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Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Two Takes - Criterion Collection
Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Two Takes - Criterion Collection
Actors: Patricia Ree Gilbert, Don Fellows, Bob Rosen, Susan Anspach, Jonathan Gordon
Director: William Greaves
Genres: Indie & Art House, Documentary
NR     2006     2hr 54min

In William Greaves?s spontaneous, one-of-a-kind fiction/documentary hybrid Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take One, Greaves presides over a beleaguered troupe of camera and sound men in New York?s Central Park in 1967, leaving them...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Patricia Ree Gilbert, Don Fellows, Bob Rosen, Susan Anspach, Jonathan Gordon
Director: William Greaves
Creators: William Greaves, Bill Stitt, Louise Archambault, Manny Meland, Manuel Melamed, Steve Buscemi, Steven Soderbergh
Genres: Indie & Art House, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Documentary
Studio: Criterion
Format: DVD - Color,Full Screen
DVD Release Date: 12/05/2006
Original Release Date: 01/01/1968
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1968
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 2hr 54min
Screens: Color,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 12
Edition: Criterion Collection
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: A Cinematic Experiment About Movie M
K. Harris | Las Vegas, NV | 02/19/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

"One of the most impressive things about the Criterion DVD label is its willingness to select offbeat and challenging titles. A film's inclusion in the Criterion Collection, in fact, almost guarantees that it will be seen by a more diverse group of viewers than might have originally sought the DVD out. This can be a good thing, or a bad thing, (but usually good) especially on titles that will really only appeal to a specific target audience. Such is the case with the experimental documentary "Symbiopsychotaxiplasm." I think individuals fascinated by the creative art of filmmaking will be intrigued and entertained--specifically film students, scholars, theorists, documentarians, and the like. For casual viewers, however, the film's appeal may be somewhat limited--so I recommend that you know what you're getting into before you purchase this DVD.

The DVD set contains two films--"Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One" and "Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take 2 1/2." In "Take One," shot in 1968, director William Greaves takes a full film crew to New York's Central Park. There he films various actors tackling a fairly provocative script about sex and relationships. The scenes depicted, over and over, are reminiscent of a second rate Tennessee Williams' script in their melodrama and psychosexual dialogue. Employing different cameras, he not only films the actors, but himself, members of the crew, and patrons in the park (specifically those he feels represent some aspect of what is being enacted). It's a chaotic set where no one really knows what is going on--but it can be a fascinating look at the process in action. The crew know that Greaves is trying for an all-encompassing documentary, but have differing opinions on its intent or what form it should take. Without Greave's knowledge, then, they start to rebel--filming meetings of themselves debating the merits and theory behind Greave's vision (or lack thereof). It's a messy look at people who are passionate about film trying to make sense of what they are doing.

In "Take 2 1/2," we pick up in much the same way. The first 40 minutes captures more footage from the shoot of "Take One." The second half, however, shows the film finally being released at a film festival--35 years later! Now the participants who have reunited are still trying to articulate the significance of "Symbiopsychotaxiplasm." Greaves calls it a metaphor of Vietnam, but no one else who was involved can make that connection. After the festival, Greaves and crew (along with Steve Buscemi) set out to recreate the experience. The crew, having knowledge of the project and the previous film, fail to generate much passion or drama--they're just doing their jobs. What we do get, however, is an extended sequence of two actors really going at an improv to get to the heart of their characterizations. It might be one of the most evocative depictions of real actors working their craft that I've ever seen.

