Caveh Zahedi and dubious confessionalism


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this is a bit like that

i'd be interested to hear what you all think. absolutely embracing the cringe, the public/personal thing completely exploded all over the place

I’ve been fascinated by this guy for ages, everyone please watch at least a bit of this.

His whole career has basically been iterations of the same type of film, autobiographical documentaries starring him and his neuroses. For the most part they’re very low budget and horribly revealing which tends to strike people I’ve shown them to as heroic or repulsive. One of the recurring balancing acts is between the extensively honest “unfiltered” accounts of some of his most uncomfortable personality defects and desires, and the structured editing process that his sincerity can mask, which could throw a lot of the chance aspects and socially redeeming effects of the films into question.

He’s filmed loads of curious things like making his dad take ecstasy and pestering Will Oldham to take a higher dose of mushrooms. One interesting example is the film he did called I Am a Sex Addict, about him being a sex addict. As you might expect he does not come across particularly well in many respects, but I got so caught up in the candid presentation and the feelings stirred by that kind of ostensibly sheer self reflection and representation on a permanent record that I didn’t really notice. I watched it again with a friend, who incidentally had worked with a sex worker advocacy group, and they hated it , thought it was self indulgent irresponsible crap. Which I thought was missing the point , but it is not for everyone.

Does it work for you? Is it too grubby and self indulgent? Is this kind of confessional work a lowly ambition when making any cultural product?

And aside from Caveh, is there a time and a place for this kind of work, if you’re living through a period where there seems to be more currency in “just saying all the racist things were all thinking”, is this kind of work a Bad idea ?

I think he’s brilliant, there’s a bit in the William Blake show, on the heaven and hell panel where he says something about the physical printing process , chemically burning the plates being formally symmetrical to the themes of his work, how there is a structural analogue to the mythology in the literal nuts and bolts process of depicting it, and how he can expunge the idea that man has a soul separate from his body through the correct layers of production. I think there is a similar kind of formal symmetry with cavehs films, they’re the perfect way of expressing what he’s trying to do but at the same time undercut the reliability of it.


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He's got a good cameo in linklaters waking life, where he talks about Andre bazins theory of cinema and his head goes all funny. I laughed at that a lot at the time and tried watching some of his other bits but he's really annoying and I can't get into the neuroticism


Thanks Kumar! I reckon CZ has a lots to offer dissensus - the whole "box set" is quite short, if you can bear the excruciating cringe


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Yeah he is very annoying and American but due to some character flaws of my own I can stomach it . most of my friends that I like have been unimpressed if I’ve shown them but everyone who’s taken to it with the zeal of discovering their new guru has turned out to be a bit of a twat, the mystery deepens


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There’s another bit detailing the descent into the printing room in hell that I can’t find


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Now that we have ample time for dissensus we can have another go at discussing the expanded caveh universe. His way of living in public is interesting because you are shown a version of himself that undermines the kind of self that you might like to present by constantly foregrounding the self that is trying to represent itself. The virtuous loving desires to communicate honestly and expose his own bullshit rub up against his domineering traits and control anxieties. I feel an obvious positive effect from this that makes it more than a narcissistic exercise of having his cake and eating it. A lot of his stuff ends up self destructive rather than just self deprecating which is at least a little bit fascinating.

One of the effects of something like Burroughs cut ups is in showing how a particular new technology , like a novel, can restructure experience whilst masking the limitations it imposes on perception, along with the attendant class interests that it might serve to protect. People start going around straining to think in elaborate prose. There is a similar intent with Caveh , he constantly points out the artifice of the re-enactments of scenes in the sex addict film and his recent show but the effects then spill over into his life while filming and get folded back into the next episode.

But then expunging the conventions of a narrative form come at the expense of certain types of agreed upon quality. This is the annoying thing for lots of people. In this other interview show for instance he gets irritated at his friend for going into “marlon brando mode” when telling a story, and they end up teasing out the problems with that, but you get a less artful and entertaining conversation than you would by letting someone stay in marlon brando mode.

It might seem unimpressive to lots of people but I can’t think of anyone who does a similar thing. The unimpressive factor is useful too, loads of things are unimpressive and all the better for it. Improv is normally unimpressive and incorporates its own failings in a similar way to cavehs films, they’re too big to fail.

I think it would also be good to talk about here because it has so many brooklyn hipstery indie rock tendencies that seem completely heretical to the taste of this place.