Friday, March 20, 2009

Classic Scene #5: "Can I buy you a drink?"

Taking a 'time out' in Out Of Sight

Is there a more perfect courting/love scene in the history of cinema? Seriously, I can't think of one. After two bland movies (The Peacemaker and One Fine Day) and one disaster (Batman & Robin) Clooney landed the role of Jack Foley in Out Of Sight, the first of many he was 'born to play' but before he'd shaken off his tv doctor persona. When director Steven Soderbergh cast him opposite Jennifer Lopez (who herself was still a popstar playing actress) as Karen Sisko in this Elmore Leonard adaptation who could've know we were about to witness such a perfect storm of onscreen chemistry?

Lopez was elegant and energetic, full of sass and bristling sexuality. Clooney had an unassuming, charming cool about him and a streak of nervous playfulness. They shared just two moments of screen time together prior to this scene, the first a brilliant encounter in the trunk of the car where they speculate how unrealistic it was that Faye Dunaway and Robert Redford hook up so quickly in Three Days Of The Condor. The second was a frozen moment in the hotel elevator where Karen hesitates in arresting Jack, which he responds with a wave. Such connections reach beyond normal explanations Jack points out to Karen in the cocktail lounge where they meet:

"It's just something that happens. It's like seeing someone for the first time, like you could be passing in the street and you look at each other and for a few seconds there's a recognition, like you both know something. The next moment the person is gone and it's too late to do anything about it. And you always remember it because it was there and you let it go and you think to yourself what if I had stopped? What if I have said something. What if? What if? It may only happen a few times in your life."

KS: "Or once."

JF: "Or once..."

It's only then we notice David Holmes sensual score become prominent as Soderbergh begins to cut between the lounge and footage of their actual love scene. Moments overlap, glances are stolen and hands brush against body parts. They discuss their fantasy while acting it out, flirting with their words and their bodies – bittersweetness hangs throughout. Soderbergh keeps his camera unsteady, spying on them through the grainy lens as tiny freeze frames capture their dance. The scene is never gratuitous, refusing to revel in the flesh, eroticism purely by association. It is as close to perfection as it gets.