Derrida (2002) Poster

(2002)

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3/10
If you want to gawk at Derrida, like a tourist, then check out this video.
grad_comm31 October 2007
If you've begun reading Derrida for the first time, there is nothing in this video for you. If you've come out on the other side of reading Derrida after a long time, there is nothing in this video for you. Then why watch it? Because it is a document of a man who remains--and will remain--one of the most important philosophers of the modern era. He is gone now, but if you've never seen him you have the opportunity in this video to look at him.

This video is not the Cliff notes to a corpus of work. It is, instead, a look into the public and private life of a man who, like everyone of us, remains a mystery to strangers. And it is a dirty look, a pornographic eye, indeed, that does the looking. The creators are like groupies at a rock show, the ones that manage to weasel back stage passes. They know not enough to ask smart questions, ones that would make Derrida think. So instead, they follow the man around like stalkers, pointing their video camera into his private life: We watch, as did they, Derrida put jam on his toast, talk about his cat, walk through his house, walk through the street. It is as though the video makers were simply in awe of the fact that the man lives!

The same video makers/groupies/stalkers made a video about/on/addressed to/following the cultural critic, Zizek. Similar result, except the latter looked an awful lot like promotional matter. And make no doubt, the co-creator of this video has said as much: "There is a market for these videos," she said at the screening of Zizek in Amherst. Pornographer indeed.

In short there is nothing in this movie that you need to see. But you do get to see everything. Derrida is gone now, but he once was alive. You can find him in his books, but if you want to gawk at him, then check out this video.
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Disaster Avoided
Au-Cinema2 July 2003
This could have been a real disaster, and even though the movie triggered a couple of cringes, it wasn't the expected trainwreck. "Derrida" was not too much of a waste. Thinking is a very difficult subject for a documentary. When filmmakers decide they want to present a great thinker, they are presented with a difficult decision: should they make a straightforward documentary concerned only with transmitting knowledge, or should they use the form to reflect the content of the thinker's work? Is accessiblity the goal of a documentary? And how much can we dilute for accessiblity's sake? I think this is one of the few cases where striking a balance between a dichotomy doesn't work. In "Derrida" the directors were trying to experiment with form and create a new audience for Derrida's work. They wanted to document Derrida's thinking. They wanted to archive the man's presense and present Derrida to a new audience. However, they felt that using the standard documentary/biography format would make Derrida's work superficially accessible. They didn't want to commit such an insult. Yet, they were not willing to alienate the audience. Thus, "Derrida" only registers as a lukewarm essay. The directors took an approach that is sold on today's market as "Self-reflexivity, the dummy's guide to artsy." "Derrida" is a series of vignettes where Derrida explains his relationship to the camera and the process by which his presence is recorded. It is a total exercise in metadiscourse, and unfortunately, this theme provides plenty of stupid irritating gimmicks with which "Derrida" proves not your standard documentary but your undergraduate film school festival The rewarding aspects of this film are not the formal experiments or anything relating to the fact that Derrida is presented as a moving image, but rather watching Derrida speak about the camera, the archive or the image. There are some excellent shots of Derrida at work. We witness his careful footwork in the field of discourse, and the director chooses the very potent passages to outline Derrida's duties as performer for no one and the role of the filmmaker in using Derrida's words to present her story. However, the director tells no story. The film offers very little beyond problematizing the roles of the actors in this production of "Derrida." And, I think what was presented would be best preserved in an essay than the series of vignettes called "Derrida."
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1/10
Terrible
markobroadhead18 April 2010
I'll do my best, but nothing can really prepare you for the terribleness of this documentary. You can see Derrida squirm under the facile or pretentious questions posed by the interviewer. Add to this, there are three cameras filming at the same time; frequently when Derrida is in a small room, so that the cameras spend most of the time filming each other. This puts Derrida on the back foot (to use a cricketing term). They fill out the rest of the documentary with footage of him walking or spreading butter on his toast. Quotes are read out from his books that mainly relate to autobiography, but even this simple task is messed up with poor delivery.
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3/10
Only the look and feel of Deconstruction
dyske28 October 2002
A documentary can never be anything other than a director's interpretation of the subject. Making a documentary about a philosopher is a particularly difficult proposition; with most other subjects, we welcome and enjoy varying interpretations, but, with philosophy, we tend to resist variance, because the very aim of philosophy, at least until Post-Structuralists came along, has always been to arrive at the Truth. The challenge of a filmmaker here is that either you properly understand the philosopher, or you may potentially embarrass yourself, though, for the audience, either way could be interesting.

