Monday, October 28, 2013

Slavoj Zizek & Sophie Fiennes' THE PERVERT'S GUIDE TO IDEOLOGY is the most fun your brain, memory and synapses will have at the movies

He's back. That philosopher/film critic/political theorist/culture maven/
theologist/psychoanalyst (have I left something out?) Slavoj Zizek, of The Pervert's Guide to Cinema has returned, along with his director, Sophie Fiennes, to bring us THE PERVERT'S GUIDE TO IDEOLOGY. If you enjoyed the former, you're gonna love the latter -- which is every bit as film-oriented even as it tackles the thorny question of ideologies and which to choose: Communism, Capitalism, Religion and everything in between. No surprise, Mr. Zizek advises none of the above and makes is very clear exactly why, as he uses film (or fee-lum, as his Slovenian accent so charmingly pronounces it) to explain what the powers-that-be are feeding us, and how best to prevent digestion. (The glory moment here is the guy's take-down of Titanic: Who needs an iceberg when the Ziz is here!)

Zizek writes and delivers his, well, pretty-much-a-monologue, while Ms Fiennes (shown at right) directs the film (with terrific help from her usual editor Ethel Shepherd), which offers dozens of movies and Zizek's theories about how these impact on our history, culture and thinking. The result is the most eye-to-the-screen/ear-to-the-soundtrack piece of cinema you will have seen since this threesomes's last collaboration. As much as I urge you to rush to theaters to experience this amazingly intelligent, fun and funny piece of work, I admit that I was more than happy to be watching it via screener, so that I could backtrack and listen to what Zizek says one more time to make sure I understood it properly.
Because this guy, shown below and further below, is first of all a philoso-pher, this sort of sets him in a special class. Yet, though I wouldn't exactly call him "mainstream," neither is he highfalutin. He's accessible. His ideas are often surprising, but he offers them up with precision and a lot of back-up, especially of course via movies -- once again seeming to appear on or in the sets of many of the film he discusses, from the bed Robert DeNiro used in Taxi Driver to the pristine lavatory that gets so bloodied up in Full Metal Jacket (below), from Jaws to Triumph of the Will.

Zizek opens the fee-lum with one of my favorite movies (and I hope yours, too; seek it out if you haven't seen it), They Live, during which he challenges us to say why a particular fight scene goes on for so long and is so violent (It's hard giving up the view of the world we've been taught to see), and then moves on the The Sound of Music, in which he tackles the idea of enjoyment versus pleasure. For his musing on Beethoven's Ninth Symphony alone, the movie is must. (Funny how, this very week, another film called Following the Ninth opens here and shows us exactly what Zizek means about how this fabulous work can be made to mean all sorts of thing -- and used for evil, as well as good. (I'll have more to say about that film soon).

He covers popular culture and the the Neo-Nazi phemonenon, explaining in passing why he doesn't consider the rock group Rammstein to be Nazi propaganda. It's all here: Ideology as a kind of bribe, a very fluffy cat, and why capitalism is all the time in crisis. "This is precisely why Capitalism appears almost indestructible," he tells us. (I guess because it seems to somehow weather all those crises?) And then he goes on to show us the invisible side of Capitalism, which is... ah, yes: waste.

Religion takes its licks, too: His lengthy look at Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ (a movie I didn't much care for) makes me want to see it again. His explanation of how, in its way, Christianity as a religion is actually much more atheistic than your typical atheist, is something to hear and then ponder. Seconds, Zabrieskie Point, and a number of other films get the Zizek approach, as well, and come out the better for it.

Perhaps his most splendid moment comes when he asks, "Why it is easier for us to imagine a huge change -- like an asteroid hitting earth -- than even a modest change in our economic order?" Why indeed. See The Pervert's Guide to Ideology and you'll be asking that question, too. Maybe even answering it. And then rushing out to see a few movies you thought you understood and appreciated (or not)--now with a whole new viewpoint.

The movie -- from the indispensable Zeitgeist Films, and running 2 hours and 16 minutes (not one of which I'd have wanted to miss) opens this Friday, November 1, in New York City at the IFC Center, and in Chicago at the Gene Siskel Film Center. For all currently scheduled playdates, with cities and theaters listed, click here and scroll down.

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