About Soderbergh’s Black-and-White Raiders Edit

Raiders of the Lost Ark is my favorite film.  Ever.  More than just 80s nostalgia to me.

I finally watched a good-sized chunk of the Steven Soderbergh edit of Raiders of the Lost Ark.  If you haven’t heard, he basically cut out all the sound, converted it to black-and-white, and inserted a techno-ambient score.

All this was done “for educational purposes” by Soderbergh to call attention to the cinematic genius of Raiders, letting viewers “think only about staging, how the shots are built and laid out, what the rules of movement are, what the cutting patterns are.”

Well, it works.  The black-and-white conversion looks great–calling attention to the beautifully crafted lighting.  And the staging is amazing, though I doubt anyone didn’t already know that.  Here’s a clip from my favorite scene.  Just look at all the objects Spielberg and cinematographer Douglas Slocombe are juggling here:

raiders two

The question here seems to be: doesn’t this work any time you take something well crafted visually (cinema, TV, etc)  and do something to take it out of narrative context?

Give Raiders at techno soundtrack.  (I’m told it’s mostly Trent Reznor’s soundtrack work, from his Giorgio Moroder fetish phase).

Play “Dark Side of the Moon” behind Wizard of Oz.  (I’m sure someone on the webs has already pointed out the similarity, but it’s worth mentioning).

Put old B-movie horror on the TV behind the bar while a band plays.  (Seriously, we’ve all zoned out to this at least once, right?)

And, hey, let Giorgio Moroder score Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.

I spent an afternoon at my pal Eddye’s house strumming guitars back in the early 2000s.  We were playing along to Mike Ness’s Cheating at Solitaire album while a marathon of The Powerpuff Girls played silently on TV for a couple of hours.

I left with a new-found respect for Powerpuff Girls, mostly because I noticed only the animation layouts and the portrayal of constant motion on that show.   That never would have happened had I simply tried to “watch” an episode.

Anyway, the Soderbergh edit is pretty cool and worth the time.  It’s still my favorite movie.


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