"Derrida", a documentary by the established filmmaker, Kirby Dick, and a former student of Jacques Derrida, Amy Ziering Kofman, attempts to deconstruct the idea of biography itself, but it fails to do so. It takes only the trappings of deconstruction, stripped of its objectives, and applies it as an editorial gimmick by constantly reminding the audience of the film's own awareness of itself. It frequently steps back in an effort to show its self-awareness, but it actually deconstructs nothing. For example, we see Derrida watching himself being interviewed, and later we see him watching this very footage, thereby creating the effect of two facing mirrors with infinite reflections.

The objective of deconstruction is to de-center, that is, to identify the center of the argument--or of the proposed truth--that it relies on in order to make its case. You may argue here that I have just made a logocentric statement by defining what deconstruction is, that I have just centered the definition of deconstruction (note the appearance here of stepping back); you are right (and I'm leaving it at that, because I'm only a hack philosopher.). The film did not succeed in de-centering anything; not the philosopher, the medium, the filmmakers themselves, nor the film itself.

Throughout the film, the narrator reads excerpts from his books against the backdrop of abstract footage of Derrida's face and his surroundings. This effectively makes Derrida the chief story-teller of the film. Instead of presenting the filmmakers' interpretations, they hide behind the power of his words, taking no chances at misinterpretation. Derrida is involuntarily made to be the center that secures and stabilizes the film. Ironically, this film that supposedly tries to explore deconstructionism and apply its tools to the medium of filmmaking finds a secure center in Derrida, and he is left un-deconstructed.

We can feel the insecurity of the filmmakers in often not knowing what to ask their subject. Derrida, out of his affection for the filmmaker, tries hard to turn Kofman's dull questions into something more interesting. The camera, in effect, takes on the perspective of someone who adores him like a rock star. If the film were aware of its own insecurity, it would have been more interesting. Instead, it simply hides behind its own reverence and awe of the famous philosopher.

One way to achieve this deconstruction would have been to hire multiple filmmaking crews where each goes off in its own direction, and presents a 20 minute piece each. The chances are, each will draw a very different picture of Derrida. By presenting them in sequence, the audience will wonder who Derrida really is, and they will inevitably question the process of documentary filmmaking itself, thereby deconstructing not only the idea of Derrida, but also the idea of documentary.

Although I have always been an admirer of Ryuichi Sakamoto, his music in this movie was superfluous. The power of his music attached unnecessary, and often inappropriate, emotional values to the images of Derrida. I can't see any justification for emotionally manipulating the audience in this film, unless it was to deconstruct the use of music in film, which it did not.

Towards the end of the movie, Derrida tells Amy Ziering Kofman that this will be a good autobiography for her. It should have been, but unfortunately it isn't a biography for either Derrida or Kofman. What this movie is to Derrida's philosophy is analogous to what music video is to a piece of music; the imagery is only superficially juxtaposed to his ideas. It is no more than a pretty way to listen to his words.

One redeeming quality of this movie was that I got to see and hear him speak for the first time. After all, I'm a sucker for fame too. If I made a documentary about him, I'm sure I would have been just as nervous and insecure, if not more. In that sense, I have to praise the filmmakers for attempting.
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10/10
"Derrida" is a wonder
cholbrooke6 February 2003
I've never written a review on this site, mostly because I find that most reviews are fair and well-meaning that, for the most part, aim to get at the root of the film itself. However, I was compelled to write something about "Derrida," because, for whatever reason, reviewers of the film have largely ignored the filmmakers' intent and, even worse, in some cases, used their review as a platform to air pent-up grievances about this celebrated thinker.

Simply put, "Derrida" is a wonder: a disarming, captivating film that alchemizes a seemingly un-filmable subject--the daily life, travels, and thoughts of a brilliant philosopher--into a convincing, wholly cinematic portrait.

As the above reviewers suggest, this is no bio-pic. There is no omniscient, James Earl Jones voiceover here. The film doesn't attempt to teach deconstruction, nor does it offer any Ken Burns-like, definitive world view. Instead, co-directors Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman follow the trail blazed by Frederick Wiseman and the Maysles Brothers--cinema verite pioneers who recognized that voiceover, forced narrative arcs, and easy psychological explanations of character often distort and dilute the truth of a person or event. As the Maysles brothers did in "Salesman" and "Grey Gardens," among other films, Dick and Kofman spent years with their subject, slowly gaining the trust of this notoriously camera-shy man, following him without a narrow agenda, and open to whatever occurred in front of them. In the process, Dick and Kofman successfully capture unguarded moments and unexpected events--including quiet breakfasts, intimate conversations about his family, and revelatory interviews -which, ultimately, challenge our preconceptions of Derrida, while deepening our fascination with his mind and life.

