Watch Steven Soderbergh’s Crude 1985 Yes Documentary ‘Access All Areas’

By  · Published on February 3rd, 2013

soderbergh yes

Later this week, the alleged final theatrical release directed by Steven Soderbergh will open nationwide. Titled Side Effects, it’s a fine little thriller involving psychiatry and the pharmaceutical industry. Maybe not the grandest finale for the filmmaker who gave us such big movies as the Oceans trilogy, Traffic, Che, Shizopolis and of course Sex, Lies and Videotape, but he didn’t enter the business with a bang either. Soderbergh’s first professional directing gig, at age 21, was helming a little-recognized concert film titled Yes: 9012Live, which presents a 1984 performance by the band Yes during their tour supporting the album 90125. (You can see a clip of them doing “Roundabout” from the film here.)

Supplementary to that, he shot a short backstage documentary during the tour called Access All Areas. It’s a crude look at the reunited prog-rock group both aesthetically and content-wise. It’s quickly cut, offering only bits of moments rather than full-on scenes. And some of those little bits include band members mooning the camera, talking about needing to poop and putting their butts up to the microphone of Larry Blake, who would continue on as Soderbergh’s regular sound man for almost 30 years (through Magic Mike). And at the end of the film, everyone has false credits where Tony Kaye and Trevor Rabin are said to be known as “Jack Mehoff” and “Michael Hunt,” respectively. Who knew Yes was so childish?

While Soderbergh never stays with any one moment for very long, there is a lot to see in only 24 minutes, in part because it is so choppy. We see some of the business, the fans, the press interviews and a fight. Although it’s far from being a cinema verite classic (something you think about thanks to someone on camera acknowledging the documentary style), we can think of it as being like Don’t Look Back tossed into a shredder for the attention span of the MTV generation. Actually, it’s more like the attention span of the YouTube generation. Maybe the film is actually ahead of its time?

Yes: 9012Live, which earned Soderbergh a Grammy nomination, was available on its own for many years on VHS. It wasn’t until the film was released on DVD in 2006 that Access All Areas could be widely seen for the first time. And now, of course, it’s been uploaded to YouTube, where you can watch it in full below. Keep a look out for a young Soderbergh with hair reflected in a dressing room mirror (D.A. Pennebaker in Don’t Look Back-like) at the 17:27 mark.

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.