Adolescence has always been a period of self-dramatisation, each fledgling adult the hero of his or her own (usually tragic) tale. Thanks to the digital revolution, with its explosion of accessible DV, blogging, YouTube and the rest, these stories can now be articulated, aestheticised and archived as never before. Antonio Campos’ short, bifurcated experimental piece takes a ‘Blair Witch’ approach to this phenomenon, offering a purportedly genuine record of 16-year-old Chelsea Mangan’s sale of her virginity on eBay. The plan, hatched from the bedroom of the comfortable New York apartment Chelsea shares with her divorced mom, leads to a hotel-room encounter that proves less satisfying than the ‘killing two birds with one stone’ situation she hoped for.
The first half-hour, dubbed ‘Documentary’, is supposedly compiled from video material shot by Mangan (played by Chelsea Logan) for her own reasons as the enterprise unfolds; the second half, ‘Narrative’, presents the same chain of events as drama. I took the latter half to be another faux ‘found’ text, a piece of filmic autobiography made by the 16-year-old character, though there’s no particular evidence for this beyond more wooden performances and the wish-fulfilment quality of the john’s paternal qualities. In any case, the situation is presented in the context of parental neglect, self-abusive insecurity, exploitative consumerism and drug use of both the prescribed and proscribed sort. If film’s social commentary can tend towards the preachy and its dialogue towards glib dramatic irony, Campos establishes a complex nexus of contemporary social and aesthetic concerns with impressive economy and Logan’s double performance is strong.
Cast and crew