Retired director Steven Soderbergh is giving his 1991 film Kafka a treatment normally reserved for the likes of Star Wars and Blade Runner: a re-cut. This is more than a mere tweak, however. “It’s triage,” Soderbergh says in an interview with Empire. “It’s going to be bloody.”
Kafka was Soderbergh’s second feature film, coming on the heels of his 1989 debut Sex, Lies, and Videotape, which won the Cannes Palme d’Or, and as such was saddled with expectations the director acknowledges he didn’t quite live up to. “I was frustrated with Kafka – it had a mixed-to-negative reaction when it came out – and I’m trying to completely rethink it in the hopes of at least turning it into something that’s unified. The tone was all over the place – which is the classic young filmmaker’s mistake.” A German dub of the film and a new score are likely in order. The latter would seem necessary given Soderbergh’s insistence that the new version “is shorter.” “I’m trying to alter the DNA of the movie,” Soderbergh says. He currently plans to release both old and new versions side by side on blu-ray.
The original cut of Kafka may not have been everything Soderbergh had hoped for, but it hardly seems to have hurt his career. Soderbergh has directed such hits at Erin Brockovich, Traffic, Ocean’s 11, Michael Clayton, and Che, while also producing films such as Good Night and Good Luck, Syriana, and A Scanner Darkly. His most recent film, Behind the Candelabra, which stars Michael Douglass and Matt Damon, was just nominated for the Palme d’Or and received well by audiences in Cannes at its world premier. It is now showing on HBO.
Soderbergh’s retirement from directing to pursue other passions such as “painting, making television shows, playwriting, selling fine Bolivian spirits, [and] writing books ” (according to Empire) has been quite public. His “State of Cinema” speech to the San Francisco Film Society a month ago (see below) got people talking, at the very least. The retirement, however, does not take him wholly away from filmmaking; he is attached to executive produce both The Great Antonio, a time-travelling comedy, and Making Jack Falcone, a true story about an FBI agent who infiltrated the Gambino crime family and will star Benicio Del Toro. Zack Galifianakis is also attached to his script A Confederacy of Dunces, with James Bobin (The Muppets, Flight of the Conchords) set to direct.