‘Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One’


An unreleased phantom from the summer of 1968, finally getting distributed in this our year of chaotic neo-‘Nam-ness, William Greaves’s Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One may be the ultimate paradigm of self-reflexive cinema, eating Godard’s tail for him and one-upping the classic anti-cartoon Duck Amuck by submitting to a cunning entropy and a self-inquiry so relentless the movie never moves from square one. Greaves plays Greaves playing a vague indie filmmaker shooting a film about marital rupture in Central Park. With three mutually interrogating cameras going at all times, the set and surrounding passersby (including cops) get folded into the meta-vérité mix, which is often prismed out for us as a split-screen triptych. Eventually, the discontented and cerebral crew begin filming themselves complaining about Greaves (and his script) when he’s not there, scenes that are sometimes cut up by Greaves later on; in entire chunks of the film, shooting and editing are actions completely at odds with each other. “Stop acting!” someone hollers early on; the magical moment when we see two simultaneous shots get refocused on distractions (a squad car, the actress’s legs) is trumped by the sound team’s vituperative critique of Greaves’s “acting”—on and off camera. Intended as one of five films derived from the same pool of ’68 footage, S:T1 has no end: Its first “sequel,” which is numbered 2 1/2 and adds the passage of time to its contemplations, premiered at Sundance this year. Greaves’s place in history is unarguable, whether it’s then, now, in the future, or all of the above.