October 13, 2012 6:08 PM   Subscribe

In 1968, William Greaves conducted a filmmaking experiment in Central Park, wherein a film crew (directed by himself) filmed the non-existent movie "Over The Cliff", while a documentary film crew filmed the filming of the film, and another documentary film crew filmed the filming of the film of the film. The result was Symbiopsychotaxiplasm, [1h15m, NSFW (language and situations); trailer] an experimental film wherein the observers are observed observing of the observed, with Greaves attempting to capture real moments in contrived circumstances.

The title of the film is a play on Arthur Bentley's "symbiotaxiplasm", which posits that anything a being does has interconnected results with other beings.
posted by hippybear (20 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
If only someone got some pictures of this.
posted by vrakatar at 6:09 PM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

So that's where Abed got the idea...
posted by sparkletone at 6:12 PM on October 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Maybe it was the music in the trailer, but I get kept expecting Arte Johnson to pop up with a 'Ferrry Interesting!'
posted by jquinby at 6:17 PM on October 13, 2012

Kinda like the competing documentary crews, being filmed fighting each other by a third crew in Man Bites Dog. Or in White Noise, Jack observing Murray observing tourists observe The Most Photographed Barn in America, while the reader observes the authors text of Jack's Observation. Each makes us complicit in the act as we are performing the very act as written about in the text.

Only a few minutes in the director says "get the woman with the tits", the crew then focuses on a woman riding by on a horse. Of course I was first fascinated because I haven't seen a horseback rider in Central Park in 20 years. They were once a fixture, and it was common to see dozens of them along the bridle paths. Then I started to realize that the director had made me complicit in his actions. I too was observing "the woman with the tits". I was suddenly the one taking direction from the director. I had a choice to make. I too could passively observe at the director's command or I could refuse to take part in the director's narrative and choose not the be last in a long line of observers, observing tits in central park.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:27 PM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Then I started to realize that the director had made me complicit in his actions.

It's a fascinating document on a lot of levels.
posted by hippybear at 6:33 PM on October 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

It really is. All the more fascinating in that unknown people on the Internet are now observing our choices in interacting and relating to the work. Some may choose not to even watch the documentary but they are still part of a dialog initiated by the director.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:37 PM on October 13, 2012

This discussion is taking place on a site called Metafilter.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:41 PM on October 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

I think it's a shame the 2003 sequel Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take 2½ isn't online. Apparently it contains some of the same actors and picks up the storyline from 35 years previous.

And yeah, Ad hominem... there's all levels of observing going on... although only a few at the base are actually experiments in cinema verite.
posted by hippybear at 6:42 PM on October 13, 2012

Of course there's the overarching experiment, when would the crews quit due to Greaves sexist comments? It was the 60s, not hard to imagine a crew going rogue and voting out the director and carrying on without him.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:54 PM on October 13, 2012

and of course jesus is watching them all from heaven :)
posted by the theory of revolution at 7:18 PM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

You are thinking "yo dawg, I heard you like movies.."
posted by ostranenie at 7:26 PM on October 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

cinema verite.

sure, a meditation on verite itself. What is the distinction between paid actors, paid observers who are themselves observed, and incidental ovservees. What is the relationship between them all. Is it even appropriate to simply observe people unawares in the service of making a statement about the nature of observation.

Pretty cool.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:34 PM on October 13, 2012

Thank you so much for this post. SYMBIOPSYCHOTAXIPLASM is one of my favorite films, and a criminally underappreciated one at that, so anything that brings this film a wider awareness I back wholeheartedly...
posted by theartandsound at 7:42 PM on October 13, 2012

There are seen scenes; there are scenes we see that we saw.
There are seen unseens; that is to say there are scenes that, we now see we don't see.
But there are also unseen unscenes – there are things we do not see we don't see.

Jiving to the recursive scene.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:55 PM on October 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

theartandsound: its a film which gets deeper on repeat viewings, too. Something I didn't fully appreciate at first. It's good enough for such things that I'm thinking of picking up the Criterion release, because I've watched it about 4 times now and keep seeing new things every time.

Pretty amazing for something which was basically unscripted and unplanned beyond "we'll get all these film crews together and see what happens".
posted by hippybear at 7:56 PM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's a brilliant film. It always astounds my students when I show it to them.
posted by Dr. Wu at 8:32 PM on October 13, 2012

Did anyone besides me flash to some of the background conversations from M.A.S.H. as you watched the trailer?
posted by HuronBob at 8:51 PM on October 13, 2012

Part of Altman's genius was his ability to make conversation in his movies reflect how it happens in real life rather than the unnatural "everyone is silent while these two people talk" nature of most movies. That you felt this movie reflected that only underscores that.
posted by hippybear at 8:55 PM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

So, how did the announcements from the loud speakers in M.A.S.H. fit that concept (which, by the way, I agree with)..... meta/uber/diety conversation?
posted by HuronBob at 8:58 PM on October 13, 2012

Honestly, it's been ages since I've watched MASH the movie, but if memory serves, they functioned as jokes and narration devices. If I get the chance to watch it again, I'll be more intent on looking at them through this lens and can form a better thesis at that point.
posted by hippybear at 6:32 AM on October 16, 2012

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