Steven Soderbergh loves to keep busy. Even when he “retired,” he still managed to direct two full seasons of television (The Knick). So in true Soderbergh form, he’s been occupied with work during the pandemic. According to the filmmaker himself, he’s spent these last few months re-editing three of his films. Two of the re-edits – for Schizopolis and Full Frontal – are minor. But Soderbergh has also radically altered Kafka, his excellent second feature film that remains unavailable on DVD, Blu-ray, or streaming. Fingers crossed this means he’ll be releasing it into the world soon.
If you want to feel lazy, just take a look at Steven Soderbergh. The man is always working, even during quarantine time. Speaking with IndieWire, Soderbergh revealed that he’s re-edited three of his films – Schizopolis, Full Frontal, and Kafka. The changes to Schizopolis, an experimental comedy released in 1996, and Full Frontal, a 2002 flick about various characters in Hollywood, are minimal. “They’re just shorter,” Soderbergh says.
But the same can’t be said about Kafka. According to the filmmaker, this re-edit is “pretty radically different, something else entirely.” This isn’t the first time the director has mentioned his Kafka re-edit. He actually revealed he was tinkering with the film in 2013, telling Vulture:
“I’m overhauling Kafka completely. It’s funny—wrapping a movie 22 years later! But the rights had reverted back to me and Paul Rassam, an executive producer, and he said, ‘I know you were never really happy with it. Do you want to go back in and play around?’ We shot some inserts while we were doing Side Effects. I’m also dubbing the whole thing into German so the accent issue goes away. And Lem [Dobbs] and I have been working on recalibrating some of the dialogue and the storytelling. So it’s a completely different movie. The idea is to put them both out on disc.”
Then, during a Reddit AMA in 2017, Soderbergh said: “I’m in the midst (if you can call fifteen years of work “midst”) of a radical KAFKA overhaul, which I really want to finish by the end of the year.” Of course, since he’s still working on it here in the year 2020, it’s clear he didn’t finish it by the end of 2017.
Released in 1991, Kafka was Soderbergh’s second film, following his acclaimed debut Sex, Lies, and Videotape. It received mixed reviews and was a financial disappointment, and it’s also one of the harder-to-find films. It was released on VHS and LaserDisc (remember those things?), but has yet to find its way to DVD or Blu-ray (although there have been rumors of a Criterion release for years). It’s a weird little film that reimagines the life of Franz Kafka (as played by Jeremy Irons) as if the writer were living in one (or several) of his stories. I’ve always been a fan of the film, but I’d love to see this drastically different version Soderbergh has been cooking up for the last few years. Hopefully, we’ll hear more soon.
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