Schizopolis

on April 09, 1997 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
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   "Schizopolis" is Steven Soderbergh's berserk and uneven attempt to mimic Bunuel's "Un Chien Andalou"; he wants to provoke reaction but he's not quite sure how to go about it. The story--if it can be called that--is something of a comedic attack on the cult of Scientology, here labeled Eventualism and led by one T. Azimuth Schwitters (David Jensen). Soderbergh plays two characters, the put-upon Munson, who works for Schwitters, and Dr. Jeffrey Korczak, a dentist who suddenly falls in love with a patient, "Attractive Woman No. 2."
   There's a lot of that type of off-kilter wordplay; "generic greeting" is used instead of "hello," and characters often speak in other languages--French, Italian, Japanese--while being answered in English. Then there's the exterminator Elmo, who has been adopted by a couple who are filming him in his own cinema verite "Clockwork Orange"-like scenarios. Does such absurdity add up to anything? Not really, but there's no denying that Soderbergh is having fun with his "home movie." Its first half-hour and last 15 minutes are inventive and often quite amusing, with mock TV ads and newscasts equal to those in "Robocop." But the middle section, revolving around Soderbergh's dual roles and the characters' sex lives, is confusing and aimless.
   His deliberately "raw" technique, lines on the screen, badly lipsynched sound and no credits other than the film title and The End, might be a statement of nontraditional intent, but it all grows tiresome quickly. Still, "Schizopolis" is more entertaining than one would think. Soderbergh has loosened up considerably after "The Underneath," which was dreadfully earnest. "Schizopolis" is a minor film, but perhaps Soderbergh needed to get it out of his system before moving on to bigger and better things.    Starring Steven Soderbergh, Betsy Brantley and David Jensen. Directed and written by Steven Soderbergh. Produced by John Hardy. A Northern Arts release. Satire. Unrated. Running time: 96 min. Screened at the Toronto fest.
Tags: Steven Soderbergh, Betsy Brantley and David Jensen. Directed, written by Steven Soderbergh, Produced by John Hardy, Northern Arts, Satire
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