Look, there’s masturbatory filmmaking, and then there’s CavehÂ Zahedi’s I Am a Sex Addict, which puts a whole new literal spin onÂ the term. It gets big points for audacity and adventurousness and theÂ filmmaker’s willingness to let himself look like a fool but losesÂ most of them again for tedious self-involvement and failing to reachÂ beyond its one-joke premise.
It’s like this: Zahedi has made a very personal film, almost a kindÂ of video diary, about how madly in love men are with their ownÂ penises. On one hand, he’s smart enough and self-aware enough to realize how ridiculous this aspect of human maleness is; onÂ the other hand, he’s also most definitely a human male and hence at least half-convinced that we all find his penis as fascinating asÂ he does. He’s the butt of his own joke, but he can’t give in to itÂ all the way'because secretly, he doesn’t really think he should be aÂ joke at all.
I say this as a woman who finds men adorable, at least in theory, but who also finds them hilarious. So I kinda don’t wanna burst Zahedi’s bubble, because at least he’s being open and exploratory and honest about how infatuated with himself he is, which is more than can be said for most men, but still: Bwahahaha, get over yourself, dude.
The idea is, it’s Caveh’s wedding day. He’s standing in front ofÂ his cheap-ass videocam in his tux spilling the beans about his sexÂ addiction and how he overcame it to get to this place of peace andÂ monogamy. He tells his tale of girlfriends he never really lovedÂ (or did he?) and the one true love who of course got away and how hisÂ sexual insecurities and childhood hang-ups and feminist philosophiesÂ somehow led him to fantasize about prostitutes and then to actuallyÂ patronize prostitutes.
The flashbacks from the wedding monologue areÂ staged with a postmodern snark, with all manner of asides about howÂ the actress playing this girlfriend turned out to be a porn starÂ (actual porn star Rebecca Lord) and the actress playing thatÂ girlfriend had a problem with even pretending to go down on Caveh inÂ front of the camera (Emily Morse) even though his blow-job fantasiesÂ are vital to telling his sad story. Blow jobs are vital, I tell you, vital. I know men will swearÂ this is true, but I can tell you that women think this is prettyÂ funny in a pathetic kind of way.
Zehedi’s film is kind of funny, sporadically, and in a pathetic kindÂ of way'Zahedi nailed to a cross in one bit, a personification ofÂ the baggage and guilt Catholicism has left him with, deserves a barkÂ of laughter, and how completely unsexy and unromantic absolutelyÂ everything and everyone onscreen is earns a snort of ironicÂ appreciation. Sex Addict is a total anti-aphrodisiac'if you’reÂ looking to never want to have sex again, just watch one of the many scenes in which Zahedi moans unconvincingly as a hooker gets him offÂ in his crappy little car. And in a way, hoorah, because sex addictionÂ isn’t something to be envied'or so sex addicts tell us'so whyÂ should we expect Zahedi’s depiction of it to be genuinely sexy?
But all the ironic snorting and cynical smirking Sex Addict promptsÂ is another part of why it ultimately fails. You won’t find a biggerÂ fan than I of Generation X’s love of mockery and constitutionalÂ inability to take anything seriously, but that mass personality quirkÂ is a reaction to the glibness and gloss of pop culture. It’s reallyÂ a kind of longing for sincerity and honesty, and an expression ofÂ cynical doubt of ever really encountering it.
And Sex Addict is the kind of movie that is screaming to be accepted as honest and open,Â but instead it leaves us wondering how much of it to accept as true,Â and how much of it to accept as merely a big put-on. When Zahedi tells us that he saw “marriage as part of the same capitalist systemÂ that had produced the genocide in Vietnam,” is he being genuine, or is he making fun of that attitude?Â When he tells us that he was the kind of person who saw life as performance art and he believed that overcoming sexual jealousy was aÂ â€high-flying experiment in self-transcendence,” don’t those attitudesÂ have the mocking built in? For all the passive-aggression he termsÂ â€honesty” and all the high-minded philosophical justifications, isn’tÂ he really just a guy who won’t admit that he doesn’t want a commitment and likes to have sex with lots of women? Not thatÂ there’s anything wrong with that â€¦ but just cop to it, OK?