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We Live In Public - Movie Review - 2009

The Life And Times of Josh Harris, dot.com Mogul

By

We Live In Public - Movie Review - 2009

We Live In Public - In the Toilet

Interloper Films
Josh Harris, Internet entrepreneur, visionary and artist, rose to fame and became a multimillionaire during the 1990s dot.com boom. Predicting that the Internet would change the way people live, relate to each other and communicate, he conducted several unusual social experiments that were presented as performance art, including the 'Quiet' project, in which 100 people lived together for 30 days in an underground bunker while their every move and interaction was observed and recorded. Filmmaker Ondi Timoner tells Harris' story with on camera interviews and archival footage of Harris-staged events.

Synopsis

Imagine what would happen if you were to invite 100 free-spirited artists to come to a month long party where they'd live together 24/7 in a closed environment in which they would sleep in Japanese hotel-style pods, shower and eat communally, and have their every move and interaction recorded by surveillance cameras tucked into every corner of the environment -- even in the pods and toilet bowls.

That's exactly what Internet entrepreneur, visionary and artist Josh Harris did in his 'Quiet' project, a month-long party staged to celebrate the arrival of the new millennium. 'Quiet' is one of the events shown in We Live In Public.

Filmmaker Ondi Timoner's documentary traces the rise and fall of Harris' dot.com celebrity and fortune. Within the curve of his career, the film chronicles various performance art exploits staged by Harris during the height of his success amidst the dot.com boom of the 1990s, when he had millions of dollars to spend exploring ways in which the Internet and public access would influence human society.

The film shows how Harris' Pseudo network, his very successful online company, was way ahead of the curve in streaming special interest programs around the clock, although back then technology was so primitive that images were jumpy and irregular.

Another Harris project shown in the film is his on camera live in with his girlfriend, with both of them under 24/7 camera surveillance, while their every activity, intimacy and argument was broadcast on the Internet. That six month sojourn of living in public brought Harris to the brink of a nervous breakdown.

Cast of Characters

We Live In Public - Filmmaker Ondi Timoner

Interloper Films
Josh Harris, whose role at Pseudo has been likened to that of Andy Warhol at The Factory, is an interesting, articulate, daring central character. His story provides the structure and through line for the film, which is populated by dozens of Harris employees and colleagues who ran with him at Pseudo and in his events -- but you may not recognize them with their clothes off and/or from some of the angles from which they're shot.

Tanya Corrin, Harris' girlfriend at the time -- yes, the's the gal who agreed to the six month live-in him under surveillance -- is both participant and commentator.

Journalist Anthony Haden-Guest offers insight about Harris, his vision and role in the New York art scene.

Filmmaker Ondi Timoner actually shot the 'Quiet' project and was, therefore, to some extent a part of the action as well as an observer of it.

Theme and Intent

Josh Harris was a key player in the dot.com boom that created a unique social and cultural mood during the 1990s. While telling Harris story, this film captures that mood and generates contemplation about the ways in which public access to and widespread use of the Internet influences society beyond the dot.com community that invented and developed it.

Sequences showing the 'Quiet' project and Harris' live in performance are quite sensational, but they're presented contextually as precursors of some of the personal videos posted on YouTube by people who are seeking notoriety. The film neither promotes nor condemns. In fact, it makes no judgements at all. It's a verite reveal of NYC's 1990s art and Internet scene.

Cinematic Style

We Live In Public uses lots of archival footage from the 'Quiet' project, Harris' live in and Pseudo network shows. Additionally there are interviews with Harris, Corrin, Haden-Guest and others, some shot during the 1990s, some more recent. Sometimes the hand held camera work on the archival footage is somewhat dodgy, but that gives the film an appropriate feel of improvisation and authenticity.

Voice over narration, widely used, is integrated with an excellent music track featuring suitably edgy sounds from Joel Plaskett, Nine Inch Nails and David Bowie, among others.

The editing lacks focus and seems self indulgent. There is too much footage of the 'Quiet' project. While that sequence is intriguing and some of the images are captivating, but much of the 'Quiet' project footage isn't well shot. The images are chaotic (which is probably a genuine reflection of the event), and don't quite bring you into the environment. Less would be more.

Bottom Line

The subject matter is sufficiently interesting -- and perhaps, to some people at least, sufficiently scandalous -- to make this a popular film, in spite of its technical deficiencies.

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Film Details:

  • Title: We Live In Public
  • Director: Ondi Timoner
  • Release Date: August 28, 2009 (New York), September 28 (Los Angeles)
  • Running Time: 90 mins.
  • Parents Advisory: Advisory for content
  • Location: New York City
  • Language: English
  • Company: Interloper Films
  • Trailer

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