Culture: Sexual failure is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser

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The Independent Online

To what extent is a documentary-maker obliged to follow the same rules as a news reporter? In the past, film-makers such as Roger Graef operated to a very strict code of ethics, doing everything they could to minimise the effect the presence of their documentary crews had on the events they were shooting. But what of documentary-makers such as Morgan Spurlock, who are themselves the subjects of their films? There are no hard-and-fast rules here, but there is at least an understanding that the situations they find themselves in have not been "stunted up".

It is a safe bet that Chris Waitt, the director of A Complete History of My Sexual Failures (pictured), has not honoured this compact. The film purports to document Waitt's efforts to discover why he is such a loser in love and we follow his progress as he interviews a succession of ex-girlfriends, yet at least 25 per cent of the film rings false. In one scene, he feigns ignorance about the correct dosage of Viagra and ends up taking seven tablets and roaming the streets of London, pleading with random girls to "f***" him. If Waitt was an employee of the BBC he'd be dragged before a series of committees before being tossed into the street.

Yet, Waitt's dishonesty doesn't matter in the slightest because A Complete History of My Sexual Failures is very, very funny.

One episode, in particular, is guaranteed to bring the house down. The context is what purports to be a bout of erectile dysfunction; in a bid to cure himself, Waitt visits a dominatrix, who puts him through his paces in an S&M dungeon. In one excoriating sequence, Waitt has his penis mangled in a succession of medieval torture devices. It lasts for about 10 minutes and at times it was so funny I thought I would pass out. It is the equal of the scene in Borat in which Sacha Baron-Cohen has a naked wrestling match with his roly poly cameraman.

A Complete History of My Sexual Failures is very Borat-like, in fact, and I sincerely hope it does as well at the box office. Like Baron-Cohen's film, most of the laughs come from exposing real people to what is essentially a fictional character – in this case, Waitt himself who is clearly not the emasculated loser he makes himself out to be – then watching them struggling to overcome their embarrassment. However, unlike Baron-Cohen, who never allows any of his victims to turn the tables on him, Waitt includes moments in which he comes off looking like an idiot. And, of course, that makes him seem quite an honest fellow after all.

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