The Knick Screen 16 articles

The Knick


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  • ..."Method and Madness" [is] a rich and satisfying opener, even despite [writers] Amiel and Begler's heavy-handedness. Soderbergh's camera reveals nothing unless one of the characters discovers it themselves, making the hospital's inner contortions feel less like a dusty starter kit of historical cruelties, and more like the result of very different personalities commingling in the same shared space.

  • The surgical-history material is so strong, so important, so resonant, so extraordinarily conceived and executed, that it carries a viewer—carried me, at least—eagerly through the series. It’s a pleasure to praise a television show rather than bury it, though it’s hard to avoid saying that the delight of “The Knick,” the way in which it differs from other series, is that its virtues owe almost nothing to its characters; it’s good despite its characters.

  • You’ll probably know where you stand with The Knick after this early sequence [where Dr. Christiansen kills himself]... Many filmmakers would milk the moment when the pregnant patient begs, “Please save my baby,” before being put under (as it turns out, permanently). Soderbergh presents it as a mere statistic no more or less important than graphic incisions, claret-filled jars, or a dead infant.

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    Sight & Sound: Robert Hanks
    October 02, 2015 | November 2015 Issue (p. 100)

    At times The Knick seems too ready to slip into the anti-Victorianism that replaces all virtue with hypocrisy, the questing, scientific spirit with greed and ambition. But it springs constant surprises – plot twists or shifts in tone or gut-wringing orgies of gore (gorgies?). It is not always convincing but it is nearly always peculiar, and that is not faint praise.

  • Steven Soderbergh's The Knick is exhilaratingly alien... [The show] is informed by a hypnotic sense of old newness that's reminiscent of Deadwood. Soderbergh conjures a past era and parallels to present-day United States in a tour of a still-relevant caste system that allows the audience to sort out the contemporary resonances for itself.

  • The Knick is the rare series that works through its themes in visual as well as literary terms. The arrival of electricity at the hospital acquires great significance as the show goes on; it signifies the point at which one century formally passed on and another replaced it... Soderbergh’s direction makes maximum rhetorical use of darkness and light, staging clandestine activities and the lives of poor people in grottolike interiors and favoring the rich with allover illumination.

  • ...I’ve found myself shockingly willing to overlook some of the weaker aspects of the writing and character development (several of which The New Yorker’s Emily Nussbaum rightly pointed out in her review) because I’m so enthralled by the look and pace of the thing. Put differently, The Knick has made me into a formalist, which is to say I just want to revel in the ways that the cinematography, score, and editing give the show a pulse that its writing might not.

  • The antihero recalls a more fearless House, and the historical medicine evokes a dingier Call The Midwife, but the network approach is closer to St. Elsewhere. Only instead of a camera cutely dancing from doctor to doctor, Soderbergh cuts together a system of data like sections of an orchestra. And that data is information about life and death, god and science, the past and the future, social Darwinism and progressivism, and shots of cocaine straight into the spine.

  • Soderbergh is a chilly director—that’s a description, not a criticism—but his empathy with Thackery, whose mind is on fire even as the rest of him is a mess, turns The Knick into a hot show, or at least a constantly simmering one that boils over at least once or twice in every episode... The Knick is nothing if not a show about the body, and Soderbergh seems to have been liberated to make both the most sensuous and erotic and also the most nauseatingly visceral images of his career.

  • Soderbergh, with Vertov flowing somewhere in his veins, understands how form generates content and that the form/content dichotomy is possibly an impediment for the developing possibilities of filmic language, in the digital realm or in the booming complex of this “Golden Age of Television.” Soderbergh is arranging an uneasy discord between the smooth conventions of a TV medical drama and the medium’s formal dynamics.

  • While the writers have crafted a familiar tale of double lives and moral compromises, Soderbergh’s visual craft skips to its own unique beat. Television has never looked so smart... The Knick remains head and shoulders above television’s recent outpourings. While Amiel and Begler have structured a routine drama, Soderbergh can’t help wedging his personality into it.

  • [The Knick is] at its weakest when Soderbergh’s incredibly deft marshalling of image and movement comes to a rest point and the occasional banality of series melodrama gets laid bare... [But then] there’s the joy, of course, of seeing Soderbergh’s camerawork, like the bravura moment when, with a few pans and electrifying shifts of focus he captures nearly all the various factions and characters arriving for work in one take. It’s sometimes as breathtaking when it’s ordinary as when it’s bloody.

  • What’s most interesting about The Knick is how it balances the modest small-screen aims of its writers, Jack Amiel and Michael Begler, and the incredible big-canvas ambition of the director. While they are penning a fan-fiction season of ER as written by E.L. Doctorow, Soderbergh is attempting the cinematic equivalent of a Dos Passos novel, painting a portrait of a society in flux via virtuoso flourishes and long, jazzy jags.

  • By foregrounding the relentless drive toward technical improvement, the show pulls attention away from the usual hallmarks of prestige TV—arc development and character showcase—and instead puts the focus primarily on Soderbergh's direction, cinematography, and editing.

  • As Soderbergh’s camera stalks corridors streaked with visceral residue, peering in close at brusquely opened bodies, it digests the life-and-death despair of passing patients as much as it does the larger anguish of Clive Owen’s brilliant (naturally), drug-addled surgeon. Given time to grow, it could become to ER what The Wire is to NYPD Blue.

  • In the series medium, Soderbergh has found a brand new canvas to test out visual ideas and off-kilter storytelling devices, and The Knick's intoxicating second season proves to be a dazzlingly detailed and vibrantly visual mural of his obsessions, bringing on a sort of imagistic high that would count as the famed filmmaker's most obvious addiction.

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