Wednesday, February 28, 2007

In the Bathtub of the World (2001)

Caveh Zahedi: Voyeur culture savant! The concept behind this film is simple -- it's a video diary that shows us, in a nutshell, a year in the life of Caveh. This is nothing new, of course; the portrait-of-the-artist genre has a long history about it. What appeals about Bathtub is its acknowledgement/indulgence of the relationship between viewer and subject (a.k.a. voyeur and exhibitionist). On the surface, Zahedi is aiming for complete openness -- he wants to show himself to us in full. As such, he's unafraid to look unsympathetic; note, for instance, his insistence on capturing on camera every instance of his girlfriend Amanda Field in tears. Furthermore, he allows us wide access to both his chemical experimentations (including a long scene of him tripping on acid on his birthday) and the obsessions to which he is in thrall, ranging from heedless purchase of books to masturbatory compulsions (the latter upon which he would expound in his subsequent I Am a Sex Addict). So we're given the impression of total honesty. Zahedi leaves enough space to wonder, though -- certainly his arrangement in front of his own camera, often times halfway hidden behind a plant or backlit in an unflattering way, speaks to a certain level of persona enhancement. Futhermore, if, as Godard claims, every cut is a lie, we have to wonder what's being hidden in between the "truths" revealed in Bathtub. It is, foremost, a skillfully edited piece of cinema, as sharp as one would hope given that an entire year is being condensed into under 90 minutes; even so, I can't help but wonder what's being left out of the days we don't see and the gaps we're handed. (Maybe it's lots of boredom, maybe it isn't.) This is especially intriguing in the latter stages of the project, where it becomes apparent that Zahedi has in fact fashioned a sort of makeshift narrative for his film -- it is, at the end of it all, a sweet love story and an expression of hope for and wonder about the future. If I sound like I'm accusing Zahedi of lying to us, I'm not; I merely think the contrast between the subject and the filmmaker, best expressed in the prelude to the aforementioned birthday-acid scene where Amanda uses Caveh's camera to film a friend of the two filming Caveh, so that Caveh-the-star appears twice and Caveh-the-director is apparently in absentia even though the orchestration of it all is clearly his doing, is fertile ground that Zahedi expects us to till with him. In watching this, I'm left to wonder where the division between the man in front of the camera and the man behind the camera exists, and I rather enjoy it all. Acceptance, of course, of Zahedi's work is predicated on acceptance of the persona -- I find the on-camera Caveh appealing in a smart, self-deprecating kind of way. If I may be allowed to unleash my inner Gene Shalit, I'd happily soak in this Bathtub again.

Grade: B


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't find this movie..
Where can i get it?

6:35 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

It's available to rent through Greencine. That's how I saw it.

11:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your answer.
I'll check it.
Take care.

5:32 AM  

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