Feature Friday: “Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One” (1968)

Don’t let the odd title put you off! It’s just some funny word meaning how things can become interconnected. Cinematically, it contains both “Psycho” and “Taxi” so how can the film be bad? And imagine how smart you’ll sound when it rolls off your tongue in front of your friends.

Symbiopsychotaxiplasm is an experimental meta-documentary by William Greaves, a documentary filmmaker and actor. The premise is very simple: Greaves auditions couples in Central Park, repeatedly running them through the same inane dialogue. Meanwhile, his crew films him filming, increasingly turning the camera on themselves to express their growing unease with Greaves’s (deliberate) lack of direction. From this cascades a loosely controlled experiment in dissolution, which quickly becomes intensely dramatic and absorbing… It’s proto-reality TV!

Greaves later revisited the project, aided by Steven Soderbergh and Steve Buscemi, in the mid-2000s, to make another version, Take 2 1/2. That you can get on the wonderful Criterion release, which the video below is taken from.

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“Fat, too, fool, hey?” – The Mind in Morning (Snow in film)

Snow: Kubrick style

Having just reread William Gass’s “The Pedersen Kid” yesterday morning, I decided to do a study of associations–what my brain does as I read, what I think of, what I take away–though right there I sally and this Heraclitus quote, used as an epigraph in W.S. Merwin’s The Lice, drips back into my consciousness:

All men are deceived by the appearances of things, even Homer himself, who was the wisest man in Greece; for he was deceived by boys catching lice: they said to him, “What we have caught and what we have killed we have left behind, but what has escaped us we bring with us.”

Is this nugget saying that which we can’t understand stays with us? Maybe. But more and more I take with me what is mysterious. The trove of Wallace Stevens poems that I’ve examined recently has somewhat sunk into me as what I write now leaks his influence. But really the conglomerate of Gass/Gaddis/Rilke/Stevens via John Madera has been instrumental in boosting the language quotient and destroying a quasi-plain style I took on after a few months with Lydia Davis. So lines or formations like, “She wouldn’t let him do what he wanted to do and this frustrated him,” become “There is a way you carry yourself, he said, quickly breaking off because evening drew on, evening and everything evening measures. Our pace, the space between canyons, this leaf living in the book on the chair.”

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