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A charming case of form following dysfunction

Ladies, Caveh Zahedi has a confession that doubles neatly as the title of his quasi-docu-comedy. ''I am," he says, ''a sex addict." Before that, he was merely a horndog, but one of Ivy League stock and high philosophical principle.

Zahedi tried marriage twice. It didn't take. And the odds of his wedding you are low. In college he deduced that ''marriage is part of the same capitalist system that produced the genocide in Vietnam."

Even if this sounds like the man for you, there will still be obstacles. For one thing, Zahedi, who is lithe, nerdy, and vaguely Muppet-like, suffers from a limited erotic imagination. He doesn't appear to like average women as much as he does prostitutes. There are enough in this movie to restore Times Square's bygone smutty luster.

''I Am a Sex Addict," which opens today at the Brattle, reenacts scenes featuring Zahedi and the loves of his life and recounts how his indifference to monogamy and obsession with those darned hookers always compromised romantic stability.

Yet the narrowness of his sexual repertoire is the springboard for a charming and boundless homemade sort of filmmaking. The picture begins with Zahedi about to head down the aisle for wedding number three, and it takes him about 90 minutes to get there, in part because he's fond of advancing then revising the tale of his journey. If he says, ''Let me back up a little" and ''I should probably explain" once, he must say them a hundred times.

The effect reveals another layer of the movie's knowing construction. Shooting in Paris, he explains, was not in the budget. So San Francisco had to stand in. To underscore that, he sends a man in a beret bopping down the street, baguette in hand.

Several times Zahedi offers a breakdown explaining the backstory of the actresses portraying his girlfriends. And some of the casting appears to be kismet. The woman playing his anything-goes alcoholic girlfriend, Devin, happened to be an alcoholic, too. Her name is Amanda Henderson, and she has a rough comic style that gives the movie its one truly tender, convincingly emotional performance.

Zahedi's search for fulfillment is depleting, like throwing good sex after bad. The more we learn about the hole in his soul, the more vivid his misogamy becomes.

Ultimately, we're left to weigh the filmmaker's scrappy cinematic artistry against his base sexual peccadilloes. The movie documents his redemption. But it's the lows you remember. He seems pleased to seem pitiful; at one point, going so far as to inform us that he used to sneak into the confessionals inside French cathedrals to masturbate.

Whether he knows it or not, that's a wonderful explanation of his movie.

Wesley Morris can be reached at

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