A Complete History of My Sexual Failures, 18

Chris Waitt's documentary about his disastrous love life is the star turn in a strong line up at the first stand-alone Edinburgh International Film Festival

Pity poor British film-maker Chris Waitt. Over the years, girlfriends have dumped him by email, in answerphone and text messages, even killed him off as a character in a novel. Hence Waitt's debut feature A Complete History Of My Sexual Failures: a comic documentary in which he reviews his life of amorous woe. The thing is, Waitt has apparently been given his marching orders by a suspiciously large number of intelligent, attractive and sophisticated women. Ostensibly casting himself as a lamentable lover, he's really making himself seem the world's cuddliest catch.

Well, it worked for Woody Allen over several decades, and Waitt's exercise in Nebbish Narcissism may do the trick for him too. But whether or not the film wins him any new dates, it will certainly appeal to gauche young British males unlucky in love: Waitt should have the Peep Show audience mopped up.



A Complete History ... is quite a performance – and I do mean performance. Waitt maintains the pretence throughout that his film is a documentary, and as far as one can see, many if not all of the exes he interviews (or who angrily refuse to be interviewed) are women Waitt really has dated. His likeable mother – who has little truck with his brattish self-pity – also appears really to be his mother. Mind you, the end titles admit that some of the film's encounters had to be "reconstituted"; make of that what you will.



Paradoxically, the more real others appear to be, the less you believe in its star. A bedraggled straw-haired stick, Waitt behaves like a cartoonish overgrown slacker, like Mackenzie Crook impersonating Kurt Cobain. If his film is a hit, Waitt is doomed, like Michael Moore, to spend the rest of his career wearing the same clothes, and the same persona.



A skilled comedian, he sustains the same air of puppyish "Who, me?" bemusement whether being berated on the phone by his disgruntled producer or having his scrotum wrenched by dominatrix Mistress Maisie ("Hugs I don't do!"), while he hangs from a crucifix. Halfway, Waitt swerves from his sentimental life into a farcical essay on his alleged erection problems. This shift seems designed mainly to motivate an extended gonzo stunt in which Waitt, overdosed on Viagra (apparently), starts propositioning women in London streets (apparently) and ends up being arrested (apparently).



The film increasingly resembles a set-up job – which, perversely, Waitt turns to his advantage. Just when we think he's led us into the furthest reaches of Candid Camera-land, he switches register and gives us a dose of genuine emotion ("apparently", I could add again, but this time I'm not so sure). He introduces us to the One That Got Away, a woman named Vicky who seems genuinely rueful about her history with Waitt. As the ex-lovers face each other, their eyes well up, to moving effect – although I wouldn't swear that Waitt isn't holding a sliced onion just out of shot. This is a clever and entertaining film, and Waitt is agreeably quirky company – although any woman who ends up dating him on the strength of this highly suspect advert for himself deserves all she gets.



A Complete History ... was one of the premieres at this year's Edinburgh International Film Festival, which ends tonight. Previously a



fixture in August, when the Fringe and the Festival proper are in full swing, the EIFF has now moved to June, and it feels a little odd to be here, if only because you miss the option of having stand-up comedy to clear the palate between art films.



But the festival organisers are buoyant about this year's ticket sales, and the programme has been solid at the very least, with the emphasis on distinctive directors' cinema. In that bracket, a stand-out discovery was a small but striking new British drama – Helen, by Joe Lawlor and Christine Molloy. The latest vital sign of a UK art-cinema resurgence, it's about the aftermath of a young woman's disappearance in a park. A lookalike agrees to appear in a police reconstruction, and projects her own desires into the figure of the missing woman. Glacial, stylised execution puts Helen strangely on a cusp between gallery video and the language of the British TV thriller; but there are also echoes of Michael Haneke, Atom Egoyan and Antonioni's own great park mystery Blow-Up. It's a film that many will find frustratingly open-ended, but Helen is an extremely confident, thought-provoking piece.



There have been crowd-pleasers too – notably Ian Fitzgibbon's black comedy A Film With Me In It. Dylan Moran, dependably shambling, is one of two buffoons forced to deal with a flat that's filling up with corpses, including two victims of death by clarinet. This cheap and cheerful shaggy-dog yarn is written by Mark Doherty, who also co-stars, resembling an Irish version of Seinfeld's Kramer.



Also bound for cult success is melancholic vampire film Let The Right One In, destined to be a hit with solitary, ghoulishly inclined adolescents. This stylish, snowbound piece, at once unsettling and oddly touching, is quite unlike any horror film I've seen – not least because it's Swedish.



The documentaries included James Marsh's soon-to-be-released Man On Wire, about tightrope walker Philippe Petit and his jaw-dropping 1974 stunt on top of New York's World Trade Center.



There was also Encounters at the End of the World: Werner Herzog let loose in Antarctica and ending up, despite his avowed intentions, making his own off-beat response to March of the Penguins. And there was the sublime Sleep Furiously, Gideon Koppel's record of life in a small Welsh community. In the twin British traditions of ruralism and eccentric documentary, this film is what tends to be classified as a "hard sell". But with its passionate interest in the seemingly ordinary corners of life, together with its stunning landscape photography, Sleep Furiously could end up as the UK's answer to French docu hit Etre Et Avoir.

Arts and Entertainment

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
V&A museum in London

Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'

Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper, Alessandro Nivola and Patricia Clarkson on stage

film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
art

‘Remember the attackers are a cold-blooded, crazy minority’, says Blek le Rat

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
    Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

    Diana Krall interview

    The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
    Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

    Pinstriped for action

    A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

    'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

    Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

    Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine