Dir/scr:Caveh Zahedi. US. 2005. 90mins
Attimes, you don't know whether to laugh or cringe at I Am A Sex Addict, awitty, self-reflexive, often painfully revealing drama-doc confessional from USindependent film-maker Caveh Zahedi. As the title suggests, the film isZahedi's account of some 20 years struggling with his fetish for prostitutes,an obsession that destroyed his relationships with three women.
Zahedi'sengagingly neurotic screen presence - both in his narration to camera and inhis dramatic re-enactments - makes for a likeable comic persona that keepsaudiences hooked even when we shudder at his indiscretions.
Thesometimes scabrous content surely won't harm the film's commercial chances, butin any case this functionally-shot digital essay is likely to do well at a timewhen there is so much interest in first-person essays like Tarnation -or indeed, Ross McElwee's more detached Bright Leaves - and indocumentary studies of American private lives such as Capturing TheFriedmans.
Itsarty, bohemian edge should make this a favourite with upmarket indiedistributors, and the film will be a hot ticket on the festival circuit,especially if Zahedi accompanies it: heated Q&A sessions are inevitable.
Thefilm begins with Zahedi, dressed for his imminent (third) marriage, explainingthat he is a recovering sex addict, and promising to take us back to the startof his traumas. He flashes back to Paris in 1983 - although Zahedi explainsthat he's actually shooting his re-enactment in San Francisco, for budgetreasons.
Theyoung Zahedi's marriage to a French woman, Caroline (Lord) hits the skids whenhe sees a prostitute who resembles her and then becomes fixated on the idea ofsleeping with one. Determined to be honest with Caroline, he tells her aboutevery woman he fancies, an approach that proves ill-advised.
Whenthe relationship falls apart, he returns to the US and meets Christa (Morse),but she too is turned off by his obsession. Zahedi finds a more sympatheticpartner in Devin (Henderson), a broad-minded cinephile, but a trip to Europecomes to a traumatic end with Devin's drinking problems adding to his own.
Wittilymaking a virtue of its budgetary restraints, the film artfully treads adelicate line between flippancy and soul-baring seriousness. Zahedi placeshimself in an awkward position: while he is determined to be honest about hisfixations, we also get the sense of an exhibitionist who can't help using hiswide-eyed little-boy-lost persona to ingratiate himself with us (before long,Zahedi will be sick of being compared to Woody Allen).
Youcan't also help feeling that Zehedi is in some ways compounding the offense byimplicating his former partners yet again: the film's most uncomfortablemoments come when he uses actual footage of the original women in his life (thereal Caroline, he notes, declined to play herself).
Despitequalms, this provocative and courageous film raises serious questions bothabout sexuality and about the way people narrate their lives to others, withmuch witty play made on the precarious barrier between documentary andautobiographical fiction.
Zahediwill be recognisable to many viewers as one of the motormouth philosophers inRichard Linklater's animated Waking Life, and that film's animator BobSabiston contributes his distinctive rotoscoping effects in one scene. OfZahedi's three partners, Amanda Henderson makes a powerful impression as theforthright, abrasive Devin.
Prodco/int'l sales: Reinventing the Wheel, (1) 415 205 9489
Ed: ThomasLogoreci, Caveh Zahedi
Music: Hilary Soldati
Main cast: Caveh Zahedi, Rebecca Lord, Emily Morse, Amanda Henderson