Film Scouts Reviews


by David Sterritt

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Steven Soderbergh emerged as the hottest independent filmmaker on the planet when "sex, lies, and videotape" went from Sundance to Cannes to Lincoln Center to multiplexes everywhere eight years ago. Then came "Kafka," which I found less dreadful than most critics did, and "King of the Hill," a gently nostalgic yarn that deserved more attention than it got, and "The Underground," an imaginative neo-noir that never got above-ground with audiences. Understandably fed up with the commercial scene, Soderbergh has now taken the opposite route, financing his new "Schizopolis" out of his own pocket (about $20,000 according to one source) and shooting it like an extended home movie--with a bare-bones plot about a dentist, a pretentious New Age guru, and assorted other characters--starring his friends and former wife. Nobody likes a good avant-garde romp more than I do, but "good" is the operative word, and despite its originality "Schizopolis" is hard to put up with once its jokey attitude and meandering structure have lost their novelty. Cannes did Soderbergh no favor by unveiling it as a special "film surprise," raising audience expectations that couldn't possibly be fulfilled. He has too much talent to fall by the wayside, and I sympathize with his evident disgust vis-a-vis the commercial circuit. But here's hoping he comes up with a more viable alternative next time around.

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