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September 12, 2005


Thanks to the Flea's Film Festival Expert, I have now seen the frankly delectable Astra Taylor's documentary feature, Zizek!, a biographical piece on Slovenian theory star, Slavoj Zizek.

In Zizek!, a fascinating portrait, we follow the spellbinding lecturer to Rio de Janeiro, Boston and New York City. He orates to overcapacity crowds on his favourite themes: ideology, psychoanalysis, religion and love. "Love is a cosmic disbalance," he says. Back in his hometown of Ljubljana, where Zizekek ran for president in Slovenia's first democratic election in 1990, we enter his tiny apartment. Amid kitchen cupboards stuffed with socks, underwear and bed sheets, the professor speaks about the magnificence and modesty of philosophy. While lying in bed topless, the philosopher declares that he does not solve problems, he redefines them.

While Zizek's Vertigo pose will be a fan favourite, it is that last topless bed scene which is the key to the piece. An anxious audience can only wonder if the wild-eyed, nose-pinching, arm-waving gesticulations will be completed by a grostesque spectacle: the professor pitching a tent with his duvet. It does not happen and, by its absence, forms a neat homology with his writings on Lacanian anamorphosis and the dependence of any signifying relationship on that element which escapes symbolization.

Better yet was the loathsome film festival audience, none of whom could pronounce the professor's name in the ticket-holder's line and every one of whom will now claim the knowledge as a scenester bragging right. Shame that almost none of them are likely to, say, read any of his books (start with Looking Awry). I was fortunate to have the same idiot who sat behind Zizek at The Matrix sitting behind me for the documentary. Every quote was greeted with a performative "hmm" or "ahh" and every middle-class in-joke with a knowing "har har". This despite the fact the entire film was a running rant about the importance of denying the position of theory-star as "the one who is supposed to know" and a series of two-finger salutes to everyone expecting a philosophy prof to have the answers his audiences are expecting to hear.

Card-carrying Lacanians will find the price of admission worth it for his take-down of a typical sneering Derridean question at a public lecture. Lacanians are smart, interesting and sexy. Derrideans are lock-step cultists following a hack. (My own card-carrying Lacanian gloss, so please not to blame him.) The director has done an excellent job of maintaining Zizek's monstrousness and making accessible material that takes time to read let alone approach as a non-specialist introduction. Unfortunately, this meant a focus on the more approachable work rather than the less fashionable, and more interesting, recent discussions of Marxism, community and Pauline Christianity.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at September 12, 2005 08:54 AM

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But what do you think of Paglia's statement that Lacan, Foucault, & Derrida have no relevance outside of postwar France?

Posted by: beautifulatrocities [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 12, 2005 11:52 AM

She is mistaken. One might as well say Leo Strauss has no relevance outside of postwar America. Though I do share Paglia's love for DKNY and Madonna.

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 12, 2005 11:56 AM