Features and Columns · Movies

40 Things We Learned From ‘The Limey’ Commentary

By  · Published on February 9th, 2012

You know, I know, we all know Steven Soderbergh doesn’t do anything by the book. Say what you will about his film making prowess, he’s always looking at a different way of getting a shot, laying out a scene, or structuring an entire feature film. Why should it be any less abnormal when Soderbergh lays down a commentary track. Such is the case with this commentary for The Limey.

Knowing full well before actually hearing it that this commentary track is little more than director Soderbergh and screenwriter Lem Dobbs going at each other about film making as a whole and how this collaboration worked out, I’m not expecting cute anecdotes from the set or a play-by-play of the events transpiring on screen. How cute can Terence Stamp really be anyway? Instead, what is expected is a 90-minute barrage of verbal jousting and back-and-forth between a director and an apparently malcontent screenwriter. Sounds like a right robin time, innit?

The Limey (1999)

Commentators: Steven Soderbergh (director), Lem Dobbs (writer), a general sense of aggravation:

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“I think in terms of The Limey maybe the definition of memory is that it’s a form of regret or a kind of questioning of your entire life. Memory is the path not taken.” – Dobbs

“I tell people, they say to me, ‘Do you like this movie,’ and I have to say, ‘As a completely disinterested, objective film goer, I think it’s a good movie.’ I think if I knew nothing more about it and had nothing to do with it, as a film goer, I would say, ‘That’s a good movie. I’d recommend it to my friends.’ As the screenwriter, I do think it’s crippled.” – Dobbs

“Yeah, but, see, the first one is the only one that matters.” – Soderbergh

Final Thoughts

It’s difficult to make a list of things learned from a commentary track when every sentence spoken by the commentators involved is a gem. The Soderbergh/Dobbs commentary for The Limey is the kind of track where you find yourself writing everything they say verbatim. There’s a lot of verbal sparring throughout. Soderbergh feels he made the best film he could and never has a negative word to say about Dobbs’ screenplay. Dobbs, on the other hand, clearly has issues with the way Soderbergh handled his script. They aren’t wrong issues. They are just his opinion, one of a screenwriter who saw his work being messed with. Dobbs is clearly a screenwriter who is proud of the work he does. So too is Soderbergh on the directing side.

It’s a brilliant, 90-minute piece of audio when two men as intelligent as these two have an equally intelligent debate over a work of art as great as The Limey. It’s so good, in fact, that no article about it can do the actual commentary justice. It needs to be experienced for yourself.

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