Marvellous. The man's a genius. I had absolutely no idea who Zizek was before a friend told me to get on the case. I was sucked in within minutes of watching Fiennes' wistfully directed set pieces which complemented Zizek's use of cinema to explain, ultimately, that fiction is reality and vice versa! Using philosophy (I'm not sure what), Freudian psychoanalysis and, most importantly, a passion for film, Zizek provides a celluloid vista to show that the image projected on the screen is merely a reflection of our desires, fantasies and delusions. There is no difference between the screen character and the viewer: both are immersed in a perception of reality that may or may not be real (i.e. all experience is subjective). Zizek populates his discourse with scenes from numerous movies. Hitchcock and Lynch films predominate but there are many other classics to enjoy. And each time Zizek discusses a scene from a film, the viewer is treated to a reconstruction of the scene's location with Zizek strategically positioned in some part thereof. Zizek himself is a wonderful person; he exudes warmth, is often hilarious, has a profound understanding of the human condition and provides, for me at least, a very accessible insight into the `strangeness' of the mind. For instance, Zizek playfully uses the Marx brothers to elegantly explain the Freudian concept of the super-ego (Groucho), ego (Chico) and the id (Harpo). My favourite bits (and there are many) involve Zizek talking about tulips, Zizek under the Golden Gate Bridge and the scene where he's sitting on a lavatory whilst discussing voyeurism.
In this marvellous, hilarious and sometimes deeply shocking film, Slavoj Zizek visits various locations of iconic films, and includes excerpts from: The Birds, Vertigo, The Lost Highway, Solaris, et al to dissect the pleasure principle which has the power `to shape our desires and fuel our dreams' - in a Lacanian world, at least.
The key to understanding Zizek is that for him the fundamental insight of German idealism is that the truth of something is always outside it. So the truth of our experience lies outside ourselves, in the Symbolic and the Real, rather than being buried deep within us. We cannot look into our selves and find out who we truly are, because who we truly are is always elsewhere. Without going into the deeper reaches of Zizekian philosophy, it's essential when viewing this film to keep hold in your head of the following (which I have downloaded from the Wikipedia entry on Zizek) in which there are three levels of the Real: - The "symbolic real": the signifier reduced to a meaningless formula - The "real real": a horrific thing, that which conveys the sense of horror in horror films - The "imaginary real": an unfathomable something that permeates things as a trace of the sublime.
Thus we have Zizek's brilliantly parodic and witty film the opening scene of David Lynch's film Blue Velvet with Zizek standing in for the father watering with a hose some tulips and pronouncing the flowers to be disgusting, vagina dentata, "Open to every bee or insect that comes along," A hilarious, wonderful laugh-out-loud moment - and there are many others.
But, of course, Zizek is entirely serious in other ways. When he speaks about the elemental forms that exist in super-ego, he is drawing closer to his central thesis that it is only in film that we can allow representations of ourselves that are transgressive, `abnormal', vindictive, alien to our over-socialised and rule-bound ego-self, to stand-for, to personify us. The mad father, (Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet for instance), most typifies this form, but there are many others: Tarkovsky's Stalker, Chaplin's Dictator, and so on.
My only advice to cinema lovers is - sit back and enjoy. Zizek dissects, worries, complains, pontificates, explicates throughout, speaking entirely without notes, on the deeper, darker meanings of films from Alien to The Red Shoes by way of Ivan The Terrible. It's entirely fabulous and lovely from beginning to end.
He's stocky, sweaty, slightly cross-eyed and restless. He stands in front of us and calls himself a pervert. He claims that we - the film viewers - perceive the screen as a toilet bowl, and are all secretly wishing for all the s**t to explode from the inside. He's unpredictable and scary. Well...? Come on, you could have guessed by now: he's one of the leading philosophers of our age.
Slavoj Zizek is both a narrator and a subject of Sophie Fiennes' extraordinary new film, 'A Pervert's Guide to the Cinema'. Fiennes illustrates a feature-long lecture by Zizek, and does so in two ways: by providing exemplary film clips and putting Zizek on real (or reconstructed) locations from the movies he speaks about. It's always nice to watch neatly captioned scenes from great movies (although 'Revenge of the Sith' got here as well), but the main attraction of 'A Pervert's Guide...' is Zizek himself. What makes the movie such fun to watch is the unanswerable question one cannot help but ask over and over again: what is more outrageous, Zizek's views or Zizek's screen presence? In a documentary by Astra Taylor ('Zizek!', 2005), Slovenian philosopher at one point confessed his fear of being silent. Because, he claimed, he feels like he doesn't exist in the first place, the only way to make all other people believe he does is to talk constantly and feverishly. And talk he did, and how. Also 'A Pervert's Guide...' is dominated by his voice - delivering perfect English in most crazy way, and making some astonishing points about the cinema.
