Schizopolis [1996]

Both a kind of home movie and a salute to the hip, pop-up sketch comedy of 1960s-early 1970s television--Laugh-In, Monty Python's Flying Circus, that sort of thing--Schizopolis is a hit-and-miss series of dada gags with vaguely connecting threads of Kafkaesque paranoia. Soderbergh himself stars as two people--one an ineffective dentist, the other a speechwriter for a cult movement called Eventualism, which has set out to "question all answers"--connected by their romances with the same woman, played by Soderbergh's real-life ex, Betsy Bramley. There isn't so much a story as a series of bits in which these characters often (though not necessarily) turn up, from press conferences on the subject of horse urination to old footage of nudists to a scene of an Eventualist exchange between husband and wife: "Generic greeting!" "Generic greeting returned!" None of this leads to a literal point, but after a while an undercurrent of disease about making sense of the modern world becomes apparent beneath the jokes. Soderbergh (sex, lies, and videotape, Out of Sight) is certainly a filmmaker who goes his own way in life, always hitting his target in one spot or another and occasionally getting a bull's-eye for his trouble. Schizopolis is no bull's-eye, and it has just as many detractors as admirers, but it's impossible not to appreciate Soderbergh's conviction that making a film out on the fringes is a worthy endeavor. --Tom Keogh

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