Schizopolis [Criterion Collection] [DVD] [1996]

Regardless of the markedly lukewarm reception it received upon original release, Steven Soderbergh's wildly experimental comedy satire nevertheless gets the royal treatment on DVD courtesy of the fine folks at Criterion. Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, the film looks great as the ambitious Soderbergh wavers between various film stocks and shooting styles. For this reason, the image can appear somewhat grainy at times, but this is indeed the effect that the director was going for, and colors are finely balanced with even, attractive skin tones. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital Mono and lacks any real dynamic impact on the viewer. Regardless of its lack of dynamics, though, the soundtrack is exceptionally clear, with no signs of any auditory distortion. Though the extras on this release may not be as plentiful as Criterion fans have come to be used to, their originality and entertainment value more than makes up for any perceived shortcomings. Starting with the packaging itself, Village Voice film editor Dennis Lim places the Schizopolis in an interesting perspective within Soderbergh's career trajectory, and offers some amusing and insightful interpretations of the director's wild vision. Furthermore, those adventurous few who remove the cover art for the slip sleeve are in for a wordy and eye straining treat. The first commentary, in which Soderbergh takes on the daunting task of interviewing himself, is certainly in keeping with the irreverent and surreal tone of the film but not entirely without some interesting factual information. Though the commentary track featuring producer John Hardy, acting and casting director David Jensen, actor Mike Malone, and production sound mixer Paul Landford may be more traditional (though not much more) in terms of presentation, both tracks have their merit and both are actually fun and involving to take in. The "Maximum Busy Muscle" featurette is sure to crack up viewers with a sequence of cut footage and various oddities, and an original theatrical trailer gives viewers a hint at what they're in for when they sit down to take in Schizopolis.
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Overview

Special Features

  • New high-definition digital transfer, enhanced for widescreen televisions
  • Two audio commentaries: The first features Steven Soderbergh interviewing himself; the second includes producer John Hardy, actor and casting director David Jensen, actor Mike Malone, and production sound mixer Paul Ledford
  • "Maximum Busy Muscle"
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired
  • Optimal image quality: RSDL dual-layer edition
  • Closed Captioned

Synopsis

Schizopolis
After years of making movies in the fringes of the Hollywood system after his debut success sex, lies, and videotape, director Steven Soderbergh made Schizopolis as, in his own words, an artistic "wake-up call to himself." The result is a discombobulated, irreverent, comedic meta-movie, a cinematic hall of mirrors nearly impossible to describe. Soderbergh wrote, directed, photographed, edited, and even stars in the film as Fletcher Munson, a disillusioned paper-pusher assigned to write a deliberately meaningless speech for T. Azimuth Schwitters, an L. Ron Hubbard-esque self-help guru whose new book Eventualism is a bestseller. His heart isn't in it, however, so he spends most of his time either masturbating in the employee bathroom, avoiding calls from people who want to hire him as a company spy, or listening to the paranoid delusions of his office chum, Nameless Numberhead Man. Intertwined with Munson's attempt to write glib diatribes are numerous asides and subplots. Best of all is the story of Elmo Oxygen: an orange-jumpsuit wearing bug exterminator who appears to be sleeping with several of his customers, including T. Azimuth Schwitters' wife. At one point, Elmo is coerced into leaving Schizopolis, mid-scene, to join another movie. Convoluted and playful as the movie is, there is some method to Soderbergh's madness. The various plot threads, though loosely wound to the core, do in fact lead to some understanding of the disorders, communication problems, and frustrations at the heart of contemporary life. ~ Anthony Reed, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Steven Soderbergh
    Steven Soderbergh - Munson
  • Betsy Brantley
    Betsy Brantley - Wife
  • David Jensen
    David Jensen - Elmo
  • Image coming soon
    Mike Malone
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