Years from now, when Derrida has left us, it will be easy to present a Crossfire-like discussion on the merits and value of his thinking. If inclined, one could even dredge up shady details of his past. However, I would strongly argue that nobody will able to provide the kind of illumination that "Derrida" offers--an unfiltered and tantalizing look at one of the most creative and influential minds of today.
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1/10
Wasted Opportunity - A Home Movie Clip
Josh22 November 2002
After reading the rest of the reviews by the "critics" I realized a pattern -- all of them are familiar with Derrida and would love to know more about this man who apparently is very private. The film is like "a day in the life" to a certain degree so for those who always were dying to know what this man is like, it is extremely exciting for them. I was shocked and appalled that they praised this movie which is nothing short of ludicrous and absurd. Most of the critics lost complete perspective in their zeal to learn more about Derrida, a man who they know little about personally, and fail to criticize the film which really is a whole group of missed opportunities and is done in very amateurish fashion.

There are some golden moments but they are few and far between and could easily have been summarized in a 15 minute documentary rather than a full feature that seems only to try to prove, by "deconstructing" the documentary process that it is virtually impossible to do a documentary because the subject is aware of the camera and then doesn't act completely naturally. Unfortunately, the producers ram this point home with inane, superfluous shots of life designed to illustrate a phrase that a reader read in new age monotone, thus failing to even attempt to capture much of the mystery that the man is shrouded within and focus more on vague, abstract clips. Quite frankly, I thought the film was somewhat insulting to Derrida. I wasn't sure if many moments were an attempt to provide comedy in the film to keep the audience interested at the expense of the subject.

The critics can spout abstract praise and make comments about philosophy and deconstructionism (hoping to feel a "superior" thinker to the audience) but what this comes down to, unfortunately, is a very poor film with little preparation, poor questions, no follow up, no direction at all (regardless of the mystery of deconstruction, isn't the point of most films to captivate the audience?) that will only be interesting for fans of Derrida who want to see a little bit of this man's personality -- and even that is limited. I've become interested to find out what my friend found so interesting in Derrida's philosophy and I got nothing from it in this film.
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Read about him before watching the film.
cuvtixo23 September 2005
This film is a demonstration of deconstructionist thought first; and its subject happens to be the "father of deconstructionism." Once you get over this situation, it's a somewhat charming film, a sort of video fugue. The film presents an important theme early on, when Derrida quotes Heidegger (quite fittingly because much of Derrida's writings are based upon Heidegger's philosophy) about Aristotle's life: he was born, he thought, and he died. And the rest is pure anecdote. This is pretty much all this film says about Derrida. Listening to the commentary on the deleted opening scene in the extras on the DVD is quite helpful, and can give you an idea if you want to continue to watch. I liked how much this film touches on the issues of celebrity, privacy, and media saturated culture, without focusing on a mega-pop celebrity. I'd have liked to have been more succinct, but this forum requires ten lines. Too bad.
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5/10
Disappointing attempt at portraying a brilliant thinker
julie-lynne-lee5 January 2011
There is little I can write that other reviewers have not already, skillfully written. The film was a gutting disappointment in regards to portraying segments of the life of a brilliant philosopher. The filmmakers were dim when it came to asking stimulating questions, and (gleeful to watch) Derrida called them out and/or mocked them for this on occasion. Too, the American interviewer lacked the French necessary to do the man justice.

What is also bothersome: the filmmaker's readings of Derrida quotes. It seems so self-involved. Why not have Derrida read them? Also, while Derrida touches on issues of masculinity and philosophy, the words would have still been better read by a man, if for nothing more than auditory pleasure/consistency. The filmmaker drew far too much attention to herself rather than the incredibly intelligent man she was interviewing.

