Whether or not you like Shia LaBeouf, one cannot deny he is a fascinating character. Whether he is mad, a genius or quite possibly a mad genius both sides could be argued in his latest artistic venture.
From the 10th until the 12th November, Shia LaBeouf invited the public to come and sit with him at the Angelika Film Center in New York and watch a marathon of his work, going in reverse chronological order for a staggering 55 hours covering 20 films and free entry to all.
Shia has been known to produce, one would argue, more bizarre pieces of art in New York with his stylish bag head depicting the words “I AM NOT FAMOUS ANYMORE” which he wore at the Nymphomaniac premiere in Berlin. Not only did this receive huge media coverage online but sparked a trend of others wearing duplicate headdresses. This was followed by an art exhibition where he sat down in a room with the bag over his head, wearing presumably the same Tux from the Berlin premiere and invited others to come and sit with him. He reportedly said not one single word but people were allowed to remove his bag for authenticity that it was Shia underneath, who would greet them with a teary face. While this event seems slightly odd it also fails to reach the same level of meaning and effect as his latest venture of screening all his films in three days.
Shia has been through a great deal of dramatic events over the last five years, between drunken fights, car crashes and allegedly saying things that have received anger. I tuned into Shia’s webcam not truly aware of what to expect; would the cinema be empty, would Shia himself be doing something artistic while in front of the camera such as painting a picture outlining his feelings and journey as he watched his own work. No, I was greeted with a cinema, which seemed to be packed with people, and a slightly tired looking Shia. This became weirdly addictive very quickly as I suppose the fascinating thing for myself was the prospect that I could keep an eye on the schedule that featured which film would be shown at which time, it was published a few days prior which enabled me to keep track of Shia’s reaction to each film. This is an aspect of filmmaking that one does not get a chance to experience, yes we witness interview after interview with each star, but this feels somewhat staged in that they must express to the best of their ability that what they have made is truly an excellent film and by pure probability this cannot be true and we know it not to be the case.
Premieres give us an insight into the world of showbiz and entertainment, but is a world we never witness with regards to the actor viewing their own work for the first time, nor watching it ten years later to see how the film has held in quality over time. Now this seemed the perfect opportunity given Shia’s arrangement of films from ‘Transformers’ to ‘Fury’. Transformers being the most memorable film in which he looked utterly bored, who can blame him?
Some have called this Marathon an incredibly narcissistic venture for Shia, and they may have a valid point. I was not aware until the second day of the marathon that you could go online and watch a webcam that had been placed directly in front of Shia enabling an online audience to watch him as he watched his own films. It is on this aspect of the experience I would like to focus on, as the results are quite fascinating.
I admit I kept the feed going in a background capacity while I did other things, for as much as I was interested, I could not keep this constant visual of Shia sitting there as well maintained as Twitter and Tumblr were doing. Indeed the twitter feed for this was active throughout the entire affair, constantly commenting on Shia’s mood, his bathroom and food breaks and the positioning of a certain bespectacled man to his right whose neck was apparently built to rest at a permanent angle practically resting on Shia’s shoulder. As the internet seems so easily to do, anger was also an emotion that appeared when ever someone sat in Shia’s seat as one girl, who was arguably aware of what she was doing, decided to do. Tumblr was also on the hunt of finding as many Shia photos as possible with reaction tiles and comparing them to each film he watched, the humour that arose from this marathon was actually quite witty, Kurt Cobain anyone?
Three final things occurred to me when watching this, firstly Shia is a child star which although his record is not clean, he is still working rather successfully today with ‘Fury’ both receiving critical acclaim as well as being one of my favourite films of last year. Secondly Shia was never laughing harder nor more animated as when he was watching the ‘The Even Stevens Movie’ though arguably he may have just gone insane with power naps, the only thing sustaining him, with a constant screen in front of his face for three days. Thirdly and most importantly, he created an online community through twitter and Tumblr, who were not only communicating by sharing posts and liking tweets regarding how they were to deal with the ending of this marathon very soon, but the community as a whole bonded over their shared experience. Shia was never rude to anyone who wished him to sign things, people brought him gifts which he graciously accepted and while it could argue that he had no choice given the constant surveillance on his reactions, however surely this would be harder to maintain after three days of constantly watching yourself.