We Live In Public (18)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner26/10/2009

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 90 mins

Hugely entertaining, superbly directed documentary that's by turns fascinating, disturbing, thought-provoking, darkly funny and just plain weird.

What's it all about?
Directed by Ondi Timoner (who made the excellent Dig!), We Live In Public explores the impact of web-based technology on our lives, identities and personal interactions through the story of unsung internet pioneer Josh Harris. A lonely child, raised largely by the TV (where he developed a long-standing obsession with Gilligan's Island), Harris saw the potential of the internet as far back as 1984, becoming one of the first wave of dotcom millionaires and even launching a web TV site back when everyone was still on dial-up.

It swiftly becomes clear that Josh sees himself much more as an artist than as a businessman, as shown by his 1999 project Quiet (in which 100 artists lived in an underground bunker in New York, with cameras filming every moment) and his subsequent project, We Live In Public, in which he persuaded his girlfriend Tanya to move into an apartment wired with 32 cameras, so that the world could watch every moment of their lives together. Needless to say, this doesn't end too well.

The Good
Josh's ability to see the future as far as the internet was concerned was nothing short of extraordinary – it's just that he constantly made the wrong decisions, jumping left when he should have jumped right and so on. Even so, he essentially predicted the rise of both social networking sites and YouTube, so he was clearly a man well ahead of his time.

The film is fast-paced, sharply edited and thoroughly entertaining throughout. Timoner has assembled a huge amount of footage (she'd known Harris personally and had filmed him on and off for years) and the film uses interviews with friends, family, web experts, journalists and performance artists to tell his story.

The Great
The film is packed with several memorable scenes, some of which are extremely disturbing, such as the gun-hoarding artist in the underground bunker, the very upsetting final days of Josh and Tanya's online relationship, or Josh's bizarre obsession, at the height of his fame and fortune, with appearing in public dressed as a clown, complete with bizarre, Gilligan's Island-derived “Lovey” persona (this costs him at least one investor).

Worth seeing?
We Live In Public is a thoroughly engaging, superbly directed documentary that's both thought-provoking and extremely entertaining. Highly recommended.

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We Live In Public (18)
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Content updated: 13/12/2017 22:47

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