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Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Two Takes (Criterion Collection)

Patricia Ree Gilbert , Don Fellows , William Greaves    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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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 to try and decipher exactly what it is they're making: a strange, bickering couple enacting a break-up scenario over and over; a documentary crew filming a crew filming the crew; locals wandering casually into the frame. A multilayered and wildly entertaining deconstruction of cinema, Symbiopsychotaxiplasm defies easy description yet remains one of the most tightly focused movies ever made about making movies. Special Features: New digital transfer "Discovering William Greaves" documentary New video interview with Steve Buscemi Booklet with a essay by Amy Taubin and production notes by Greaves for Take One "Director William Greaves, who based Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take One on the social science term "symbiotaxiplasm," signifying that all human-involved events influence their environment and vice versa, made this sophisticated film that captures the sexual dynamics of a feuding couple in a park by filming everything that occurs around them, including dramas among the film crew. This meta-film, radically experimental for its era, paved the way for the "making-of" films so popular now, though Symbio is more editorially ambitious. Its plot is complicated by inserted footage of Greaves' crew's "mutiny" as they covertly film criticisms of the director as a way to vent frustrations about the film's conceptual logic. Patricia Ree Gilbert and Don Fellows play, among other actors, a couple fighting about the husband's latent homosexuality and the wife's wish for kids. As they hurl insults at each other on one camera, two more cameras trail the Director, the DP, vociferous crew member Bob Rosen, and random park visitors. Multiple camera angles of each scene convolute traditional filmic roles as the Director often co-opts the action. --Trinie Dalton

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Torval Mork TOP 500 REVIEWER
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Okay - I admit - I buy all the Criterion movies upon release, no matter what. I had never heard of this film before CC released it, however the back story seemed enticing enough to view it immediately upon receipt. I was blown away - period. From out of nowhere, it seems, William Greaves created this brilliant, high concept, non-linear art piece that slipped into obscurity between its production in 1967, until it's opening of a Greaves retrospective in 1991. The accompanying documentary is a must-see bit of film-lore that details the process Greaves went through, and the various influences that constructed the mind-set capable of filming such an original audio-visual experiment.

An interesting note that seems to have slipped the mind of the Amazon sanctioned reviewer, is that upon viewing this film, Steven Soderberg and Steve Buscemi were inspired enough to contact Greaves. They suggested he film a sequel, which they produced (Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take 2 1/2). Take 1 had an obvious lasting influence on Soderberg, as a few of Greave's ideas can be seen in his 2002 film Full Frontal.

Criterion Collection should once again be given high praise for bringing awareness of this work of art to a wider audience. For those who enjoy the more experimental and philosophical side of film-making, shot in a pseudo-documentarial style, I highly recommend this DVD.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank's for the classic July 19 2012
By Stone
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Product was in the condition as described; I received it in excellent condition
With regards to Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: This is a classic study of 60's psychodrama and unknowingly is a study of sociometry which proves that in an autocratic society (director - crew - actors) consensus can be dictated or at least should be.
Very satisfied
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Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: A Cinematic Experiment About Movie Making And Film Theory Feb. 19 2007
By K. Harris - Published on Amazon.com
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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.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Filming A Film Being Filmed Dec 4 2007
By Robert I. Hedges - Published on Amazon.com
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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.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Must-Have from Criterion June 30 2008
By J. Merritt - Published on Amazon.com
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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This film may not be for everyone but for those who are filmmakers or thespians, they can easily be amused by this 1968 film! Nov. 23 2009
By Dennis A. Amith (kndy) - Published on Amazon.com
William Greaves is known for his documentary work for PBS, the United Nations and the United States Information Agency and between 1968 and 1970, Greaves was the executive producer and co-host of "Black Nation" (the first African-American produced news and public affairs show on television) which the filmmaker won various awards including an Emmy. Having a distinction as one of the original African-American filmmakers.

Having studied at Actor's Studio and having roles on Broadway, Greaves was also an actor. But within his wonderful career, a film that written, directed and produced in 1968 titled "symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One" is considered as an avant-garde film because it was a film experiment in which William Greaves brought together a film crew and fellow acting students to Central Park and everyone believes they are actually filming a movie (in which they are), while a documentary film crew films what's going on behind-the-scenes.

While the film crew focuses on the talent, and the documentary crew focuses on the film crew...everyone has their opinions. Debating on Greaves approach to filmmaking and people bad mouthing the director and the whole situation while being filmed. No one truly understands what is going on but they continue, because they feel that despite Greaves being a good/bad director...it's his perspective of how he wants to do things. If they disagree, it doesn't matter. As long as they go along on the ride and see what happens.

The film captures 1968 life and filmmaking at that time as 16mm cameras are being used. Cameras that hold only eleven minutes of film and having to try and sync them and technology used of yesteryear. In some ways, "symbiopsychotaxiplasm" is like a time capsule of how film crews work together and how they work with the staff. But in a way, unorthodox because of Greaves approach to the filmmaking.

What we do know is that William Greaves is not just a filmmaker, he's an actor. Who is the real William Greaves? Is what see on film an act or was it for real?

"Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Two Takes by William Greaves" is featured on two DVD's, with each DVD featuring one film: the 1968 "symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One" film and 2003 sequel "symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take 2 1/2'.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

"symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One" is featured with an aspect ratio of 1:33:1 so the black bars will appear on the left and right of the image. As for picture quality, the 1968 film shot on 16mm actually looks pretty good considering that this was filmed over 40-years-ago. According to Criterion, the new high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from a 35mm print. But William Greaves wanted corrections tot he picture and sound to be kept at a minimum to retain the "authentic" look of the film.

Greaves said that one of the theories behind the making of the film was that any "mistake" that was consciously or unconsciously made during or after filming would add to the immediacy of viewers' experience and making them more involved in the filmmaking process.

Criterion also used their MTI Digital Restoration System to remove instances of dirt, debris and scratches caused by the degradation of film sources.

As for "symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take 2 1/2', the aspect ratio is 1:78:1 and was created from the original 16mm and 35mm elements from Take One and modern digital video sources from various tape formats. So, the first half of "Take 2 1/2' is similar to Take One but as we get to the screening of the film and then the newer footage, there is a difference in film quality which is natural as the film source is from 1968 and 2003.

As for audio, the soundtrack is mono and according to Criterion, the soundtrack was mastered in 24-bit from optical soundtrack prints and audio restoration tools were used to remove occasional pops, hiss and crackle. The film is center channel driven but on surround system, people can switch to two-channel playback. Or if you have a receiver that can send audio to all channels, even better.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

"symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Two Takes by William Greaves" comes with the following special features:

DISC 1:

* Discovering William Greaves - (1:01:13) A documentary created by The Criterion Collection, William Greaves, filmmaker St. Clair Bourne, actress Ruby Dee, wife and producing partner Louise Archambault and film scholar Scott MacDonald discuss William Greaves career and symbiopsychotaxiplasm in depth.
* Theatrical Trailer - (1:21) A trailer made in 2005 for Janus Films theatrical distribution for "symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One".

DISC 2:

* Steve Buscemi Interview - (12:41) A 2006 interview with actor Steve Buscemi talks about his experience of watching "symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One" back in 1992 and how he pledged his support for William Greaves and future sequels. And his involvement with "symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take 2 1/2'.

Also, included is a 34-page booklet featuring an essay titled "still no answers" by Amy Taubin, production notes written by William Greaves prior to and during the filming of "symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One" and produced in "Screen Writings: Scripts and Texts" by Independent Filmmakers, edited by Scott McDonald. Definitely wonderful reading, especially to read what was going on in the mind of William Greaves during the making of the 1968 film.

JUDGMENT CALL:

"symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Two Takes by William Greaves" is unlike anything that one expects to see from THE CRITERION COLLECTION. In fact, I am so happy that Criterion decided to release these two films on DVD and recognize this avant-garde work of Greaves.

