Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Zizek's Crash Course on Movies: PERVERT'S GUIDE TO CINEMA at IFC

Could there be a better "Amen" to TrustMovies's own philosophy of why films are so important to our culture and our world than the final minute of the two-and-

one-half-hour, three-part collaboration THE PERVERT'S GUIDE TO CINEMA by Slavoj Zizek and Sophie Fiennes? I don't think so. If I'd written it myself, I couldn't have summarized better than Slavoj (shown above):

In order to understand today's world, we need cinema, literally. It's only in cinema that we get that crucial dimension which we are not ready to confront in our reality. If you are looking for what is, in reality, more real than reality itself, look into the cinematic fiction.

In other words, trust movies. Well, for some things. I am not saying here that Mr. Zizek would begin to agree with my own philosophy of film, but we certainly agree that film is vitally important to our world because, as with all real art (and aren't movies the art of the 21st Century?), the artist's needs and desires, along with a certain reality, will bubble to the surface -- no matter how hard that artist may try to obfuscate deliberately or unconsciously. I also realize that Slavoj is so much more intelligent and well-read than I that any comparison is beyond the pale. Still, nobody's right all the time, and at my age one does want to keep his gray matter functioning.

Director Fiennes, right, and Zizek case Judy's "Vertigo" apartment

Mr. Zizek (Was he born with that name? How appropriate does it sound? Talk about onomatopoeia!) gives us a very lengthy discussion of some of his (and maybe our) favorite films and tells us why they are so important. Will you disagree -- not about whether these films are important, but why? Of course! And this is half the fun. The other half is provided by Zizek's witty discourse, including pronunciation (film is always fil-um, for instance). And the third half of the fun (yes, it's that kind of documentary) comes via the master psychoanalyst / philosopher / critic's inserting himself (seemingly) into the actual setting of many of the "filums" he's discussing: on a boat in Bodega Bay (for The Birds), in the basement of the Psycho house, in the bathroom where a pivotal scene from The Conversation takes place. This witty and appropriate touch adds so much delight to the proceedings that, even as you are disagreeing with Zizek's "take" on these filmmakers' veiled intentions, you can't help but go along for the ride.

Zizek lectures atop the toilet in the bathroom of "The Conversation."

One of the more interesting reactions I had to the movie was to look back at some of the films Zizek finds more meaningful than I and wonder if I should give them a second (or by now, third or fourth) chance: Campion's In the Cut, Lynch's Lost Highway, Fincher's Fight Club and Von Trier's Dogville to name but four. Slavoj makes a compelling case for all. That said, I must admit that I found this lengthier film not quite as entertaining and thought-provoking as the earlier Zizek!, directed by Astra Taylor. In that one he discusses everything from his own life and family to consumerism, movies, Marx and more.

But don't trust me. See that earlier film, as well as another titled Zizek: The Reality of the Virtual and Ms Taylor's new Examined Life, which includes some more of Zizek (and others) and will open in NYC at the end of February. And definitely check out The Pervert's Guide to Cinema for yourself when this provocative doc opens for a week-long run Friday, January 16, at the IFC Center here in NYC. (And elsewhere, I hope, because really now, NYC cannot the only place in America where enough folk enjoy thinking and being challenged to make a theatrical run like this possible. Or can it…?)

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