I agree entirely with the reviewer that said the filmmakers were like groupies. Indeed. Seemingly dimwitted, self-involved groupies, at that.
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5/10
Whaddaloadacrap!
George Parker19 January 2004
"Derrida" dogs philosopher Jaques Derrida from boudoir to lectern and shows him being filmed and people filming him and him refusing to say anything personal while making the usual vague and ambiguous excursions in philosophical thought which one tends to expect of thinkers (or so they think) while never delivering anything of substance. We get to see Derrida butter his English muffin but we don't get to see him deconstruct deconstructionism because, of course, that's not possible. Bottom line: This documentary tries with synth music, voice-overs, translations, interviews, etc. but doesn't really sink its teeth into what appears to be a self-affected man who expects it is better to be thought an enigma than to open one's mouth and prove no enigma exists. Does the future have a future? If you really care, you might want to spend time with this film. Otherwise, just agree that it does and find something interesting to watch. (C)
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not a "deconstructive" review/A Lion Incapable of Eating Christians
jonbecker0320 April 2010
this isn't going to be a "deconstruction" of the dick/ziering film entitled "derrida." i wouldn't be qualified to offer one, so i won't even make an attempt. this is merely a random assemblage of my thoughts regarding the filmtext................ derrida was one of the most powerful, iconoclastic philosophers of all time. deconstruction is essentially about the DELEGITIMATION of texts, i.e., the process of exposing their LACK of relevance and truth value. hence, a deconstruction of the bible would "prove" this text to be of LIMITED truth value or relevance. (take THAT Christians!) if we are to evaluate philosophies, perhaps we should judge them on the basis of what they are capable of deconstructing. in which case deconstrution would prove to be the most powerful philosophy, since it is capable of deconstructing just about anything................ that said, "derrida" does not portray the philosopher of deconstruction as an iconoclast. it doesn't envisage derrida as one of the (Christian, Jew, and Moslem-eating) "lions" of postmodern thought. instead, it presents him as a toothless, aging, declawed, castrated feline mewing by the fireside. a complacent member of the bourgeoisie enjoying his petty privileges. if you watch this film, you might get the idea that deconstruction is a cute, "homey" kind of philosophy designed to reassure the middle classes................
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Grim, joyless and boring
tresdodge30 September 2004
An eye opener into the wonderful world of Mr Jacques Derrida Post structuralist extraordinaire. No this is really just a grim look at a man who continues to plug his pseudo philosophic nonsense to undergraduate students and a pretentious post modernist/ post structuralist crowd.

In the film , the interviews are at times cringe worthy as he states the bloody obvious in the most complex and masturbatory way. The camera crew, directors etc lap it up following him as if he is some kind of messiah, with the answers to the universe and all human secrets hidden under his bob of bright white hair.

It really is boring, we are often presented with Monsieur Derrida doing everyday, ordinary things, such as eating toast and listening to the radio. What point does showing this have other than to say yes the 'genius' does actually do normal things in-between spouting nonsense.

The voice over narration was also a load of rubbish,trying to be poetic but highly pretentious and irritating.

The only slightly touching moment was when he discarded his nonsense talking to reveal his experiences of anti semitic abuse as a school- boy in Algeria.

On the whole a pretty dire film, Derrida had no humor or wit to him, he just seemed to be stuck in a drab world, still holding onto the theories of deconstruction that made his name decades ago.

Watch some paint dry instead.
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1/10
Terrible disappointment - no disscussion of deconstruction what so ever
perfectisolation9 November 2002
Just got back from the Nuart (word up LA!) where I saw Derrida. For fairness, I must disclose that my entire family is french, I speak fluently, but I have lived here since i was 6, and everybody considers me an american. So onto the review.

What a crummy flic. The movie follows the life of Jacques Derrida, the father of Deconstructionist philosophy. Well, in good documentaries, you get to see all sides of an issue, in fact usually you have an issue presented. In The Trials of Henry Kissinger (caught that at Nuart 2 weeks ago) they have Al Haig being cut to Chris Hitchens cut to Kissinger cut to the Chilean ambassador. Now obviously, the filmaker is going to try to make you lean one way in your decicion, but you still get to make a decision, you feel that you've been informed on all sides and get to choose an appropriate belief in some idea that the movie is about.

Not so here. For a movie about a philospher, no other philospher is interviewed at all. Critics? Do they exist? If you dont know Deconstruction before you go in, you wont know a thing about it when you leave.

The director wasted Derrida's time and her backer's money. The footage seems to have been taken over many many years (I write this November 8, 2002, and Derrida is seen hearing reports of the Rwanda massacres - I believe those were in 1994) is so raw as to be terrible. I think that the director/producers thought that they could stick a camera on this guy and edit it to a documentary. There is no research whatsoever. There are no critics of deconstruction (there are many many out there). The questions she (the director) asks are pitful and stupid and what I expect a student would ask, when put on the spot.

The only interesting question (and it put derrida on the spot) was asked by some random voice offscreen (which philospher would derrida like to have had as his mom).

