Should Older Directors Follow Steven Soderbergh into Retirement? Online Poll Says Yes

soderbergh300.jpgSuper ancient director Steven Soderbergh recently announced that he'll be retiring after he finishes his next two films: a Liberace biopic and a remake of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (And why shouldn't he go out with a bang before spending his twilight years sitting on the porch swing, cradling his Oscar statuette?) Soderbergh's revelation is cause for contemplation, of course, and so the Guardian UK put the question to its readers: "Should there be a retirement age for artists?"

The results are surprising; 61.2 percent of voters supported the suggestion ("Yes -- too many artists continue long after their creativity has dried up"), with 38.8 percent sensibly voting no on account of, you know, the great works churned out by elder artists, writers, and filmmakers after they reach and surpass middle age.

Now, at just 48 years old Soderbergh isn't even AARP-eligible -- the minimum age for AARP membership is 50 -- but in his own words, retiring from filmmaking is akin to pro athletes "hang[ing] on one or two seasons too long." For the Oscar-winner, once the gig gets repetitious to the point of losing interest, drive, or creativity, it's time to move on.

All of which indicates that Soderbergh's simply burned out on moviemaking; for all we know, the experimenter may return to film after his planned detour into painting and photography. (Or, alternately: Bringing Liberace's life story to the big screen with Matt Damon and doing The Man from U.N.C.L.E. with George Clooney could magically reinvigorate his creative juices!) Soderbergh's exit, then, has nothing to do with age. So, why ask such a silly question?

Well, because of the elephants in the room -- elder filmmakers of retirement-eligible age who continue to make movies beyond an age when they're expected to just kick back and relax, not show the rest of the world up. Less scrutiny goes to filmmakers like Clint Eastwood (80), Alain Resnais (88), or Manoel de Oliveira (102), all of whom have new films in the works and, perhaps more importantly, have upheld such consistent reputations that nobody's clamoring for them to call it quits.

But let's just say it: Woody Allen (aged 75) is an easy target when it comes to cinematic ageism, thanks to the last few inconsistent decades. However, to the folks who clicked "yes" in that Guardian poll, consider this: Allen earned more Oscar nods for writing and directing after turning 50 (12) than he did prior (9), and while the last decade has yielded such duds as Hollywood Ending, Melinda and Melinda, Scoop, and Cassandra's Dream, it's also seen two of his more profitable box office turns: the Oscar-nominated Match Point, and the Oscar-winning Vicky Cristina Barcelona, which earned Penelope Cruz the Best Supporting Actress award.

That said, every new Allen flick is a new opportunity for this debate to flare up again. (Lackluster Woody-lite trailers don't help.) Circle back in May when Midnight in Paris debuts and let's see if we're singing the same tune.

· Steven Soderbergh says he's too old to make movies. Should there be a retirement age for artists? [The Guardian]


  • OldTowneTavern says:

    I always suspected that Jules Asner could wear away a man 's lust for life.

  • stolidog says:

    If you're old and you haven't learned or done anything new in a long time, retire (let's use robert de niro as a random example)
    If you're old but still have something to offer, keep it coming (let's slide Vanessa Redgrave in here as an example)

  • epochd says:

    Clint eastwood had a ten yr period after winning his first oscar where he did nothing worthwhile (i challenge you to sit through True Crime and Blood Work back to back) then he reemerged with Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby.
    and he now he's descended into making movies far worse than woody allen, only woody's movies aren't pretentious so therefore can't be misinterpreted by morons. Clint is good in gran torino but the movie is laughably bad, as is flags, changeling and hereafter.

  • epochd says:

    also, i'd never argue that Scoop is a good movie, but it genuinely has more great lines than most modern comedies. it's like a very witty but very ugly date. fun to listen to, no so much to look at.

  • blizzard bound says:

    I must be the only one who hated Match Point. I kept thinking if you swapped out the British accents for American ones, the lame dialogue, the weakness of the Scarlett Johannson character and the ridiculous script would be startlingly obvious.
    I'm still convinced American critics were bedazzled by the accents.
    The age thing is a dumb question.
    People enter and exit the business at different ages. And do their best work at different ages.
    People have different amounts to say at different points in their lives. All hail the long-lived artist who has the grace to ride out the rough periods before finding the nitty-gritty again.

  • casting couch says:

    After films like the sleep-inducing Solaris and the smug Ocean's 12, Soderbergh made the right choice.