I Am a Sex Addict | Movie Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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I Am a Sex Addict

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Through a series of intertwined frank confessions from a cross section of eight American and English subjects, this feature documentary made for the BBC by Vikram Jayanti and John Powers explores the phenomenon of the pleasure principle running amok. With a mixture of narcissism, cynicism, and sadness, each of these self-proclaimed sex addicts recounts past encounters and fantasies, all too willingly serving up his or her own pathology for scrutiny. What they also seem to share is a penchant for Freudian analysis: parents, baby-sitters, and wayward spouses are cited as chief causes for their loneliness and inability to love. And presented as indefatigable talking heads by the filmmakers, they all succumb to bragging about their predilections--down to the habit of cataloging ways of ejaculation and keeping statistics on hundreds of partners. Peter, a performance artist, describes with glee and in Proustian detail formative sexual experiences; Dave, an accountant, trots out bondage paraphernalia as if they were family jewels; the harsh-looking Paula, having slept with scores of men, now lusts after "mental orgasm." In between these revelations, which are really no more self-indulgent or lurid than what we get on daytime talk shows, writer Hubert Selby Jr. awkwardly dispenses words of wisdom and snippets from his books; on the sound track, songs by Leonard Cohen, rather predictably, serve as wry comments on the malaise. The film, however, becomes more engrossing whenever it shifts to the case of Layla, an obese computer consultant who moonlights as a porn star. Having participated in gang bangs, she doesn't see herself as a victim but as an alum of the school of hard knocks. The film's most shocking scene has her contemplating her naked, fat-folded body in a mirror; the most poignant has her floating serenely in a pool surrounded by four nude men. To the filmmakers' credit, the tone throughout is never condescending. Both Jayanti and Powers, who's a noted movie critic, will be on hand for discussion after the screening. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Friday, October 25, 6:00 and 8:00, and Saturday, October 26, 3:30, 312-443-3737.

--Ted Shen

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