I had many problems with the 'comedy' of this picture. People laughed a lot, at times and things I thought wern't funny at all but the editor/director framed to be. The director's accent is so bad that derrida couldn't understand whether she was asking about l'amour or l'amort. Reading that, you can see how he would be confused and would keep asking her which one. but the english subtitles say "love and death" over and over, so people dont get his confusion. seems trivial, but they kept doing this. and people kept laughing when

The absolute worst parts of the movie are random shots with voiceovers reading from derrida's work. they are horrendous. what happened to the director's producers? How could they let her put these in? example: one of them is a zoomed in view (on dv) of hebrew tombs. but you can only see a few letters at a time and the camera shifts like crazy up and down, tombstone to tombstone. it is so distracting you have to close your eyes to focus on the v/o (which are very difficult to understand in the first place - very very very VERY difficult). This happens over and over with these voice overs. The director had to fill a lot of time. I mean, there are long shots of a fax machine, shot up close. of derrida's cat (no idea why).

And I dont want to hear how this was about him and not deconstruction. you learn nothing about the guy. He's secretive? than ask other people. doing some flippin' research.

i voted and gave it a 3
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4/10
What's the point of this movie?
teo-bizjak3 March 2004
What's the point of this movie? I didn't get it! Maybe that Derrida eats toast too or that he is interested in sex life of Hegel and Heidegger? The movie is not biographical nor philosophical nor strictly documentary .. it is bad interview and lost opportunity. If there was an 'ordinary' man in front of the camera it could be a nice try of presenting that person on different way. I admit that presenting a philosopher on film is a difficult task, but if you have right questions you can get at least some aspects of his philosophy or some aspects of his life, but you can't get all of this. Not in 90 minutes.
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1/10
Ineptitude and obfuscation
jamesreel2 November 2004
However much special pleading may be made for this as an act of deconstructing the documentary process, the fact remains that this is a very badly made film--poorly paced, out of focus, the foreground blitzed by backlight, the comments of Derrida himself reduced to utter vapidity. One comes away with absolutely no understanding of Derrida's philosophy, and no comprehension of his life. The filmmakers followed the guy around for weeks, and the best they could do looks like a high-school video project. There's no excuse for poor craft (something forgotten not just by filmmakers but also by tenured professors besotted with critical theory, who crank out bad prose that says nothing). A far, far better example of how a philosopher can be treated on film is "McLuhan's Wake," which in 90 minutes provides an excellent biographical overview and introduction to the key concepts in the writings of Marshall McLuhan. I'm not a fan of McLuhan's any more than I am of Derrida's, but that doesn't stop me from recognizing that McLuhan has received first-class treatment from his documentarians. "Derrida," the film, on the other hand, is an amateurish waste.
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Entangled Sheets
tedg28 June 2008
The man has three ideas: the world is art and is largely a social construction; we are built to deconstruct; when we do so, we must use only our body in admiration because that is all we have. All the rest from him is packing material.

I believe only the first of these, and that not quite in the way that is burdened by his fatalistic dogma. He allows less room for the power of the artist, the constructive dialogue between artist and viewer and the nature/urge of the medium to have its own being apart from the world.

He's a strange phenomenon, a philosopher who deliberately appeals to the ordinary public: philosophy for nonphilosphers. I wonder whether such a thing can exist. Is it more like math and science or art? Art is the notion of internal forces (passion, ideas) formed for consumption. There's the attempt to cross worlds, usually from something deep and unreachable to something that masses can get.

Math differs, and phlosophy probably as well. I know a rather famous popularizer of mathematical ideas, but it seems to be that the very best he can do is impart the wonder that awaits someone who learns the secret codes. I have another friend who writes an extremely successful history book for 5th graders. She reduces history to succinct stories centered on people. I believe that this can never reveal the real lessons, which have to do with forces and urges, complicated stuff to model. Its very hard and pretending it isn't only pulls people further away from ideas.

I see Derrida this way. He's found something that vaguely smells of philosophy, that remotely indicates the promise of a worldview — but that is instead a storytelling framework. He's the sort of person you'd want at a few of your parties, but it seems to me his stories have constraints on how useful they can be, and especially when used as he does: to make stories about stories.

I further suppose that the accident of his popularity was made possible by the need for such metastories and the way that need was filled by writers on French film who later made some film essays.

So it is with some curiosity that I approached this. Its a grand opportunity: to see a story about a presentation made by a man of himself maintaining a framework for stories about other stories. Since each of the 7 levels there are all rooted in film, we might have had an amazing film experience, one that shows and breaks, that uses and transcends, that explores and demolishes.

