A Complete History Of My Sexual Failures


Reviewed by: Emma Slawinski

A Complete History Of My Sexual Failures
"Though this is a funny, engaging film, I found myself asking how much of it is in good faith and how much is deliberate hyperbole for the camera."

Having emerged from the latest in an unfathomably long series of relationships as the dumpee again, film-maker Chris Waitt decides to cash in on his misery and make a comic cringe-fest showcasing crimes against womankind… Sorry, I meant put his past relationships under the microscope to see where he went wrong and emerge a more emotionally literate person. The documentary will hinge on interviewing his past girlfriends to quiz them on the good and bad points of the relationship, and why they dumped him.

The first half of the film is played mostly for laughs, as he describes the numerous forms of technology that have been employed by long-suffering girlfriends to dump him (email, answerphone, text messages etc), and starts making phonecalls to find interviewees. They're greeted with laughter, expletives, and generally flat refusals. Sensing a dead end, Chris talks to his mum, who looks as exasperated as the girlfriends sound. She digs out a box of his old love letters, and tells him off for not replying. Ever. To anyone. They pick a later one out of the box, in which the writer's romance and patience had obviously run out: it begins "Dear shit-fuck". "Shame on you" says Mummy Waitt sternly. I think the audience is becoming fond of Mummy Waitt.

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It doesn't take long for us to work out the main problem affecting Chris' success with women. He's man suffering from a serious Peter Pan complex. Still stuck in studentland though he's (I infer) in his 30s: the lank floppy hair, ripped jeans falling down his arse, and persistent five-day stubble don't really make him stand out as a hot object of desire. His chosen career seems to mean that he's never had to do much actual work. His flat is a mire of unwashed clothes, mouldering food and dirt garnished with a considerable number of collectable figurines. Would you want to get serious with this man?

Chris finally convinces some exes to be interviewed. He talks to his teenage love, whose mother he tried to cop off with whilst drunk at a wedding. It can only go downhill from here. Next, a blind date set up by his well-meaning producer Mary, but the feedback isn't so good. "I was just trying to be myself," whines Chris down the phone "Next time be someone else," Mary advises sternly.

So far so humiliating. Just wait, we haven't even got to internet dating, impotence, therapy or fetishes. The descent into farce has been fast, and Chris has reached rock bottom. Will he be able to learn from his mistakes and get back on the dating track?

Though this is a funny, engaging film, I found myself asking how much of it is in good faith and how much is deliberate hyperbole for the camera. Chris' wide-eyed and incredulous interview style could trump even Louis Theroux's ingénue routine, and makes you wonder about his sincerity. When you stop crying with laughter long enough to think about it, it's disconcerting that someone would put themselves through such a masochistic obstacle-race.

The film's scrapbook style and the immediacy of the hand-held camera work belie a sophisticated piece of documentary-making that has benefited from some high-calibre editing and production (the team can boast Shane Meadows' This Is England and Dead Man's Shoes amongst their credits). Whatever Chris's true motives, at least the exes get the upper hand in the interviews. You can see where the photographer's sympathies lie in the bare but sensitive portraits of these very real, articulate women. The contrast between Chris and his intrerviewees is striking: they seem to inhabit different worlds.

A Complete History has found a clever and very marketable spin on confessional TV: a video diary that evokes an unlikely pairing of Sex And The City and Jackass. Chris may not be painting himself with honey and rolling around in a red ant nest, but the gross-out hilarity is quite similar. Its cross-over genius will undoubtedly snare the respective female and male audiences of the above shows. A good movie to watch with the object of your affection - as a warning!

Reviewed on: 17 Jun 2008
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Does what it says on the tin - a personal documentary about a subject for which most blokes will have sympathy.
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Read more A Complete History Of My Sexual Failures reviews:

Val Kermode ***1/2

Director: Chris Waitt

Writer: Chris Waitt and Henry Trotter

Starring: Chris Waitt

Year: 2008

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: UK

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