Face pointed upward, strained this moment, serene the next, blinking heavily at his own image; Shia LaBeouf’s meditative commitment is impressive. Now three days in he occasionally rests his head between his legs before returning his eyes to the silver screen.
#ALLMYMOVIES isn’t the first time that LaBeouf has committed to some lengthy act of organised self promotion – many of us caught bits of his one hour skippathon earlier this year (Meditation For Narcissists) – and now we are invited to look upon his features alone as he watches himself acting out past roles in a three day movie playlist of everything he has ever made. He laughs, he sleeps, eats pizza, drinks, yawns and strokes his beard for three days, 24 hours a day. Well over a hundred thousand of us watch transfixed, sporadically checking which movie he’s on now. We become very aware of his green coat and white hoodie, occasionally his hood up as he sleeps off parts of Transformers; who could blame him.
I have heard people talking over the last few days about this stunt with equal measures of disdain and admiration, some naming LaBeouf pretentious, others can’t help but open up the live stream as soon as they are seated. This the same man that walked the red carpet during the premiere of Lars Von Tier’s Nymphomaniac at the Berlin Film Festival with a brown paper bag over his head scrawled with the words ‘I’m not famous anymore’, the man that once said his entire life is an art project, the same man that said that he was retiring from public life.
The guy to LaBeouf’s right too regularly leans into the frame, yawns left, rests his head onto his shoulder, he wants to be watched and for some reason this irritates me, this unknown attention seeking stranger offends the purpose of my viewing; whatever that might be. A girl steps into his seat during one of the five minute breaks between features, she pulls a few serious faces – I imagine that she is feigning stroking her own nonexistent beard – before moving on. I find myself wanting him to return, to be back where he is supposed to be. Two men in red hats are out of focus in the row behind LaBeouf’s seat. How many people are seeing this image with me? Have now also focused on these unknown red hat wearers? Why do we wait for his return? Why are we watching this at all?
What is our fascination with that which is live? With celebrity? I myself have never been able to understand the attraction of shows like ‘Big Brother’ but I wonder if this doesn’t rouse in some people the same kind of fascination that I now hold in regards to LaBeouf’s soft, screen lit features. There is something stirring in knowing that he is as presently there as I am here; writing these words, split screen allowing me to catch his smiles, sips of water, beard stroking. I’m not sure that I like LaBeouf – the Shia LaBeouf that lives in my mind that is, having very little to do with a man that I have never met and do not know – but I feel slightly sad that he is not going to be there tomorrow, a reassuring presence amid the turbulence of having to live a life in the world. Is that it then, a constant? A friend, a familiar face? Do we empathise with LaBeouf? Why do we… Why do I care? I am reading into his expressions as he watches himself act as a child. Does he think kind thoughts about his younger self? Does he cringe? I imagine that these are the types of questions ‘the art that is the life of Shia LaBeouf’ was hoping to raise with this stunt. But self aware narcissism is still narcissism right? And yet I am somehow moved by this weird wannabe art kid’s idea, and isn’t that enough?
Where all this leads I don’t know, suffice to say that LaBeouf is a product of our age,
a practitioner of self indulgence and experimenter with the attention fame allows, which is not something I jump to dismiss. After all LaBeouf is a millennial, using the tools at his discretion, as am I.