There is no better expression of limits of ideas than the ideas expressed.

But no. I do believe the filmmakers had something clever in mind. But what they did was center on the self. They accepted his intent without a critical eye. So we get a specific sort — a unique sort — of contemporary French vacuous meditation. Its not even interesting to react against.

Ted's Evaluation -- 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.
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1/10
Incredible Lack of Care
Josh22 November 2002
A friend who was very influenced by Derrida asked me if I wanted to come along and see the film. I didn't know who he was and was very enthusiastic to see this film. I read the 3 preceding reviews here at the IMDB after seeing the film and I'll say that the gross mediocrity of this film is summed up with perfection by those reviewers. It was glaringly obvious that the producers were completely unprepared, had absolutely no agenda, and I could not figure out what they hoped to accomplish with this film. Was it to praise or mock Derrida? It was a 90 minute attempt to be stylish with no substance at all. I had no idea what the film was trying to accomplish except dropping in a 85 minute take of film with words spoken at certain parts in an attempt to show style (and a few other obvious superficial attempts at style.)

Not once was there a discussion or revelation as to what made Derrida such a legend (at least so I'm told), little if anything about is family life (except at in the last third of the film), and the clips that were edited in made him appear like an incorrigible Frenchman with a sense of humor, which he may be but I got the picture very early on in the film. There is an attempt to do a chronological bio by taking his books (I presume) and reading a passage from them in an asympathetic, new age monotone and attempting to show some brilliant connection between the quote and the scene in the film. But there really was no order and the scenes shown, largely, go unexplained. Sometimes they are a superficial illustration in Derrida's life of the simple quote. Nothing worthwhile, just style.

The questions asked to Derrida were general, inane questions with not a single followup. When Derrida answers (he's frequently annoyed answering such general stuff) there is an obvious follow up question each time that is NEVER asked. The best one is when Derrida rambles about how he'd love to know more about philosopers' personal lives because its so strange that they never speak about them. Funny, because this film doesn't really say much at all about Derrida's personal life and Derrida himself admits several times he has a hard time talking about it at all. Refused to, actually. Does the interviewer ever ask why he is so intensely secretive about many things, like other philosophers? NO!!!! Instead we get several clips of what a sample lecture is like with a student asking a very simple question but making it sound as obtuse, complicated, and deep as possible. Ugghh.

How stylish was this movie? The first 15 minutes are spent with a drive through Paris with constant cuts of different news clips saying that Derrida is a modern genius, thinker, etc. etc. and father of deconstructionism. Do we ever find out why? No.

The camera wobbled throughout the entire film. Things were out of focus at times. I was so surprised that out of all the hours shot (Derrida even talks about the camera crew following him for 2 weeks) they chose this stuff to put in.