What are those? Well, for example he sees Chaplin's reluctance towards talking picture as a sign of an universal fear of voice itself (kind of alien force taking over the human being - think the ventriloquist segment of 'Dead of Night' ). He says that the perverse nature of cinema is to teach us to desire certain objects, not to provide us with them. He identifies Groucho Marx as super ego, Chico as ego and Harpo as id. He says a million other interesting things, and all the time we cannot take our eyes off him, so persuasive (and captivating) are his looks. At some point I couldn't help but stare at his thick, scruffy hair and wonder what kind of a brain lays stored underneath. Craving, of course, for more insights.
Most notable are Zizek's readings of Lynch and Hitchcock (which comes as no surprise since he has written about both of them). The cumulative effect of many brilliantly edited clips from their respective work made those parts of Zizek's lecture memorable and - unlike others - difficult to argue with, since he seems to really have gotten things right on these two directors. This doesn't go for his reading of Tarkovsky for example, upon whom he relentlessly imposes his own utterly materialistic view of reality, dismissing precisely what's so remarkable in all Tarkovsky (namely strong religious intuitions and images).
The question isn't whether Zizek is inspiring and brilliant, because he is; or whether Fiennes film is worth watching, because it is. The real question is rather: are Zizek views coherent? One smart observation after another make for an overwhelming intellectual ride, but after the whole thing is over, some doubts remain. For example: while considering 'Vertigo' (1958) Zizek states that what's hidden behind human face is a perfect void, which makes face itself only a facade: something of a deception in its own means. However, when in the final sequence we hear about the ever-shattering finale of 'City Lights' (1931) as being a portrait of one human being fully exposed to another, it's hard not to ask: what happened to the whole facade-thing...? Why should we grant Chaplin's face intrinsic value of the real thing and deprive Kim Novak's of this same privilege in two bold strokes...? Or maybe that incoherence might also be read in Lacan's terms? (The name of the notoriously "unreadable" French psychoanalyst is fundamental to Zizek's thought.) The film has all the virtues of a splendid two-and-a-half hours lecture: lots of ground are covered, many perspectives employed, even some first-rate wisecracks made (when Zizek travels on a Melanie Daniels' boat from 'The Birds'  and tries to think as she did, he comes up with: "I want to f**k Mitch!"). But it has also one shortcoming that isn't inherent to two-and-a-half hours lecture as such: it's almost obsessively digressive. Zizek's yarn about how far are we from the Real is as good as any other psychoanalytic yarn, but after some 80 minutes it becomes quite clear that one of Zizek's perverse pleasures is to ramble on and on, changing subjects constantly. Overall effect is this of being swept away by a giant, cool, fizzing wave: you're simultaneously taken by surprise, refreshed, in mortal danger and confused no end. As you finish watching, your head is brimming with ideas not of your own and you're already planning on re-watching some films - but you also share a sense of having survived a calamity.
The ultimate question is: did Zizek lost it? Or haven't we even came close to the real thing? Once cinephilia becomes punishable by imprisonment, we shall all meet in a one big cell and finally talk to each other (not having any movies around to turn our faces to). I dare you all: who will have enough guts to approach Zizek and defy him? My guess is that once you look into those eyes in real life, you become a believer.
In this two hours and a half documentary, Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek uses psychoanalytic theory to analyze clips of many classic films. As a theory of human behavior, psychoanalysis is quite outdated, surpassed by more biologically centered theories of the brain. However, psychoanalysis has undeniably influenced many famous directors in the past (for instance, Alfred Hitchcock or David Lynch, and Zizek analyzes here clips of their films), so in this sense this movie is interesting to have a hint of what these directors might be getting at. This film is very entertaining (Zizek is quite a character in his own right, with his thick accent, gesticulating body and wildly hypothetical theories) even if the ideas put forward here are probably wrong and outdated. The films Zizek spent more time analyzing here are Vertigo, Blue Velvet, Psycho, The Birds and Lost Highway, but aside from Hitchcock and Lynch, there are clips from other directors, such as Kubrick, Chaplin, Tarkovsky and others. And in a one of the more interesting parts, he shows us a Disney cartoon from 1935 called Pluto's Last Judgment, and we see how it surprisingly mirrors the Stalinist show trials of a few years later. Sophie Fiennes (sister of Ralph and Joseph) directs. She wisely makes Zizek talk from sets that mimics some of the movies he is analyzing.
Slavoj ZiZek is a Slovenian intellectual and this is really a three part polemic from this psychoanalytic philosopher that explores the underlying themes in well known movies by Hitchcock and David Lynch. His insights are sometimes deep and sometimes fanciful. You will find that you stop and replay parts to make sure you 'got' bits. If you watch it with friends it will generate a lot of discussion.
This is a better and more coherent movie than its sequel the 'Pervert's Guide to Ideology' which is like a rock band's second album. The good stuff was all in the first album. If you are buying in the UK make sure your DVD player can play Region 0 discs.
I would highly, highly recommend this to any person who is just starting studying English or Media at university, or anyone who has an interest in cultural theory, psychoanalysis or indeed, Hollywood cinema. Zizek is a crazy, dynamic presenter and interprets Lacanian psychoanalysis in an accessible, enjoyable and up-to-date format. I totally love this film, totally love Zizek and I am sure that once you have seen the Pervert's Guide, you will too...