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The Pervert's Guide to Cinema (2006)

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THE PERVERT'S GUIDE TO CINEMA takes the viewer on an exhilarating ride through some of the greatest movies ever made. Serving as presenter and guide is the charismatic Slavoj Zizek, ... See full summary »

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THE PERVERT'S GUIDE TO CINEMA takes the viewer on an exhilarating ride through some of the greatest movies ever made. Serving as presenter and guide is the charismatic Slavoj Zizek, acclaimed philosopher and psychoanalyst. With his engaging and passionate approach to thinking, Zizek delves into the hidden language of cinema, uncovering what movies can tell us about ourselves. Whether he is untangling the famously baffling films of David Lynch, or overturning everything you thought you knew about Hitchcock, Zizek illuminates the screen with his passion, intellect, and unfailing sense of humour. THE PERVERT'S GUIDE TO CINEMA cuts its cloth from the very world of the movies it discusses; by shooting at original locations and from replica sets it creates the uncanny illusion that Zizek is speaking from 'within' the films themselves. Together the three parts construct a compelling dialectic of ideas. Described by The Times in London as 'the woman helming this Freudian inquest,' director ... Written by P Guide Ltd.

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16 January 2009 (USA)  »

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Manual de cine para pervertidos  »

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Slavoj Zizek: Cinema is the art of appearances, it tells us something about reality itself. It tells us something about how reality constitutes itself.
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He Lost It at the Movies
18 February 2007 | by (Poland) – See all my reviews

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 Žižek 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 Žižek, and does so in two ways: by providing exemplary film clips and putting Žižek 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 Žižek 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, Žižek's views or Žižek's screen presence? In a documentary by Astra Taylor (Žižek!, 05), 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 [45]). 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 Žižek'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 Žižek'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 Žižek is inspiring and brilliant, because he is; or whether Fiennes film is worth watching, because it is likewise. The real question is rather: are Žižek 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 (58) Žižek 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 (31) 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 Žižek'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 Žižek travels on a Melanie Daniels' boat from The Birds [63] 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. Žižek'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 Žižek'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 Žižek 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 Žižek and defy him? My guess is that once you look into those eyes in real life, you become a believer.


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