So, as a way of not taking up 2000 words describing why it's so great, I thought I'd do a list. In chronological order, here are my ten favourite bits about Schizopolis. I could make a list of so many, many more but I have to draw the line somewhere. I hope that if any of these things tickle your fancy in the written form then you should run to a copy of the DVD - the Criterion edition, which is the only one out there as far as I am aware, has extra gags on the insert of the DVD sleeve and apparently a truly bonkers Soderbergh interviewing Soderbergh audio commentary that I unfortunately ran out of time to listen to - and see it for themselves. It's all so magically insane and the actors are incredible and give the dialogue a free-flowing quality that acts as a natural grounding to the absurd proceedings.
1. The Introduction
The film's writer, director, producer, cinematographer and, yes, star, Steven Soderbergh, introduces his film to audiences in a prologue that was included after the film's negative reaction at Cannes. Never one to kowtow to distributor pressure, Soderbergh then made the prologue as kooky as the rest of the film as the camera frequently spins out of orbit in between Soderbergh extolling such boastful dialogue as "this is the most important motion picture you will ever attend ... the delicate fabric that holds all of us together will be ripped apart unless every man, woman and child in this country sees this film and pays full ticket price, not some bargain, cut-rate matinee deal."
2. The mole, the spy and the right-hand man
This entire scene appears to be little more than a reason for Soderbergh to assemble some of his wonderfully off-beat cast (including Eddie Jemison who is one those "that guy!"s that routinely pops up in everything under the sun) to stand around reeling off delightfully convoluted dialogue that is constantly being repeated, corrected and upended. This entire scene had me chuckling from beginning to end the sheer simplistic lunacy of it all.
"A spy and a mole?"
"No, I didn't say that, I said - "
"You said there's a guy leaking information... that's a spy."
"Then you said the right-hand man got himself a mole. I would assume to check on the spy."
"That's two people."
"Okay, there's a spy and a mole."
"Well that's twice as many as a minute ago."
"I say the guy who told you is the mole."
"You're the mole."
"No, no, no, no, he's the spy."
"No he's the spy!"
"If I were the spy would I be standing here saying there a spy?"
"Or a mole."
3. "Generic greeting"
Perhaps my favourite scene in Soderbergh's entire bonkers affair are the stretches of dialogue in "segment 1" wherein Soderbergh's Fletcher Munson and his wife exchange empty words with fake inflections and exaggerated facial expressions. Deliciously inspired, it's probably one of the keenest observations on a failing marriage I've seen in quite some time.
"Generic greeting returned."
"Overly dramatic statement regarding upcoming meal."
"Oooh, false reaction indicating hunger and excitement!"
4. sex, lies, and videotape
The sly references to his Oscar-nominated, Palme d'Or-winning classic, sex, lies, and videotape, appear throughout as a peculiar exterminator man who enters peoples houses and has sex with the stay-at-home wives them while filming and taking photos on their person cameras. Why not, I guess?
6. The news reports
As far as I can these these little inserts have literally nothing to do with the rest of the film, which is why their randomness is so amusing. Perhaps another example of Soderbergh's sign of Soderbergh's sign o' the times ideology as we criticises the laziness of films to simply have a news reporter reel off a bunch of exposition before moving on to yet another scene of bare-brained action. "At least we didn't sell it to the fucking Japanese", was another priceless one from later in the movie.
For whatever reason, I just love that the second of Steven Soderbergh's self-acted characters listens to mall muzak in his car. Didn't Arrested Development use muzak, or just had music inspired by it? I seem to recall that being a thing. Gosh, I need to rewatch Arrested Development! So very good. Is that movie ever happening? If it does I hope it's as polarising as, say, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me was.
Don't even bother trying to get me to explain this.
9. Foreign languages
In a twist on the "generic greeting" sequences from earlier, the first third of the film is now replayed through the eyes of Soderbergh's wife (literally, she's played by Soderbergh's ex-wife) with all of his dialogue spoken in Japanese, French and Italian. Just go with it, okay?
Soderbergh returns to the empty theatre of his film's prologue and indulges in a one-way question and answer session. What with there being nobody to actually answer questions (surely he knew nobody was going to go see this film and so, in effect, has the last laugh) he merely replies with nondescript answers that could apply to all sorts of questions on any number of topics. Schizopolis features no opening or closing credits so these prologues and epilogues act as book-ends to an otherwise rather shapeless entity.
Like I said, it's kind of hard to really boil everything from Schizopolis down into an easily digestible read. I hope anybody out there who hasn't had the pleasure of discovering this obscure gem does so (I know there are a lot who haven't, okay!) because it truly is a one-of-a-kind experience worth indulging. Even if you end up disliking it, you won't be able to say it wasn't something you'd seen before. A