Pirooz Kalayeh’s 100 Films serves as a meditation on the way that the pandemic has affected the entire world. Rare is the event that knows no borders influencing literally every single part of humanity’s life. Suddenly six feet refers to the idea of distance between people which is oddly the exact same amount of feet that a grave is. This parallel does feel warranted to some degree – a deadly virus happens to require the same distance that the separation between life and death has. By remaining isolated, thankfully there has been some improvement by reducing infection rates. Not everybody is able to afford this luxury of separation, a great deal of jobs requires that person to person contact no matter the job – from doctor to cashier to waiter to subway workers and too many more to list.
With 100 Films Pirooz allows a surreal form of normcore to take shape. Though these are mere snippets of a life, they have a lot of depth to them. Some of the snippets have an ASMR quality to them, such as the one where someone simply gives themselves a haircut. For that bit there is pure silence, no talking whatsoever, yet it conveys a great deal of information. On the surface level, the joke about the lack of haircuts, which drove some unstable individuals totally crazy. I listen to it and I hear a distinct yearning, a longing to be around people, for life to return to some semblance of normal.
Self-love emerges as well. This mixture of anxiety and self-reflection feels understandable. A handful of the individuals take the time alone quite well, working on improving themselves, by finding inner piece, dropping bad habits, etc. I must admit a lot of the isolation feels akin to those ancient hermits in some respect. Even with all the social media connections to the outside world, there’s something quite odd about the way everyone has huddled indoors. Maybe the end of the pandemic will have a greater degree of empathy for those who are put into isolation in prisons, perhaps realizing the inhumane quality of it. I would be interested to see of there is a greater interest in spiritually for all this aloneness might result in perhaps more contemplative generations.
One of the nice things that I appreciate while watching the movie is how accurately Pirooz captures this sort of “fed up” humor I have noticed emerging on the periphery of comedy. There are a few examples of this, where the reality of the situation becomes so intense as to drive all the participants mad. Netflix has probably led the way in terms of this kind of comedy, one that doesn’t punch up or down but rather at the situation itself, the one we are all in. Bo Burnham’s recent Netflix special definitely depicts this, as I would say the time-loop movie Palm Springs. In both of those there is a visceral frustration with what is going on and an almost slowly losing one’s mind quality. Some of the random snippets of psychedelic rock Pirooz throws into the soundtrack helps to emphasize this point, at least for me.
The Zoom experience gets a lot of love. One of the main stars and wow, what an exceptional example of timing working out for a company. Zoom here shows the business side, the creative side, the friendship side, which is remarkable for it is a rather simple piece of technology yet has become actually a hugely transformational item. With this before completely ignored business technology thing that makes Skype look like something you’d use as toilet paper, Zoom has helped people interact in a way that is more intimate than a text message or phone call, for it continually reminds us of the importance of body language as part of every language.
A sense of tragedy comes through this. Everyone knows someone who died from COVID, whether that is a friend, family, etc. For me, my father passed away from COVID, so while there are aspects I appreciate about the pandemic, it has been sad. Sad yet also hopeful was the online memorial we had for him, via once more Zoom. I am troubled by those who continue to live normal lives for their selfishness, their inability to acknowledge the actual situation of the world strikes me as terrifying, a cruel callous indifference to the human suffering that still continues. As someone who lost somebody to COVID, especially someone as close to me as my father, the indifference hurts like hell. The sadness of empty spaces and knowing what those empty spaces mean especially touches the very soul – from playgrounds abandoned to no traffic roads, there is an eeriness. Interestingly, I used to take photos of empty cities very early in the morning no matter where I was – whether Stockholm, Warsaw, Bucharest etc. Then it had a sweetness, a world that hadn’t quite woken up and rubbed its eyes before coming to life. It does not feel that way to me anymore.
International trips across the world adds to the sense of being in this together, those at least who are taking COVID seriously. For the jumps between the many different parts of the world, there is a universality to the stories, the same sort of apartments, the same sort of nature, the same laptop and bed. That part in particular gives me one of those deep Nick Baker moments, of how to expand a short period of time into an entire lifetime.
While Pirooz never explicitly directs anyone, there is a looseness to his editing, one that allows a great deal of life to come into frame. Quite patient, never hurried (because I mean, it has been over a year of this so why rush) it neatly captures the zeitgeist of COVID, of what that has meant for hundreds of millions of people.