Symbiopsychotaxiplasm

A part of this view­ing list: Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion Spine #360: William Greaves’s Sym­biopsy­chotax­i­plasm.

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Sym­biopsy­chotax­i­plasm is most inter­est­ing to me because it is a exper­i­ment in which, for the most part, the peo­ple in the film know they are being exper­i­ment­ed upon and then become par­tic­i­pants in the exper­i­ment them­selves. It is uncon­trolled metafilm­mak­ing that defies anal­o­gy by its sheer com­plex­i­ty. It is dif­fi­cult to tell who is being authen­tic, who is act­ing, and just where the line between doc­u­men­tary and fic­tion stands. My favorite film pro­fes­sor prob­a­bly loves this movie. Filmed in the sev­en­ties, it used egre­gious amounts of film, sev­er­al simul­ta­ne­ous­ly-film­ing cam­eras and a bunch of crap­py actors con­stant­ly retak­ing an overblown, lurid and poor­ly writ­ten psy­chodra­ma.

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Whether this is all delib­er­ate or not is, ini­tial­ly, unknown. In fact, whether or not the whole film is script­ed is or not is unknown. It might just be an excel­lent faux-doc­u­men­tary. Sus­pi­cions of this are con­stant­ly raised, espe­cial­ly when one of the crew mem­bers says some­thing along these very lines, that the audi­ence has no way of telling whether they are legit­i­mate­ly secret­ing them­selves as an act of defi­ance, or if Greaves is just off screen direct­ing them. The sin­cer­i­ty of Greaves on-screen per­sona is also called into ques­tion by the crew, it is said that he doesn’t act they way we see when the cam­eras are not rolling. One of the crew­men says that he hasn’t read the con­cept so many times, and is nonethe­less so per­spi­ca­cious that he must be lying. The crew scenes are the best parts of the film and it is cer­tain­ly ear­ly real­i­ty-TV, and a bit like Project Green­light, albeit unguid­ed and decid­ed­ly inde­pen­dent. The film being filmed is sup­posed to be about sex, but in the crew dis­cus­sions becomes more about what con­sti­tutes believ­able screen­writ­ing.

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So I guess it is no sur­prise that when some­one with Hol­ly­wood clout like Steve Busce­mi saw the thing and won­dered where the promised Take Two was, that a new film got made. This is very very bad. Take One exist­ed in a her­met­ic envi­ron­ment, no one knew more about the film, no one knew the truth. The result­ing Take Two and a Half is utter­ly dis­ap­point­ing. Made with the help of Soder­bergh, it is shot with DV cam­eras, has Steve Busce­mi in it, and lacks all of the punch of the orig­i­nal and also takes away from the original’s mys­tery. There is a bit of ten­sion at the end when a mim­ic act­ing coach shows up, but it was obvi­ous­ly staged, and while it is anoth­er exam­ple of metafilm­mak­ing, at the same time it is like see­ing the same card trick over again. Even though Busce­mi meant well, Take Two and Half should have nev­er been made. I rec­om­mend watch­ing the first one and not the sequel, that way it will remain mind­blow­ing­ly in need of analy­sis.

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