hear the director semi-badmouth his work.

One Deleted Scene occupies three minutes, 26 seconds. It shows a conversation between Ann and her therapist about Graham’s impact. It feels somewhat redundant and not especially valuable.

We can view the scene with or without commentary from Soderbergh. He tells us a little about the sequence and why he cut it. Soderbergh brings some good notes – hey, he agrees it’s redundant as well!

Two similar clips follow: Steven Soderbergh on the Trailers (1:29) and Steven Soderbergh on Sex, Lies and Videotape (8:11). “Trailers” discusses an ad he created that used alternate footage, whereas “Lies” gives us a few insights about the film. Soderbergh delivers worthwhile information in these featurettes.

The disc finishes with Previews for Obsessed, Damages Season 1, Casino Royale (2006), The Da Vinci Code and A River Runs Through It. We also find two trailers for Lies.

Steven Soderbergh’s directorial debut, 1989’s Sex, Lies and Videotape holds up well after almost 30 years. Deep, involving and self-assured, the movie gives us a strong character drama. The Blu-ray brings pretty good picture along with adequate audio and supplements highlighted by an informative commentary. Lies remains one of Soderbergh’s best flicks.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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