Schizopolis

From Academic Kids

Schizopolis is an experimental comedy film directed by Steven Soderbergh in 1996. Its title is a portmanteau of "schizophrenia" and "metropolis."

Although the film does not have a specific linear plot, a skeleton of structure exists: the film's main character is Fletcher Munson (played by Soderbergh himself), an office employee working under T. Azimuth Schwitters, the leader of a self-help company/religion/lifestyle known as Eventualism, a clear reference to L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology.

When Munson's co-worker Lester Richards (a reference to Soderbergh's idol and mentor, filmmaker Richard Lester) unexpectedly dies, Munson must take his job as speechwriter for Schwitters. His personal life suffers because of his work, and he becomes emotionally detached from his wife, who is engaged in an affair with Dr. Jeffrey Korchek, a conservative dentist who is a perfect doppelganger of Munson.

Meanwhile, Elmo Oxygen, a bug exterminator, beds lonely housewives while experiencing a rise to fame as a semi-celebrity prima donna. Also included are interludes with a half-naked man chased by mental hospital orderlies; a pompous social commentator; and news reports concerning the sale of Rhode Island.

Ultimately, the film has no definitive meaning – at the opening of the film, Soderbergh jokes, "everything in this film makes perfect sense, and if there's anything that you don't understand, it's your fault, not ours." Several interpretations have been theorized, including lack of communication – Munson and his wife only engage in templates of speech, such as "Generic greeting!" and "Generic greeting returned!" Also suggested is the idea of social restraint versus internal thought – at Lester Richards's funeral, the priest begins the eulogy: "Lester Richards is dead, and aren't you glad it wasn't you?" However, such interpretations should only be taken lightly, as it is a clearly experimental and avant-garde film, as illustrated by a short message in the middle of the film stating, "IDEA MISSING."

Shot for US$250,000, Schizopolis was given limited theatrical release, considered too odd for the mainstream crowd. However, the film has found a devout audience in those who enjoy the avant-garde, and was recently included in the Criterion Collection as #199.

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