Judge Jonathan Weiss insists this movie isn't about him. No, really. Why are you laughing like that?
"Like, um, I have a bit of a prostitute fetish."—Caveh Zahedi
Caveh Zahedi is one icky dude—and not because of the whole prostitute thing either. It's his bulging eyes, his cavernous stare, his skin and bones body, and his nervous, whiny voice. What might seem even nuttier is that even with the above description, Caveh is obviously charming enough to actually meet, and get it on with the ladies for free. He's already been married twice and the film actually opens with Caveh waiting to make his third, and what he hopes is his final, trip down the matrimonial aisle.
There's a lot to be said about a guy who decides to recount a life's worth of sexual transgressions on the eve of his wedding—the first being "lucky lady that bride." But whatever impression you take away about the man himself after watching I Am A Sex Addict, there's no denying that he's also one of the bravest guys out there right now documenting things about his life that 98% of us would pay to keep under wraps. In this way his work in general and I Am A Sex Addict in particular has more in common with autobiographical graphic novelists like Chester Brown and Joe Matt than it does with his fellow film makers. This is therapy through complete disclosure—and it probably does Caveh a whole lot of good; now whether it does the same for you, well, that remains to be seen.
Facts of the Case
Just before the ceremony for his third marriage is about to begin Caveh Zahedi talks directly to the viewer and recounts his previous relationships as well as his descent and gradual withdrawal from prostitute addiction in intricate detail.
The amount of enjoyment you'll derive from watching I Am A Sex Addict depends on many variables. For instance, how comfortable are you watching (at what you hope is) simulated oral sex? They're not long scenes—in fact it appears that it doesn't actually take much for Caveh to be satisfied—but they are there, so be ready. Also, you're obviously going to have to be okay with nudity. There's a lot of the female form on display (prostitutes, remember?) and, well, you also get to see Caveh's boney butt every now and then too. And lastly you're also going to have to be okay with hearing frank discussions about sex and sexual fantasies. Don't get the wrong idea, this isn't a pornographic film in the sense that pornography is meant to turn you on in some way (and who knows, it might, but overall it doesn't seem to be the intent of this film). But if you are fine with all of the above then I Am A Sex Addict might just be the most honest representation of one man's sexual odyssey documented on film as you're likely to find.
Though this isn't a documentary per se, because much of it is recreated with actors, it isn't your typical drama either. From the outset, Caveh constantly breaks the fourth wall and talks directly to his audience, engaging us not only in his life but also in his movie making process. He shows short clips of footage after each re-enactment of the actual individuals it was based on, just to remind us that everything we've seen, warts and all, actually happened. At one point he even plays us a snippet of audiotape that he recorded at his first meeting of Sex Addicts Anonymous. This kind of hyperreal confessional style is all over I Am A Sex Addict—an earnestness, a need that Caveh has to tell whoever is watching—"see, everything I'm telling you actually happened. It's all real."
What's also incredibly real is that I Am A Sex Addict feels about a half an hour too long. One would think that images of simulated blowjobs and various topless whores would make the time just fly by, but in his earnestness Caveh's unloading (not to mention self-promoting) also becomes a bit tiresome. Caveh is not that sympathetic a character (or a person) no matter how much he tries to convince you otherwise. He's a selfish, egocentric jerk who has the very human ability to rationalize every single one of his actions. And yet here's a grown man who doesn't understand why the women in his life can't simply transcend their jealousy whenever he expresses his inner most sexual thoughts and feelings about every pretty thing that crosses his path. He just doesn't get it. You can see it in his eyes. He's lost. In this way, if you scratch below the surface, he also comes across as an innocent; like a petulant child not sure why he's not able to get his own way. Or he's simply incredibly naïve. Ironically, it's these very same attributes that might have attracted the women in his life in the first place.
For an independently made (and admittedly) low-budget film, I Am A Sex Addict looks good. The picture has a certain documentary look to it (in other words: grainy) but it adds to the confessional tone of the whole film. The camera work isn't flashy, mainly close-up and medium shots, but it gets the job done. Audio is also good. Nothing that's going to give a surround sound system a workout (imagine the possibilities) but every word is crystal clear.
There aren't a whole lot of extras but what is included is pretty interesting. Basically you're witness to the behind the scenes shenanigans of three scenes; and though it really should, it comes as no surprise that in two of them Caveh isn't of the "method" when it comes to recreating scenes in which mind and mood altering substances come into play. If anything, they're great anti-drug messages. This is NOT a guy you want to trip with. The one that's the most fun to watch is the Hotel Scene—talk about totally demystifying the whole "sex scene" thing. One warning though, you will see Caveh's dangling bits.
The last thing that needs to be mentioned is the score. It's uncertain whether this was a found piece of music or a commission, but either way, the cello and violin (viola?) accompanying the film is just lovely—with the ability to convey both melancholy and whimsy at the same time. Just the right touch for a film that leaves you not knowing whether you want to laugh or cry.
Even though the subject manner is on the serious side, there's still a lot of wit and charm in I Am A Sex Addict. You may not warm to Caveh immediately, or you may not warm up to him at all, but you do have to give the man his props for baring it all (figuratively as well as physically) for the world to see.
I Am A Sex Addict is definitely guilty. A guilty pleasure for anyone who's ever been even slightly interested in being a fly on the wall capable of watching a truthful depiction of prostitute addiction.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Genius Products
• "Shooting I Am A Sex Addict"
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