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Soderbergh Gets the Bronx Cheer

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[posted by Sheigh Crabtree]

New Yorkers are a tough crowd -- at least when it comes to Steven Soderbergh's latest picture. The director got the Bronx cheer at a DGA New York screening of "The Good German" followed by a Q&A Saturday night. The people who showed up seemed either familiar with Paul Attanasio and his adaptation of the book and/or intrigued by the movie's theme that depicts the post World War II race to nab German scientists between Russia and the U.S. The negative reaction seemed to stem from the film's emulative stylization and the uneven acting.

I sat near a guy who guffawed, sucked his teeth and said "Oh, puhleeze!" loudly enough that everyone in the auditorium could hear him. And despite knowing that Soderbergh was present barely a polite applause could be heard during the end credits. (He walked onstage with moderator Tony Gilroy to a smattering of claps.)

The first question came from left field. An older woman was furious that Soderbergh moved hidden scientist Emil Brandt from the sewer to the cinema. She wanted to know why he jeopardized Brandt's safety. Expressing a more common sentiment, another old-timer stood up and said, "Were you planning to do a spoof or a parody of 'The Third Man?'" Soderbergh offed the question by saying he did not tilt the camera as Carol Reed had.

It seemed a knife fight might break out when Soderbergh said to members: "I imagine a couple of you out there have directed a movie..." (Of course, many DGA NY members work in TV, but if it was a way of reminding them, it went over like a Scud missile.) Gilroy, who looked a little surprised by the hostile questions, tried to keep Soderbergh pumped up, suggesting he really takes chances every time he goes out. But the audience wasn't buying it. The director got one big laugh when he said he pitched "The Good German" to Warner Bros. as "the first feel bad World War II movie." On that point the audience seemed to agree.

Having attended a few other screenings and Q&As here this past week I can attest that "Blood Diamond," "Venus" and "Dreamgirls" got far warmer responses.

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