Movie Review: Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One

By Joan K. Widdifield, Psy.D
Movie Magazine International
A few weeks ago my colleague and fellow filmmaker told me that his favorite film is SYMBIOPSYCHOTAXIPLASM: TAKE ONE by William Greaves – from 1968. I hadn't heard of it before, but was intrigued – especially since my colleague is younger than 30 and said he couldn't really tell me what it's about, and that I'd have to see it. I found out that The Criterion Collection has just re-released a new high-definitions digital transfer of this piece of avant-garde film history -- in a Special Edition Double Disc Set with the sequel SYMBIOPSYCHOTAXIPLASM: TAKE 2 1/2.

There are all kinds of special treats in the double disc set, like a short documentary about the director, DISCOVERING WILLIAM GREAVES, with Greaves, his wife and co-producer Louise Archambault, actress Ruby Dee, and others, and with insightful commentary by film scholar Scott MacDonald. It includes SYMBIOPSYCHOTAXIPLASM: TAKE 2 ½, made thirty-five years after the first one, and with executive producers Steven Soderbergh and Steve Buscemi. It is, as Buscemi says, "a sequel of a film that was never released." It was never released but still holds up. Disc 2 also features an interview with Steve Buscemi.

So, getting back to more about SYMBIOPSYCHOTAXIPLASM: TAKE ONE; it's not really fair to try to describe what it's about. Greaves explains that he got part of the title, "Symbiotaxiplasm" from the scientific principle on which the film is based, the Hesenberg principle of uncertainty. You can never get to the essence of reality because the machinery you use to look at the reality transforms it. …That's a hint. Social science philosopher Arthur Bentley said that all the events that humans are involved with that impact their physical, social, and material environment also affect their personalities and character; a dialog goes on between an individual and his environment. All of the developments that have taken place in human history are a result of that interchange; Greaves injects "psycho" which designates mental mechanisms that are involved in creative process as an individual moves through any given environment. Greaves says the film is also informed by chaos theory, mysticism, physics and philosophy, and the idea that we all affect each other.

SYMBIOPSYCHOTAXIPLASM: TAKE ONE and SYMBIOPSYCHOTAXIPLASM: TAKE 2 ½ are both a mix between a documentary, a drama and a sociology experiment. ONE captures the zeitgeist of the 60's including the dissent, political climate, and sexual politics. And 2 ½ brings us some of the same people decades later. William Greaves is a fascinating auteur with a notable history as a filmmaker. The Criterion Collection Special Edition Set provides hours of fun for any film lover.

For Movie Magazine, this is Joan Widdifield.
More Information:
Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One
1968; The Criterion Collection Double Disc Set Includes a DVD of SYMBIOPSYCHOTAXIPLASM: TAKE 2 1/2 (2005) with executive producers Steven Soderbergh and Steve Buscemi, and a compelling short documentary on the director William Greaves.