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Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Symbiopsychotaxiplasm (1968) by William Greaves

William Greaves, pioneering African American film maker and director of Symbiopsychotaxiplasm.

Symbiopsychotaxiplasm (1968)
 by William Greaves
Criterion Collection #360

   The Criterion Collection calls Symbiopsychotaxiplasm a one of a kind film, and it is a pretty amazing piece of work: A movie about movie making, made by an African American film maker in 1968.  Greaves is best known as a documentarian, prior to making this film he worked in Canada on educational films (Boards of Canada are named after these films.)

  Although Symbiopsychotaxiplasm clearly echoes some of the stylistic contributions of the French New Wave, Greaves own status as a documentary filmmaker informs Symbiopsychotaxiplasm throughout.  Although it first appears to shambolic, the interplay between Greaves, "playing" himself as the director of the film, the crew, and the actors is intriguing and at times it's like watching a Robert Altman movie from the next decade.

  There's not much a plot, just the two characters endlessly repeating a single scene where they fight about the guy possibly being a homosexual.  The rest of the hour and fifteen minutes is either the actors complaining, Greaves counseling the actors, and the crew complaining about Greaves and debating his merit as a film maker.  The extent to which the director William Greaves is the "real" Greaves is unclear, certainly the characters in Symbiopsychotaxiplasm is at times brutally  negative about his capabilities as a film maker in the film-within-a-film.  Hard to believe this is Greaves only film in the Criterion Collection, and that I'd never heard of William Greaves before watching this film.

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