Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: William Greaves, Susan Anspach, Shannon Baker, Steve Buscemi, Don Fellows, Terrence McCartney Filgate, Patricia Ree Gilbert, Jonathan Gordon, Audrey Heningham, Marcia Karp, Stevan Larner, Phil Parmet, Bob Rosen/Robert L. Rosen, Ndeye Ade Sokhna
Written by: William Greaves
Directed by: William Greaves
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 174
Date: 01/01/1968
IMDB

Symbiopsychotaxiplasm (1968)

3 Stars (out of 4)

The Last Word

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Since the 1950s, William Greaves has been an editor, a producer and a director, mainly of documentaries, though his name appears on the Richard Pryor comedy Bustin' Loose (1981). His main contribution to film history is this experimental film, made in 1968 but unreleased for years. It was somehow resurrected and shown at film festivals in the 1990s, sparking the interest of -- among others -- director Steven Soderbergh and actor Steve Buscemi. The film begins with a scene of a couple fighting over whether the husband is cheating and over whether they should have had a child. We see and hear the same dialogue repeated over and over, sometimes with different actors. Greaves appears as himself directing the scene, and a second camera crew documents the first camera crew. After shooting, some of the crew members gather together to film their responses to the film so far. The result is a post-modern examination of the nature of filmmaking, expressed with some of the same fervor as the French New Wave films. It's a puzzle without an answer; and the most fascinating element of all is Greaves himself. On camera, he doesn't really appear to know what he's doing. But perhaps he does?

DVD Details: The end of the film announces a "Take Two," which never came. But Soderbergh and Buscemi's support resulted, finally, in a "Take 2-1/2," which premiered in 2003. The Criterion Collection has included both films in their new two-disc set. The second film begins with more 1968 footage, continuing in roughly the same vein, until it jumps to the present day. Some of the same actors and crew re-assemble, and Buscemi joins the shoot as a cameraman. The second film is doubly self-reflexive, since it not only analyzes the first film with greater perspective, but also re-analyzes itself. Criterion's DVD comes with a documentary about Greaves, a video interview with Buscemi, a trailer created for the original film's festival debut and a booklet including an essay by Amy Taubin.

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