Unfortunately I know very little more now about Derrida than I did when I came in. My friend enjoyed the opportunity to actually see the man and what he was like on the screen but felt the same as I did. It was as though there was a camera crew commissioned to shoot some footage and then it was thrown together in a hurry. Disappointing. Missed opportunities. I really went into this film wanting to like it and feel like someone fleeced me of $10 and dropped me off a home film that has never been edited. And I'm an optimist!!!!
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7/10
Superficial
William J. Fickling13 April 2004
I hoped, when I sat down to watch this film on cable, that I would learn a lot about deconstructionism. When it was over I had learned nothing...nothing! What a waste! Not that the film is boring; it gives us some candid glimpses of Derrida and some idea of what he is like as a person. But, when the subject of a film is supposedly one of the most influential philosophers of modern times, I would expect to gain at least some minimal exposure to his ideas. Maybe those ideas are over the film makers' heads? I guess I'll have to go to the library and check out a few books on the Master in order to see what he is all about. I certainly didn't get it from this film.
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8/10
Great film
Dan1 April 2005
I keep reading horrible responses to this movie and I don't understand why? Do people think you can substitute Derrida's works for a two hour movie? The movie is only meant as supplementary, it gives you a taste of his life and his ideas, coming directly from the man himself. Granted there are certain questions I might have asked him that the interviewers didn't but I definitely wasn't left unsatisfied. I think anyhow who can get over that egoism should enjoy the film. There are very poignant moments and especially encountering Derrida in a real setting, seeing the man at work. The movie itself addresses the notion of biography and how by nature it is incomplete. It is a great way to encounter his ideas I think. There are certain mindsets and expectations that won't be satisfied with this film but I think in general, if one sets realistic expectations for this "cinema verite" they won't be disappointed. I think there are really quite profound and inspiring moments and it is presented in an intelligent collage. There are certain quite profound and charming moments to the film and very watchable in part due to its tongue in cheek style and ability to be self-mocking while still retaining its dignity.
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10/10
This is an outstanding film about Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) : 20th century's "greatest philosopher".
FilmCriticLalitRao20 October 2014
In the beginning, it is mellifluous score by Sakamoto Ryuichi which makes "Derrida" an excellent viewing experience. At a later stage, one learns about some unknown facts about philosophers especially their hands. The genius of Derrida is revealed in such acute as well as original observations. It is about love that one can hear the most original views ever expressed by any philosopher. Derrida does not utter generalities about love as he prefers to answer questions about love. For this reason, Derrida makes a clear distinction between "L'Amour De Quelqu'un" and "L'Amour De Quelque chose", love for somebody and love for something. He illustrates this notion with a profound question ? Est-ce qu'on aime quelqu'un ou est-ce qu'on aime quelque chose en quelqu'un ? It can be translated as « Does one love somebody » ? or "Does one love something in somebody ? Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick make good use of languages such as French and English in order to catch Derrida. It might appear that Derrida was cornered but he comes out of it remarkably. The film shows Derrida's contributions to ethics too. He suggested that pure forgiveness is impossible as what is unforgivable can only be truly given.
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2/10
Nails On Chalkboard
Angela Peckham15 January 2012
No no no... This movie isn't even an intro to Derrida. To start with, the film is riddled with absurd, nails-on-chalkboard voice over (as if one should NARRATE Derrida in the first place?!). Awful! If the only footage you have is of Derrida walking down a street alone, best not to spoil it with a terrible pseudo-reading of what YOU think he's thinking! Plus, the bits where Derrida rambles about himself as the subject of a documentary are about as hokey and obvious as the play on words in the opening credits, DE-RRIDA. (seriously?). And what better way to trivialize one of this century's foremost critical thinkers than to put him into a montage that looks like it was composed of b-roll home videos. And then to splice in random bits of lecture taken horribly out of context. I venture to guess that the last thing Derrida would have wanted was a two-bit editor to "reconstruct" his words into a messy pile of sound-bites. Not worth watching if you've read Derrida. Misleading for Derrida first- timers. Worth checking out if you're obsessed with Derrida and can get over the shortcomings described above. This is a two-star film only because it's rare to see this sort of subject on screen at all. Too bad it was so unforgivingly botched.
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4/10
Muddled, but not entirely bad
hankhanks123457 September 2005
I'm giving this 4 out of 10 because while agree with the other posters that the film lacked any sort of clarity or even a reason for being, there were a few moments in there that were sort of interesting.

The main sense I get of the man after watching this movie is that he basically didn't like being filmed and seemed uncomfortable doing the project. I don't mean that, as a philosopher, he had philosophical reasons for objecting to seeing himself as a subject, but simply that he was just the kind of person who felt a little weird being filmed. Nothing wrong with that in principle, but it does make him a poor subject for a documentary of this kind.

To me, the scene that captures the ineptitude of the movie the best is a scene in which an Australian (I think) interviewer asks Derrida whether the TV show Seinfeld got at all at deconstructionism, with its emphasis on the mundane. In theory this could be an interesting question, to see how he talks about popular culture. Except that Derrida hadn't even heard of Seinfeld and didn't really have anything interesting to say about it. I don't fault Derrida for not having heard of Seinfeld, but I do fault the filmmakers for putting such an inconsequential exchange in their movie.

As others have noted, we also get a lot of faux-deep scenes of Derrida going about his daily business (walking down the street, getting a haircut, making his breakfast, etc.). which don't add up to a whole lot.

Still, I have to admit I did find a few scenes interesting here and there. The guy does have a legion of followers, for instance, and watching him interact with them at lectures and other places was interesting.
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2/10
Let's hope this ends the careers of Kirby Dick & Amy Kofman
Stevemayeda10 November 2002
It is hard for me to imagine that there is a God after viewing a movie like this. Quite possibly the most inert thing I've seen all year.

To start, I rushed out to see 'Derrida' after reading Kenneth Turan's Los Angeles Times review praising 'Derrida'. Turan, as a reviewer, is usually quite perceptive; however, in this one I think he missed it. Upon arriving at the theater I was very excited because the two Directors, Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman were to be hosting tonight's viewing at the Nuart Theater in West Los Angeles. And from then on began the decent into maelstrom.

