We all endure the unconditional forlorn of mundanity that results in some aspect of our lives. The irony in this particular write up is Steven Soderbergh’s 1996 film SCHIZOPOLIS, for me was like coming up for air in a sea of films that subscribe to the same template in terms of storytelling. The template does not apply to SCHIZOPOLIS and in doing so really shines the light on this subliminal sadness that’s anchored beneath the offbeat milieu Soderbergh creates. You know when you’re shattered on the inside, but deflect such notion on the outside? In many instances, SCHIZOPOLIS populates something in one’s psyche that detects it, almost like a bloodhound trailing the scent of a murderer. It’s an extreme example, but anyone feeling a connection to this film will denote the unhappiness that embodies this film. Seeing this as a baby in college to 33 year-old Marissa now I seem to have a deeper appreciation for the film and the filmmaker. Of course this is what time and experience does to people all the time.
Fletcher Munson (Steven Soderbergh) works for a company that loosely feels like a play on Scientology that’s supposed to be a self-help company called Eventualism. Munson writes speeches for the founder of the group and while being emotionally closed off from his wife, realizes she’s having an affair with his doppelganger, a dentist named Dr. Jeffrey Korchek ( who's also played by Soderbergh). There’s also a subplot involving a weird exterminator named Elmo Oxygen. In someways, I feel like he's a symbol for Soderbergh's inner artist.
I don’t know what was going on with Soderbergh’s life at the time of this film, but can’t help but wonder if it brought him any kind of catharsis. Whatever it was, I applaud him for bringing so much ingenuity to breaking the rules and defying what most traditional movie goers will loathe. I love the dialogue because its just words, corny dentist puns, and phrases, detached from any genuine meaning such as “Generic Greeting”, “Bunny Bucket” or “Throbbing Dust Generation”. So many damn quotable lines. I love it to death and I can't explain why. And that's okay.
In any traditional form of storytelling, there are three acts, such as the case here, but the story really orbits satire in bulk. The first act really sets the satire tone so much that it’ll make you giggle like a person with so much giddiness you don’t know what to do with yourself. Where do I place this giddiness because its juxtaposed to a certain sadness that’s overwhelming? I’m laughing on the outside but crying on the inside and this is life everyday. When you look at the world then to now where do your emotions lie? In the dark void of morbid sarcasm or in the light where there’s hope and faith? For SCHIZOPOLIS it’s in the middle ground and to me that’s interesting. We’re always trying to make sense out of society, religion, relationships, sex, and politics and parodying it all made sense in 1996. But fast forward to 2020, and healthcare in California is a joke, rigged and obstructed by greedy a-holes. Sigh. We still have a long ways to go and in the mean time we're flailing like a flopping fish on boiling concrete. Hot mess. Yet, one could laugh at the absurdity in SCHIZOPOLIS where a news anchor reports, that the federal government will eradicate the national debt by selling Rhode Island to a group of private investors. Just think about that thought for a moment. A long moment. Sigh. Again.
The second act is adorable and unstable, Korchek has a crush on Woman #2 (Munson’s wife) who comes to his dental office and he’s instantly in love. It sets the tone of how relationships seem to work in his world as he compares how the “incline” and “falling” for someone has the same result. Also as a note, I love the rotting fruit on the window sill analogy. Maybe this is a real thing for struggling artists to love many people at various given times and I think just maybe Soderbergh was tapping into such an instance at his life during that time. Just a hunch. He explores many selves and how they interact attempting to fit in the mold of a civilized world but often fall to someone always getting hurt. So much of this world is fleeting and yet there's always some compelling strife to wrestle its depth and I feel like much of this film expresses such nature by its bombastic ambiguity.
By the third act you understand from the woman’s perspective, how communicating with the man she loves proves to be futile in the sense of how narrowly focused his world’s become leaving little room for her to be part of said world. It’s a bit disheartening but illustrates the commonality of how much of it’s truth lingers in reality. Women just want to be held and understood. I think it’s really simple but again this is also the interesting dichotomy between men and women and their vast differences. Nonetheless, always interesting especially when trying to communicate in cinematic terms.
If you have nostalgia for the 90s I can’t recommend this one enough. It’s an acquired taste but with such a blatant nature of quirky idiosyncrasies, you’ll too wish your trashcan at work would make beautiful music every time you discarded a post note. I miss the spirit of indie films where filmmakers let their visions run wild without some cocky executive producer breathing down their spine. So save watching CONTAGION for another time and instead nurse your high strung hysteria over the Coronoavirus by watching SCHIZOPOLIS because it rules or perhaps will make you dread your existence or perhaps appreciate it.
"I can make sense out of yesterday, understand that!"