Anarchy rules at the Detroit Film Theatre

By |2018-01-15T21:36:42-05:00April 13th, 2006|Entertainment|

ROYAL OAK – Film, we’ve been led to believe, is a collaborative art form. If you listen to the speeches uttered at every Oscar ceremony, the picture that’s painted is one of joint vision and execution. That is, every movie made is the direct result of a team of writers, directors, designers, actors and technicians who pool their collective talents towards a single, unified goal: that of creating a unique and artistically challenging piece of celluloid art.
That utopian image is false, of course – and the proof can be found in “Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take 1,” an odd yet interesting film that can be seen April 16 and 17 at the Detroit Film Theatre.
Created by the award-winning documentary and independent filmmaker William Greaves, the never-released 1968 “film-outside-of-a-film” is part documentary and part cinema verite. It’s also quite subversive – and that’s what makes this long-lost film appealing. And educational, too.
At the movie’s opening, it appears that Greaves has assembled a crew in New York’s Central Park to shoot auditions for an upcoming film tentatively called “Over the Cliff.” The scene he is shooting involves a married couple experiencing difficulties: He’s ordered her to abort several pregnancies because things aren’t right between them, and she believes he’s gay. Several actors are auditioned, but “Symbio” focuses primarily on two: Patricia Ree Gilbert and Don Fellows.
Besides the crew that’s filming the auditions, Greaves has a documentary crew capturing both the auditions and the crew filming them. A third crew is also present, catching all of the behind-the-scenes discussions among the cast, crew and passersby. (A fourth camera is also used occasionally by Greaves.)
What no one except Greaves knows, however, is that there is no movie called “Over the Cliff,” nor is there a script. Instead, he’s out to explore the breakdown that occurs in a society of any size when there’s no direction or leadership provided by the “powers that be.”
For human behaviorists, it’s a fascinating and must-see experiment.
As the director of “Over the Cliff,” it’s Greaves’ vision that his cast and crew must create, so it’s up to him to clearly define and explain his goals and expectations.
Instead, Greaves – who studied acting at the renowned Actors Studio – gives ambiguous answers to every question he’s asked and he punts every decision he needs to make.
So what happens? Everyone becomes frustrated, and it doesn’t take long for his crew to damn near mutiny and his cast to question their characters’ motivations.
And all the while, Greaves’ point is proven.
“Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take 1” can be nearly as confounding to watch as it must have been to create, as one must sit through most of it before its ultimate agenda becomes clear. Even then, one still might question some of Greaves’ decisions.
There’s just one warning, however: In these more politically correct times, some might find the use of the word “faggot” offensive. Others, though, might find its lesson in “faggotry” amusing.

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