Let's Talk About Sex... - Chris Waitt Interview
Author: Anita Connors
Thursday, 12 June 2008
“New idiot filmmaker Chris Waitt attempts to find out what’s wrong with him by talking to his ex-girlfriends and subsequently ritually humiliated by a series of women, from his ex-girlfriends to his mother to a dominatrix.”
This is how British filmmaker and Kurt Cobain doppelganger Chris Waitt has chosen to sell A Complete History Of My Sexual Failures to you dear readers. A crowd-pleaser of a documentary, it is sure to heat up more than many a cinema seat at this year’s Sydney Film Festival. The film focuses on the 30-something, self-confessed disaster-at-relationships as he decides to change.
“I expected it to be really, pretty simple,” Waitt says. “And that’s probably because I’m stupidly naïve in these things, just as I in relationships as well. My life is really made up of that, I just stagger into things. I don’t really, really think them through. That’s true of my relationships, and that’s true of the film.”
At once hilarious and heart-rending, A Complete History… sees Waitt thrust into a tragicomic tornado of confronting situations.
“I don’t really think things through, so I didn’t think a lot about what these situations would really entail,” he says. “I actually thought it would be pretty simple. I thought it would be phoning up or speaking to some ex-girlfriends, finding out what was wrong with and you know, I thought they’d be kind of a bit pleased to see me, speak to me, and we’d find it an interesting way to deal with the problems in my life. But actually, of course, it turned out to be way, way more difficult than that.
“I don’t think it’s an obvious way to try and look at one’s life or address one’s problems, great or small. I myself had my doubts all the way along. I really kept thinking, ‘What the hell am I making this for-’ I either thought it was deeply self-indulgent or it must be some absurd ego trip, or it was just a bad idea. Although I think there may be elements of that in the film, in the end it turned out to go way beyond what I expected. It did end up being very important in my personal life, it was cathartic.”
Curiously, the film almost didn’t get made.
“Both me and the people putting the money into it thought it was an absolute disaster,” Waitt recalls. “The funding was withdrawn twice. And you know, what you see in the film is a call from the head of the film company, which was an actual call, you hear him saying he was going to shut the film down and everything.”
Luckily for us, A Complete History… was given the final green light late last year. The film will strike a chord notably for its sincerity; it truly is unique in that it records Waitt’s personal problems and experiences with unflinching candour; everything is documented from the various emotional and physical embarrassments he suffers to the poignant revelations he gains. A great deal of the footage will surprise and even shock. It is then perhaps surprising to hear that Waitt’s family were among the first to see the film.
“I had a screening at Christmas for my family, just after I had finished the film. It didn’t go well. I mean they laughed at some sections, but it’s not a normal family movie to see someone talk about their sexual, emotional problems at great length. The trouble was, a lot of the material in it was a lot of stuff they didn’t know. It turned out to be kind of like a huge convention… My aunts were there, my uncles, my cousins. They insisted on seeing the film… They laughed a lot during the film, but by the end of it they were all a little bit freaked out. They were stuck in a discussion group about what to do with Christopher.”
So far, Waitt’s ex-fiancée Vicki is the only one of Waitt’s many ex-girlfriends that has actually seen the film beginning to end. “Once we got to the point near to the end of the edit, of actually having turned this 350 hours of material that didn’t make much sense into something that did make a lot of sense to me, which turned out to do a lot with her,” he says. “I realised that she was such an important part of the whole thing, it was very important to me that she saw it and was able to live with it.
“But there’s going to a premiere over here at the Edinburgh Film Festival, just a week and a half after the Sydney one, in which quite a lot of the ex-girlfriends will be there. In the same room, at the same cinema. I’m scared to say I’m not looking forward to that event.”
Waitt began A Complete History… with the intention of changing himself. And for anyone who has seen it will know that Waitt looks like he fell asleep in the ’90s and only woke up last Sunday, still a kid, and still wearing his same old tattered grunge gear. So has he really changed-
“I like to think that I have improved,” he muses. “I think I have enormously improved on a practical level. A number of things the ex-girlfriends talked about, you know my tidiness, my lateness, my personal hygiene, even my sexual performance, they’re things, you know, I’ve addressed quite a lot since the making of the film. And I think I’ve improved massively.”
However, Waitt is still far from being a love guru. When asked to offer 3D readers with relationship advice, the filmmaker pipes, “I’ve learnt it’s probably not a good idea to visit your ex-girlfriends or your exes as a way of trying to find out what’s wrong with you. I don’t think that’s such a good idea, it turns out. But if you’ve seen the film, then you’ll probably know I’m not the guy to give out great advice on relationships. I’m a disaster… The best advice I can give is just, ‘Don’t do what I did.’”
WHAT: A Complete History of My Sexual Failures
WHEN: Screens Tuesday 10 June
WHERE: Greater Union George St