One of the best American films of the last few years is Joanna Arnow's i hate myself :).
Ostensibly it's a "diary film," a term which means less and less as all our media converge into something indistinguishable between film, festival projection, YouTube, Vimeo, Vine, Simple Machine, NoBudge, and so on. Dan Sallitt has already beaten us all to the punch by expounding upon the nuances of the film back in July 2013.
Premise: Arnow and a then-boyfriend, a super-amped-up Type A to say the least, spend their lives-then together, vacillate between the latter's Harlem place and the former's more docile Brooklyn digs; one assumes based on the interviews with Arnow's parents that the BK segments come with a dose of largesse. Employment on either side is never, or barely ever, touched upon. The privilege of life-long Brooklynites before the 2000s-2010s. I could be wrong about everything here.
And I don't want to say much about this film. Why? Because, as I feel I've already been too indiscreet in even describing surface elements of this picture that posits itself as an exercise (no, that's not the right word) in indiscretion. Far from a provocation — sexual, emotional — Arnow's film is both the last splaying-open of the last-decade's-long "disclosure trend," taken to its utmost degree. A confession and a masochism, with regard to her chaining to a hell protagonist, her own (disingenous? - such has been the trend) stab at fly-on-the-wall invisibility, her own laying bare the pieces that inevitably create a future of bad marriages, good marriages, artistic triumph, dowager (in)certitude, all or any or none of the above.
Although the play of possible fiction that Dan highlights in his piece is fascinating, I don't feel this is anything beyond pure flayed confessional. Again, I don't feel it's right even to delve into this aspect "analytically" here: if you've seen the film, perhaps you'll agree it would seem untoward.
The star of the film is not the boyfriend, for all his drunk Summer sweaty über-provocations with regard to race-baiting and taunting of Arnow herself — which come off as defense mechanisms ne plus ultra... It's Arnow herself, who, in paradox to the very nature of this project, distinguishes herself, whether known by herself or not, as one of the kindest and most sympathetic heroines of the recent cinema. Her sweet face and bared breakdowns evince an honesty and a struggle that few filmmakers of recent times have had the chutzpah to follow to some kind of nth-degree. Again, this is perhaps the last film of its kind in this era. The explicit sexual scenes are at once lynchpins of the scenario as it were, and entirely immaterial. This is who we are at 2014: Cosmos, A Cinematime Odyssey.
As it happens, and in review, it turns out I've said nothing about the film. But what more could I say, unless I were more explicit, and cheerled the influx to see it? Well, no dice: i hate myself :) had a short run at NoBudge, had a Rooftop stint, was rejected from many festivals. In lieu of institutional laurels, perhaps viewers can listen to the contingent of fans on the blogo-social-media-sphere and get with the program. As someone once said, "Nothing but cinema may not be the whole cinema." To which I'd add: "The whole of 'the Cinema' may not be the whole cinema." Reject small capsules and smaller conclusions, blog-capsules and festival-farmed synopses: Here is a film that requires being seen by all enthusiasts of movies and empathy, of Roger Angell's recent New Yorker piece on turning 93, and of the wish that champions still come to protect the fragile in streets and on screens. "Joanna, can you hear me?"