Some combination of goof, provocation and willfully anarchic eruption, Schizopolis is a satire and critique of modern life so scattershot in its aim and techniques that it misses the mark more often than it hits. A no-budgeter made as a guerrilla project by Steven Soderbergh in Baton Rouge, LA, pic is a real head-scratcher that so insistently keeps jumping all over the place that it becomes impossible to pinpoint its intent.
Film had a world premiere as a ‘surprise’ entry at the Cannes Film Festival as odd as its own nature. The picture bears no credits at all, either front or rear, except for a one-frame copyright card at the end that goes by so fast as to prove unreadable. Soderbergh, who wrote, directed and shot the film and plays the main role as well, is preferring to send the pic out as an ‘authorless text’ to which audiences will bring no preconceived notions.
Schizopolis (title appears only on a character’s T-shirt) is as mangy, indecipherable and from-the-hip as Soderbergh’s previous films are precise, literate and meticulously calibrated. This would seem to be the work of someone in a conflicted and bilious frame of mind.
Pic starts out as an apparent satire of, and attack on, Scientology-like organizations. Munson (Soderbergh) is a functionary working on behalf of a movement called Eventualism, the guru of which is the uniquely selfish, mean-spirited T. Azimuth Schwitters. Focus then veers to the annoying antics of a weird exterminator in an orange suit and goggles named Elmo, whose aggressively promiscuous activities remain utterly unfathomable throughout the running time.
Along the way, characters begin speaking in different forms of gibberish, with Munson and his wife relating in a fitfully amusing techno-ese in which they might say hello by uttering ‘generic greetings.’ Technically, film is a hodgepodge that doesn’t attempt to gloss over its made-on-the-run quality.