I know I've probably been too descriptive (or not enough, I don't even know)--but the films truly are difficult to describe. If you like the film process (or the acting process) and watching it in detail, this might be a useful film. If you like to see or participate in debate about the meaning of film and other aspects of film theory, this film might stimulate your intellect. The film also stands as an interesting, but not overt, look at racism, sexism and some other societal mores inherent in the sixties artistic community. I actually enjoyed these films, but recognize that they are not for everyone. This is experimental film with no beginning or end, and no major revelations or commentaries. Everyone is likely to take something different out of the viewing experience--so I'll leave you with that. KGHarris, 02/07."
Filming A Film Being Filmed
Robert I. Hedges | 12/04/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Rating this film is extremely difficult. I eventually settled on three stars, despite parts of the film that I wanted to rate at both extremes of the scale. This release contains two DVD's, "Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take One" filmed in 1968 in and around Central Park, and "Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take 2 1/2" made in 2003 featuring a special appearance by Steve Buscemi.

The film is absolutely original and uncategorizable. It was made by the brilliant filmmaker William Greaves as an experimental film which is like a Möbius strip, constantly looping back upon itself both in repeatedly iterated scenes, and stylistically via the conversations and events occurring within the cast and crew being documented making the movie. The film is very stream-of-consciousness, avant-garde, and amateurish in places. It features intercutting of the actual scenes being filmed and the crew at work, with frequent (sometimes annoyingly frequent) split-screen shots and unrelated, seemingly pointless narration. Ultimately, though, these qualities combine into the film Greaves envisioned, complete with openly expressed self doubts of the filmmakers. Meetings had a staffers saying things like "Here is an open-ended film with no plot," and "I don't see where there's a beginning, or a middle, or an end, and perhaps most tellingly "Nothing is being revealed, and that's the genius of this film." I'm not sure it's genius, but it does achieve its goal of challenging the conventions of what a movie is conceptually, and in that regard, Greaves is spectacularly successful.

The film exhibits very few scenes being filmed over and over again with no conclusions ever reached; this uneasy concept is further embellished by a soundtrack by Miles Davis which perfectly juxtaposes the inner and outer layers of the film, one viewed from the vantage point of an audience watching a startling and edgy film, the other viewed through the eyes of the filmmakers themselves.

The DVD set has many extras including an interesting interview with the affable Greaves, discussing his vision for this "psychodrama." While there is extensive footage of the crew endlessly discussing the vision of the film (and, in fact, of one hijacking of the process by the crew, which Greaves left in): one crewmember sums up the vision with "The film is the thing: talk's nothing." Actually, the film could have benefited from a bit less talk (and a lot less doubletalk) from the crew. To that end, when the film was essentially remade (with the help of Steven Soderbergh and Steve Buscemi) as "Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take 2 1/2," the much older cast and crew seem vastly less pretentious, and much more genuinely likeable. The interviews with Greaves and Buscemi are revealing, and complement the viewing experience more than most interviews with film principals.

The film is challenging and frustrating; I think it largely achieves what Greaves set out to do, though most people will not appreciate the goal or the film. I appreciate the experiment that the film represents, even though I am not entranced with large individual pieces of the film: sometimes repetition is less groundbreaking than monotonous.

I recommend this film only for serious theater students and people interested in the avant-garde cinema of the late 1960's. This movie is most definitely not for mainstream or casual viewing, but people enamored with experimental film stylings will find it intriguing."
Another Must-Have from Criterion
J. Merritt | 06/30/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This film, originally released in 1968 and reissued by Criterion in a two-disc set, is a fascinating look inside moviemaking. Or is it? The beauty of it is that you never know for sure. Alleging to be following the shooting of a film in Central Park, the narrative sways from actual footage of the actors to b-roll of the surrounding crowd to behind-the-scenes dramas among the cast and crew. You're never certain which thread is supposed to be the 'real' one, or if in fact any of them are real, or if the whole thing is staged (even the 'candid' material). The artifice of the cinema, and at the same time its ability to redefine reality, are exposed. Everything seems fascinating and banal, relevant and irrelevant, all at the same time. It's amazing to watch, and provides an interesting commentary on some of the pretensions of the cinema verite movement. I've really never seen anything else like it. And, as usual, the Criterion print is beautiful. And even if you don't enjoy the film, this package is still worth buying for the documentary on William Greaves (the director in the film), who has produced an incredible range of documentaries throughout his career."