Schizopolis: Criterion Collection

January 28, 2012 6 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

No fish were harmed in the making of this movie

Most of us know Stephen Soderberg from his newer efforts (and highly more mainstream) such as “Oceans Eleven”, “Erin Brockovich” and “Traffic”. He got put back on the map with two of his better works of late with “Out of Sight” and “The Limey” and is known for breaking into the independent film industry with the stunning “Sex, Lies and Videotape”. However, I begged the question in one of my reviews (“Traffic” I believe) and asked “…where was this guy hiding in the 90’s”. It turns out that he wasn’t that far away and this little indy romp of his was something that saved his career. “Schizopolis” is something that can either be the most boring or the most frustrating 95 minutes of your life; or it can be a lot of fun. It’s up to the viewer, though, what to make of the movie. The film is about as non-linear as you can get, it makes “MASH” look linear, to say the least. A surprise entrance at the Sundance Film Festival a few years back (1997), this was the year that David Cronenberg had already done “Crash” and the year David Lynch would do “Lost Highway”. Suffice it to say that watching these three movies back to back might make you want to commit yourself. But then again, maybe not…

Soderbergh marks a return to the familiar low-budget territory that launched his career in 1989. Steven Soderbergh pulls together this comedy stuffed with an onslaught of visual and verbal puns and manages to play dual roles as Fletcher Munson and Dr. Jeffrey Korchek. Munson is a copywriter who, under an extreme amount of pressure, finds out that his boss dies. This leaves him to write an upcoming speech for T. Azimuth Schwitters, a spiritual leader. Korchek, a dentist who has an affair with Munson’s wife, finds himself in trouble by falling for a new patient. Also present is Elmo Oxygen (David Jensen), an orange-jumpsuit-wearing type of guy who spends more time sleeping with clients than doing any actual work. The moment comes for Azimuth to give his speech, the life of each character has been turned completely upside down. Soderbergh mocks, satirizes, and criticizes the late 20th century’s hurried, soulless atmosphere, including religion, marriage, the media, the workplace, and male-female sexual relations.

Video: How does it look?

The transfer for “Schizopolis” is fairly good, though the aberrant highs and lows of the source material do contribute to an all-together “different” type of visual experience. Granted, this is the way the movie is supposed to look, so we’re greeted with a very interesting picture, to say the very least. The new 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer is something that is always welcome and though the movie is about as “low budget” as you can get, there are several scenes that look surprisingly good on DVD. The scenes alternate from a somewhat clean and vivid transfer to some stock footage and grainy in between shots. A very unique experience, it looks as good as it ever has.

Audio: How does it sound?

As for the audio, well you can only expect so much from a Dolby Digital 1.0 mono track. What we have is a rather good-sounding track, but it lacks any kind of depth that we’ve become so used to on bigger budget releases. Still, this movie is about as far away from sound as anything else, so dialogue, dialogue, dialogue is the key factor here. Speaking of dialogue (no pun intended), it sounds very clean, better than I was expecting for a mono track. However if you actually try to interpolate what is being said on screen, you just might go a little mad. Nevertheless, the audio isn’t disappointing in the least.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Criterion usually loads up their discs with some very interesting supplements and though two commentaries are provided here, one is worth a listen while the other is not. The first is Soderbergh interviewing…himself. An interesting and novel concept, to be sure, but ultimately it falls a bit flat as the novelty wears off. The second track is with the cast and crew and is a lot more informative and gets my recommendation as “the one to listen to”. A section entitled “Maximum Busy Muscle” is code for “Deleted Scenes” and they’re presented in very much the same way that the movie is. Lastly, a trailer is included as is the ever-present color bars.

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