Tripping with Caveh
by Jessica Hundley
Indie experimental stalwart Caveh Zahedi has been making revelatory cinema for years now, his work marked by wry humor and uninhibited self-exploration. His films, such as 1991's A Little Stiff and the upcoming I Am a Sex Addict, are unabashed autobiographical retellings of true events (a failed relationship, an addiction to prostitutes) culled from Zahedi's own life, with the filmmaker as writer, director and self-confessional star.
This may seem like tiresome self-obsession, but Zahedi's search for himself and his intense analysis of his own reality is both fascinating and beautiful to watch. As a filmmaker, he is fueled less by ego than the burning desire to dissect his world in order to reveal powerful existential truths. In his new short, (the first of which he hopes will become a series) Zahedi's inquisitiveness finds a new focus in his guest star, the musician Will Oldham.
Part reality show, part unconventional interview, Tripping with Caveh was inspired by the John Lurie series, Fishing with John, in which the New York actor and jazz musician took his cult celebrity friends on real life fishing trips, hoping to reveal something unexpected in the process. Shark hunting with Jim Jarmusch, a Jamaican jaunt with Tom Waits and a search for giant squid with Dennis Hopper were a few of the series highlights. Zahedi took the idea and ran, deciding to substitute poles and hooks for Psilocybin mushrooms and a romp through the great outdoors.
The idea was this— invite various "celebrities" to join him in a ritualistic psychedelic journey, where walls would come crashing down and one's inner soul would be revealed. The first to take Zahedi up on his offer was Oldham, the multitalented musician also known by the monikers Palace and Bonnie Prince Billy. Oldham has been making utterly beautiful music, a kind of neo-folk shimmering with high, emotive vocals, for about as long as Zahedi has been making films. His decision to take on Zahedi's challenge will come as no surprise to his fans, who have come to rely on him for offbeat, unexpected career moves and a charmingly mischievous persona. The two turn out to be a nice match, despite the fact they were unacquainted before filming of the short began (although Zahedi had used a song of Oldham's in one of his films and was an avowed fan).
The short begins with Caveh waiting nervously at the Austin airport, explaining the show's concept to the camera and searching the crowds for signs of Oldham. When the musician does arrive, the rapport is instant, Zahedi's endearing nervous energy offset by Oldham's relentless Zen calm. What follows is the celebrity interview stripped raw, in which Oldham and Zahedi ride go-carts, jump on a trampoline and get to know one another through random bits of conversation which skip the small talk and shoot straight to the heart. The result is sweet, playful and utterly enlightening, an illuminating look at that complex and beautiful relationship that exists between art, artist and adoring fan.