Sex, Lies, and Videotape is a cornerstone film for Miramax and propelled it to what it is today. It debuted at the 1989 Sundance film festival and became a sensation captivating audiences, winning the Audience Award and signing with MIramax summing to about the amount of the budget. It only budgeted around $1.2 million. Sex, Lies, and Videotape went on to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival, spreading its reputation internationally. The film did well grossing nearly $100 million worldwide. Who would have thought Sundance would provide a goldmine? Steven Soderbergh‘s film revolutionized if not saved a dying, undefined Independent Film industry and springboarded Miramax.
In class, we have talked about economic constraints and the impact they can have on the film itself. Sex, Lies, and Videotape had an all-star cast of James Spader, Andie MacDowell, Peter Gallagher, and Laura San Giacomo. There was obviously some draw to the film from that. The title itself was enough to intrigue an audience for attention. The american public has always been wanted to know bedroom secrets of peoples lives, whether celebrities or small town populations. Its the scandalous nature of people, its almost second nature. J. J. Murphy mentions John Pierson’s thoughts:
“Sex, lies, and videotape caught the popular imagination with its unerring delineation of the moment’s zeitgeist. The veneer of the eighties was cracking; the devastation of AIDS discouraged promiscuous coupling. The film presented a rare portrayal of a sensitive, vulnerable male, along with a beautiful, neurotic wife, a sexpot sister, and a crass, cheating husband. It was serious, thoughtful, funny and it pushed the edge of what was allowable on screen. Early on, Soderbergh admitted a strong autobiographical element, but he soon played this down since the film spoke very directly to its viewers’ own relationships – a kind of yuppie Rorschach test.”
Other aesthetic qualities from low budget were the clothes, setting locations, and audio qualities. The clothing selected looked like clothes they pulled out of their closets. The locations selected took place mostly in 4 different locations(3 houses and the bar) and the graffiti alley and the office. The audio was interesting in use to me. The phone conversations sounded like they were talking right from each other. Throughout the movie the audio is sub-par I felt, but that is kind of a stereotype for Indie films. The aesthetic quality I noticed is the plot was character driven. The plot itself was very predictable and seemed very Hollywoodish and blah-ish. The characters were the focus of the plot and the evolution and development of each character is what kept the audience engaged.
Sex, Lies, and Videotape definitely narrowed the gap between mainstream and independent. It showed that Indie films they could be commercial successes. Indie films scared off many potential box offices because of its niche audiences and not making any huge profits. “The styles, subjects, and talent that defined the quality indie scene of the early 90s have now been incorporated into the Hollywood system…these films continue the traditions established by Miramax in the late 80s and early 90s: aesthetically and topically challenging films can be commercially successful with skillful marketing.” (Perren 38).