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Schizopolis (1996)

By Ian Grey | Posted

Writer/director Steven Soderbergh is filmdom's fascinated dilettante, the king of No Two Are Alike. He's skipped from semi-experimental indie hero (sex, lies, and videotape) to upbeat populist (Erin Brockovich) to Sidney Lumet-style message mongerer (Traffic) with aplomb. Still, Schizopolis--which Soderbergh wrote, directed, and stars in--proves a total surprise and delight, with the auteur at his most relaxed, playing a sort of psychedelicized WASP Woody Allen. Soderbergh takes on two roles: Dilbert-esque cube-dweller Fletcher Munson and his dentist/lothario doppelgänger, Dr. Korchek. In place of plot, Soderbergh riffs on the theme of fin-de-siècle love. Emotionally bamboozled characters go all semiotic at tense junctures, saying "Standard generic greeting!" instead of "Hi, honey," switching to Italian and Japanese, or speaking in utter gibberish that, as time goes by, bizarrely starts to makes hilarious sense. (Welcome to Deconstructionist Studies 101.) Lest his language follies come off as dauntingly pointy-headed, Soderbergh includes primo Farrelly brothers-level jerk-off jokes, a film-within-a-film tale of an exterminator/action star, and another subplot about an L. Ron Hubbard-like trash messiah who won't return Oliver Stone's phone calls. Schizopolis is the sight and sound of Soderbergh going completely orbital on us and having the time of his life. The feeling is infectious.

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