EXAMINED LIFE examines life. Pretty inclusive topic, that, yet Astra Taylor's elegant (those classy "embossed" credits!) and witty compilation of the ideas of various present-day philosophers manages this better than you might imagine. And in just 88 minutes (including credits). It is highly unusual to have one's brain engaged so thoroughly by any movie, but here you must consistently use all your powers of
concentration, as Taylor, right, takes you into the mind and ideas of nine of the world's leading philosophers. Of course, you could read their works separately (and may want to do so after seeing this film), but by gathering them together, the filmmaker allows us to listen to such a breadth of ideas and subjects that we are able to make a number of interesting connections we might not otherwise have managed.
|Beginning -- and ending, too -- with Cornell West (above), who brings history, music and color to the fore, Taylor moves to a stroll in what looks like Madison Square Park with Avital Ronell (right), whose ideas of deconstruction seem to quietly contradict, or at least call into question, much of what West has just said.|
|New to me and perhaps now my favorite of Taylor's bunch is Kwame Anthony Appiah (shown left), London-born of a Ghanian father, whose humane words and ideas fall gracefully and thoughtfully as he and Taylor move from one part of an airport to another.|
|On her particular walk, Martha Nussbaum (right) talks about the Social Contract, its applications (or lack of them) in western society. This is a subject I'm rather keen on, having just spent some time thinking and writing about this, in terms of Italian film and the current "mob" movie Gomorrah.|
|Philosopher Michael Hardt would evidently rather row than walk, and so we spend our time with him and Taylor in a rowboat on the Central Park lake, as he talks sensibly and encompassingly of revolution and responsibility.|
Our final philosophers make a charming couple, as they walk/ride us around San Francisco and even do a little shopping in a thrift shop. Disabled due to pollution by the U.S. military, Sunaura Taylor wheelchairs it about with Judith Butler, below right, as the two of them talk about everything from the words "handicapped" and "disabled" to queer theory and what it means to ask for help.
Astra Taylor's EXAMINED LIFE, distributed via the small-but-wonderful Zeitgeist Films, opens Wednesday, February 25, at NYC's IFC Center. It's a "don't miss" for moviegoers who welcome a little thinking with their visuals and who care about where the world is headed and how we might alter that direction.