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Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Two Takes: The Criterion Collection

The title Symbiopsychotaxiplasm comes from the word symbiotaxiplasm, which was coined by philosopher Arthur Bentley as a way to talk about all the things that happen in an environment that are caused by human beings. It also helps explain the shooting style of William Greaves' 1968 film. One camera was assigned to cover the two actors, Patricia Ree Gilbert (playing Alice) and Don Gilbert (playing Freddie), as they go through their scene. She yells at him for their lack of kids, for making her have abortions, and all their troubles seem to stem from Freddie being a closeted homosexual. The second camera recorded the filmmakers, who are shooting in Central Park and must handle the police (who ask for their permits) and the people around them who accost the production. A third camera then recorded both the crew and the cast, while the film cuts away to crew members who shot themselves critiquing the film and its tepid dialogue — supposedly without the director knowing. And therein lies the greatest appeal of Greaves' Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One: its meta approach to filming offers the possibility that everything other than the actors acting is either real or something set up for the camera. Accompanied by Miles Davis's score, the 77-min. movie is part puzzle, and that's its greatest charm. But with anything like this, it's all about what the audience is willing to concede the filmmakers. It helps to put the film in context. Though the movie was first shown in 1971 and was mostly kept on the festival circuit, it was made three years earlier, and the picture reflects in a playful way some of the tumult the country was going through at the time. By putting the cameras in so many different hands, it also was questioning/critiquing the dilettante's fascination with communism and auteur theory, while also pointing out that almost everyone wants to be a director. After generating interest from Steven Soderbergh and Steve Buscemi, Greaves returned to the material 35 years later to film a follow up. Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take 2-1/2 (2005) starts with the abandoned footage for the original sequel to Take One, with Audrey Henningham and Shannon Baker playing Alice and Freddie, and then reunites Henningham and Baker to make a sequel with Freddie — who is gravely ill — asking Alice to take care of his adopted daughter. The follow-up has some interesting moments, especially when acting coach Marcia Karp begins to mimic the two, but it lacks the focus, and the gut punch, of the first. The Criterion Collection collects both movies on a two-disc set, placing Take One on Disc One in a gorgeous full frame transfer (1.33:1) with monaural audio. On this disc is a documentary on the director called "Discovering William Greaves" (61 min.), and the film's theatrical trailer. Disc two offers 2-1/2 in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) and monaural audio, and features an interview with Steve Buscemi about his involvement with the sequel (13 min.). Dual DVD keep-case.

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