Notes From A Video Store Burnout

 

By Paul Malcolm 
L.A. Weekly, August 23-29, 2002 

 

As twisted fantasy and tragic exploitation, E!'s one-ring cirque du hell, The Anna Nicole Show, does for everyday living what porn does for sex: Watching its host stumble through her bloated daily routine is enough to turn you off getting up in the morning. A restorative, however, exists in the DVD release of director Caveh Zahedi's absorbing year-in-the-life video diary In the Bathtub of the World (2000). Over the course of 1999, Zahedi shot one minute of video footage every day in the hope, he says on the commentary track, of redeeming the power and poetry of everyday life. Such engaged solipsism is the hallmark of Zahedi's previous work, including the autobiographical features A Little Stiff (1991) and I Don't Hate Las Vegas Anymore (1994), with Bathtub as a kind of career culmination. At the outset of the project, the yogi-thin Iranian-American filmmaker shaves his head as if in monastic anticipation of enlightenment. In what follows, Zahedi leapfrogs over days and weeks to give us a series of snippets from his life as a filmmaker, teacher, boyfriend, son and recreation-drug user. In between attending a reading by John Ashbery or appearing in a scene for Richard Linklater's Waking Life, Zahedi eats, sleeps, reads, writes, jerks off, fights with his live-in girlfriend, Mandy, and works to pay the bills. What emerges isn't a plot, but the pattern of a personality as it struggles for understanding and, even more important, acceptance.