Movie Review: Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One

The title alone drew me in. Flipping through the channel guide a few days ago, I saw that TCM would air this early in the morning, just after the switch for Daylight Savings Time. I prepped myself with the Wikipedia article and, after reading what was in store, readied myself for the film that has one of the most interesting titles I’ve come across.

This film is about a movie called “Over the Cliff” (Level 1), the documentation of the filming (Level 2), and the documentation of the documentation of the filming of the film (Level 3). Any further than that and we’d be in limbo (BWAM).

The director explains the process early on in the overall film but has to repeat himself to some of his crew. It still left me confused at first but I felt like I had a handle on it. It didn’t last too long.

The overall film spends a small portion at Level 1 and then straddles between Level 2 and 3 for the rest of the film. Sure, there were explicit moments where it was clearly Level 3 (i.e., the crew meetings without the director, questioning his role in Level 2) but I can only go so far into “meta-” territory before I sit there confused and question what is really real.

I liked the use of split-screen as it helped provide different angles for Level 1 (or is it Level 2?). Alas, I’m not sure which side was Level 1 or 2 as, again, the boundary between them became blurred.

The budget values aren’t high-quality and it shows. Then again, it could’ve been the quality of the print that was televised. It’s underground, according to the TCM bumper preceding the broadcast, so I figured I should let it be what it is and just go with it. Besides, it added to the overall piece.

For the dialogue, it’s quite insightful in terms of how people discussed sexuality in the late ’60s. It’s not a topic to be approached so openly, especially in a place like Central Park. Yet, it fits just because it was what the director wanted.

It does end awkwardly, no thanks to a strange guy’s rant. There’s an uncomfortable feeling that reaches from those around him to the viewer. From there, the credits roll and we are promised a second take from a proposed series of five films. Well, there is a second one but it didn’t happen until 35 years later.

The film is a miniature time capsule that shows how far we’ve come and still have to go for race and sexuality. I’m surprised this hasn’t been put on the list yet, just because of the complex nature of the piece. It’s worth watching just to see how it all plays out. Don’t watch it if you’re tired or not thinking clearly. Have your totem handy, just in case.

7/10

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