What is truth in film? Where does the lie start, and how can the viewer tell?
I queued up William Greaves’ 1968 experimental film Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One and the 2005 revisit Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take 2 1/2 from zip.ca some time ago. I didn’t really know anything about the film, but I was adding a series of new Criterion Collection discs, and the synopsis sounded interesting with non-linear, experimental film.
I watched the revisit, and it floored me. Take 1 started out a bit unusual, focusing on the repetition of a number of rather short scenes showing a couple’s relationship. The same scene was played through time and time again, with subtle differences, different pacing, and even different actors playing the roles. Cameras follow the actors from various angles, and cameras follow cameras. The film is the story, on more than one level; crew decisions, actor preparations, crew arguments and mutiny. At times it’s hard to tell what is and is not part of the script.
In Take Two 1/2, Some cast and crew return to take up the project after a 35 year hiatus, with support from Steve Buscemi and Steven Soderbergh. The distinction between real and staged becomes even more difficult when the characters (the actors?) become embroiled in a rather animated argument. Part improvisation, part scripted, part chance, the second film mirrors much of the first, reinforcing and strengthening the whole project, providing commentary on the process of the first film and building until we think we’re seeing a real breakdown.
Impressive, and much more shocking than I would have expected. This is a must see for fans of documentary films, who might believe film captures truth when film merely captures perspective.
William Greaves’ own site about the film.