The movie begins with a taste of hope. Its rough textured video blurring an urban landscape all to the tune of Derrida's ramblings about something. The movie never really takes off from there. It then cuts to what turns out to be its anthem. The mundane and impersonal life of Jacques Derrida. And as I write this I would like to make clear that by all means Jacques Derrida's life is not mundane, nor does he ramble into oblivion. And it would have been nice to see a documentary that suits him, he deserves one.

But what make his life or the portrayal of his life completely soulless are directors Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman. It seems that the two went into this documentary with absolutely no agenda. The film just goes about showing the man move about the house and speak to classes and friends. Which could work in any normal documentary, but these are the most impersonal moments they could have shown. And somehow they maintained this for five years thinking that they were doing something.

In speaking with the two afterwards, which allowed one to see just how pretentious and disillusioned the two exist as, they boasted about how they edited over one hundred hours of footage into an eight-five minute 'piece' as they call it. What baffles me about this is that with all that material what they showed seemed to be such a disservice. Perhaps the only relief is went Derrida speaks freely. But even then the film is minced with cutaways of the directors smearing their signature over it. The most insulting part about the event was that when Dick and Kofman spoke to the audience answering questions, they intellectualized this all. Somehow they all thought there was artistic merit to the lifeless nature of their work; rather than an unintentional defacing and humiliation to Mr. Derrida. But what should he care? Being one of the fathers of Deconstruction, his identity does not exist within Dick and Kofman's deranged portrait.
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Derrida, dit-il...
sandover26 April 2012
Where writer Marguerite Duras proposed the title "Destroy, she said", I propose the "Deride(d)/Derrida, he said". To imitate is a form of flattery, as they say.

But I hope this is also where problems begin: is this form of flattery welcome, with its aggressive ambivalence? This is my stake against "deconstruction". To be more forward, if one excepts Derrida's first phase which had something to say on phenomenology and its discontents, the spiral afterwards reads like a curtain lecture on ontology; being a lacanian, I do not give a s**t that late in the night about deconstructing the minutia of sex, I want to have sex with you, do you too? and, hey, I do know that there is no sexual relationship (so your deconstruction is blanks, baby), but this should not spoil the fun of having sex, nevertheless, you know?

Sakamoto's suggestive soundtrack (which for some reason would be more apt for a Jean Nouvel documentary I think), and the travelings of the camera along Parisian quays while a somewhat bland female voice reads voice-off excerpts from Derrida's texts, this feels more dated than a decade back: it has an early '90s sensibility, the kind that has not shaken of cold, pretentious '80s from its back. The soundtrack's grandfather, that is Eno's Music for Airports, fixes the clue we should have back then: this is Thinking for Airports (Derrida has extensively written on the word "Transit"). But what about the clue we should have now? I like Derrida's preoccupation with ashes, but not what he semi-elaborates, as here with the "what" and the "who" which is inconsequential, if not downright sophistry.

The fact that Deconstruction rooted in American academia the way it did (and in the beginning of the documentary Derrida does neither comment on this phenomenon nor challenges it), makes me think of Zizek's precise remark that deconstruction has a practical preoccupation and it's its practicality that took hold of the academia.

But this makes my thought glide even further back, to Gertrude Stein: even more than Lacan, Gertrude Stein is my man. And do you know why and what? Two reasons: when young Hemingway visited her with some of his writings her comment was "Hemingway, remarks are not literature. Begin again and concentrate." Well, that, even if anecdotal, it is for me invaluable, contra Derrida, who actually makes remarks rather than actually reflects on literature, for, reason number two, he never challenges grammar, just lexicography; wordplay, like even his master, Lacan, exemplified, has its limitations, for semantically it plays it safe and sentimental. Think about it.

While jeopardizing grammar the way Gertrude Stein did, shows a more refined task:"Stein composes coherence rather than composing in a world whose coherence is given", as Ulla Dydo, the great Stein scholar, succinctly put it, and this is something that wins against a tactic which takes for granted what it wants to deconstruct. We have to catch up with Gertrude, not with Derrida who seems as archaic as this documentary will soon be. At least for someone who half-engagingly dismisses ideology (that is when he is pushed to avow if he would "partake" in being autobiographical in an answer contra what he would like, say, another philosopher to do or say, and he refuses) but is not willing either to fill the gap left behind with the gap itself or an act non-deferred, makes one think that back in the '80s when deconstruction thrived in the academy, Reaganism had some strange bedfellows. And if you think this is a historicist trapping remark, then offer me the literature of unnaming 9/11 the documentary comes after.
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