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We Live in Public

We Live in Public

Directed by:  Ondi Timoner Cast: Josh Harris, Tanya Corrin Running Time: 1 hr 30 mins Rating: Unrated Release Date: January 8, 2010

PLOT: Josh Harris starts out as a dot com entrepreneur and becomes a video artist/demagogue in pursuit of fame.

WHO'S IT FOR? Adults, though unrated, this isn't a film for kids. This film requires an open-minded audience.

EXPECTATIONS: I'm familiar with filmmaker Timoner through her film Dig! but I knew nothing about Harris or his projects before this film.



Josh Harris as himself:  Harris describes himself as someone raised by TV, but that can't explain all his weirdness.  The film is really his story, showing how he built a company valued at $80 million then lost it/spent it on a series of increasingly bizarre social experiments.  Seen in a mixture of archival footage and interviews, Harris develops from a geeky kid into a leader of artists in NYC.  But the most fascinating thing about him isn't the broad strokes, what he's doing or how much money he makes, but what he's trying to accomplish and howt he sees himself.  The "Quiet" experiment which makes up a good chunk of the film seems to mean something different to the participants than it does to Harris.  Though he loves cameras and speaks at length about what he's trying to achieve, he seems like an unreliable narrator, especially since he's prone to changing his mind.  Less successful business ventures are downgraded to experiments after they don't succeed the way they're meant to, relationships become "faux" if they don't work out.  He's an unusual guy and a fascinating subject for a documentary, but I'm not sure how much I believe him. Score:  8

Tanya Corrin as herself:  The only non-Harris character to exist both in the narrative and as an interview subject, Corrin meets Harris as a host on one of his Pseudo.com shows before becoming his girlfriend.  Her statements about their relationship make a strong counterpoint to Harris', and no, they don't always agree.  She also seems to have the most insight on Harris, more than his brothers or even himself.  It's also good to see that despite the craziness happening on screen, and there is some very weird footage, she came out the other side and seems like a reasonably cool person.  Not that it wouldn't be cool to hang out with Harris, but he'd definitely be the worst boyfriend ever. Score:  7

TALKING: There are two kinds of dialogue in this film, the interviews that are very well-spoken and thought out, and the video of the various scenes and events that's totally crazy.  People ramble, shout, and occasionally have sensible conversations while sitting on a toilet bowl.  Though it's weird, it's never boring. Score:  7

SIGHTS: The footage comes from seemingly every type of camera made in the last 30 years.  There's old VHS video of Harris in the '80s, primitive digital video clips from Pseudo in the '90s, and surveillance cameras from "Quiet" and "We Live in Public".  Timoner makes the decision to keep the whole film 4x3, probably a good idea or she'd be flashing back and forth between aspect ratios the whole time.  Despite the differing video quality, it really didn't disrupt my enjoyment of the film at all, so they did a great job of blending everything together. Score:  8

SOUNDS: Good soundtracks, a lot of songs I liked including The Pixies and Spoon.  Oh, and for fans of Dig!, Courtney Taylor shows up briefly. Score:  8


BEST SCENE:  During the filming of "We Live in Public", Harris and Corrin have a big fight that actually gets physical briefly.  It's intensely personal and very bizarre to see something like that filmed.  They are alone but also aware of the cameras and that adds a weird, almost creepy dynamic to the fight.  It's an incredible scene.

ENDING:  As long as Harris is alive, there is no ending.  The film leaves him coaching a basketball team of orphaned boys in Ethiopia, where he's hiding from creditors.  By this point in the movie, my reaction to this development is just, of course he is.

QUESTIONS:  What is being done with all the footage from the "Quiet" project?  Is the "Quiet" project really a representation of the internet?  If so, how and how is it different?  How did no one in the bunker get shot????

REWATCHABILITY:  If I didn't make it clear, this film is really interesting.  I'm pretty sure I'd get different impressions on future viewings.  There's a lot going on.


Timoner must have a talent for finding very strange people.  Like Anton Newcombe in Dig!, Harris is creative and unique to the point of seeming deranged.  This first crops up when the Luvvy character is introduced.  By the time we get around to the craziness that is "Quiet" I was ready for a big tragedy.  Mixing drugs, guns and zero privacy seemed like a recipe for disaster.  How it was averted I don't know.  But despite his exploits, I wasn't so distracted by Harris to recognize what a great job Timoner did at structuring the film.  Though mainly told chronologically, she was really great at finding the right moment to introduce various new characters and developments.  And it was an audacious decision to introduce Harris with the video he shot for his mother on her death bed.  I don't want to give much a way, this is a movie that should be experienced before you try to dissect it.  So go see it.


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