Location Location Location Action

Steven Soderbergh’s new movie “Side Effects” was shot in a pile of NYC locations, including the Pentagram Design offices we designed when I was a partner. Watching the movie I lapsed into ‘close reading’ mode, as in Nicholson Baker’s 1995 piece “Books as Furniture” in which he analyzed the prop books on the shelves behind pajama models looking for deep structure and psycho-historical meaning…

…which poster by which partner was cropped and relocated to which stand-in bathroom; which stack of books was propped on the partners mezzanine; which carpet needed replacement, and other meaningless imponderables. Plus the fun of stars inhabiting your space as their own; Rooney Mara as Emily sitting at Emily Oberman’s desk; Polly Draper occupying a conference room as her office; Jude Law meandering down the stair to confront a series of fake pharma-ads (by Emily Oberman) all taking on the feeling of looking in on renters living in your home. Very famous and beautiful renters.

Contrast, in this movie, Soderbergh’s naturally lighted, real spaces (along with the occasional set) with Kubrick’s highly contrived and imagined sets. Kubrick imbued the set with all the emotion and weight of another character in the movie. For Soderberg they are merely places; real, but mere context.