I looked at the film as the precursor to what people are now seeing on YouTube or network shows. Greaves called the film as an exploration into the future of cinema art. Improvisation. A rebellion against traditional cinema form. The film crew which features hippies filming a movie about suburbanites is an understatement. This is a film that filmmakers can watch and see how work is done, even though Greaves intentionally (or intentionally) makes them feel uneasy about their job and not knowing what to do.

Reading the insert booklet, Greaves said that his goal was to make a conventional theatrical short inside a major unconventional feature film. A conventional screen test inside a major unconventional feature film. Letting nature run its course and what you see are people's emotions driving this film. Spontaneous and true reactions which is captured on film.

Personally for me, during my college project, I had my staff and talent during the long arduous process of waiting for scenes to be completed, having a camera to record their thoughts, their feelings, their frustrations and as a filmmaker, I can understand what William Greaves probably may have felt when he had to edit this film. But its that spontaneity that you want captured, is what makes it all worthwhile and that's why I enjoyed both films a lot.

And what a solid release from The Criterion Collection. You get both films on DVD, an hour long documentary on William Greaves and also a featurette with an interview with Steve Buscemi. If anything, I looked at this release as "Take One" being the major film and "Take 2 1/2', although a sequel, more like an extra bonus that one can enjoy differently.

"symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Two Takes by William Greaves" is a DVD release that I can easily recommend to those who are thespians or filmmakers. For the casual viewers, only if they have an interest in the filmmaking process. This is not your typical film with a plot, it's literally a film experiment of capturing true emotions and how it starts to work itself out during the making of the film. So, I'm quite grateful for The Criterion Collection for giving this a proper and solid release but also to Steve Buscemi and Steven Soderbergh for giving Greaves the opportunity for a sequel over 30 years later.

I believe that the more you research this film (which I did prior to purchasing it), you're going to get a lot of different interpretations from various viewers and their thoughts and what they got out of it. It's improvisation in filmmaking at its best. It's the capturing of human emotion during the late 1960's, peace and love with guerrilla filmmaking at its core. A time capsule from 1968 and continued in 2003, two films which I believe is worth seeing. It's not your typical film, there is no overlying plot from beginning to end but more of an experiment caught on film with interesting results. And in the end, a truly unique and solid DVD release from The Criterion Collection that is worth giving a try!
3.0 out of 5 stars An Exceedingly RARE Window to the Lives of REAL People in 1968 March 9 2014
By Jeff N - Published on Amazon.com
Minor Spoiler Alert for different parts of this review:

An Exceedingly RARE Window to the Lives of REAL PEOPLE in 1968

That's the best part of this slightly bizarre experimental film. And I will tell you why I didn't give it 5 Stars:

In watching this near masterpiece, we eventually realize that the director is obviously on a mission to literally drive his film crew crazy with his weaponized vagueness, film cartridges constantly "running out" at the most critical times, but worst of all, everyone being forced to watch and film and record the same exact argumentative scene over and over and over, in different locations, with different actors, one couple was even told to SING their lines!!!

Now this sounds like a great idea, and it was. You very nearly get to see his crew get fed up and start to argue amongst themselves and finally quit. But what happened??? There is no mutiny! During the last 10 minutes of this almost classic, all of the focus is on a mentally ill man who comes out of no where and starts talking complete nonsense in the most boring way possible. This has absolutely nothing to do with the experiment, or the film so far. And I don't know why the editor left this very LONG scene in, but to me, it totally ruined the film. This film DID at least have a point. It WAS an experiment, and after sitting through a lot of strange occurrences and dry discussions on the crew's theories as to what is going on... You never get to see the result!! And that is VERY disappointing. So I feel that 3 stars is very generous.

As a side note... I LOVED seeing the one scene they shot over and over from different camera angles and with different acting methods by the main couple. It reminded me of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Cause and Effect" that starts with a Poker game and then the same few minutes repeats over and over with different camera angles and slightly different reactions until it's finally just extremely creepy. That is definitely one of my favorite episodes.

But in this film, we don't get to see the main couple, or any other actors doing those lines over and over in different ways enough times. Not nearly enough. The film also needed to make us feeling like WE were starting to lose it, and instead it just sort of laid there and faded away. So again, 3 Stars was generous.
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