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The author of works on subjects as wide-ranging as Alfred Hitchcock, 9/11, opera, Christianity, Lenin and David Lynch, Slovenian cultural theorist Slavoj Zizek is one of the most important--and outrageous--philosophers working today. Directed by Astra Taylor, this captivating, erudite documentary explores the eccentric personality and esoteric work of this incomparable academic and writer who has been called everything from "the Elvis of cultural theory" to "a one person culture mulcher."
- Deleted scenes
- Additional interviews and lecture excerpts
- Slavoj Zizek on Boston cable news show Nitebeat
- Original theatrical trailer
- Zizek Easter Egg
- English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired
- Guilty Pleasures: Slavoj Zizek from Film Comment magazine
Though focusing exclusively on the contemporary Slovenian philosopher, Slavoj Zizek, as an eccentric individual prone to brilliant ranting, Zizek! presents an interesting paradox: that of the documentary filmmakers relationship to the subject. Twenty-seven year old director Astra Taylor, with her film debut, has managed to inject ample footage of Zizek ruminating on his couch, talking in the cab, in the park, and in lecture halls with her obvious crush on the man known for bringing Lacanian psychoanalytical theory to the masses. In the tradition of unlikely love stories, i.e. Harold & Maude, Astra follows Zizek around with a camera for a day-in-the-life portrait. During personal moments, Zizek generously displays his underwear drawer, for example, as he gives a lengthy explanation of how socialist/communist houses should remain tidy and sparse. During more lofty conceptual moments, or in academic settings, Zizek explains his thoughts on Lacan, Freud, Marx, and Stalin. Like the "direct cinema" of the Maysles Brothers and Errol Morris, Zizek! relies upon the inherent character of its subject for entertainment value, though the film will definitely help newcomers grasp Zizek's complex philosophical tenets. In this, Zizek! is not only an experimental love letter, but also a film that will give one's brain a serious workout. --Trinie Dalton
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Those rigorously trained theoriticans who take their theory very seriously will probably be less inclined to just kick back and enjoy this, and more inclined to find faultlines within Zizek's thinking.
Zizek acknowledges that many expect more from him than he has to give. He admits that leftists in the market for political formulas/solutions are invariably disappointed with his lectures, but, in his own defense, he states that it is not a philosophers job to find solutions but to examine the kinds of questions that we ask: ie what is truth?
I think one of the appeals of Zizek is that he is an old school marxist at a time when marxism is no longer fashionable nor viable. And theres something romantic and/or nostalgic about this and it gives him an underdog appeal. At a time when many thinkers have abandon trying to imagine an alternative to liberal capitalism, Zizek is a kind of old style revivalist. His common folk appeal is hard to resist. If you are the kind of person that likes a bit of theory now and then but is turned off by a lot of its elitist tendencies, well, Zizek is a breath of fresh eccentrically charged air.
What Zizek really excels at doing is critiquing the way late phase captialism shapes the public imagination. If capitalism trades in commodity fetsishism and fantasies of unfettered market freedoms and unlimited horizons for liberal subjects, then Zizek sees it as his job to show that this fantasy is just that, a fantasy, and that late capitalist ideology is still ideology.
Zizek has an obvious distaste for the postmodern and an obvious nostalgia for the world that existed before postmodernism. The reason is that everything that Zizek values (possibility) is erased by postmodernism (which to Zizek means the total victory of capitalist ideology). Even though Zizek is not a Stalinist, he is nostalgic for a time when there was something that stood up against captalism.
And so, though very few believe that capitalism is going anywhere, Zizek appeals because while examining the paradoxes that exist within captialist ideology he offers us glimpses of a world that exists outside of it. For some Zizek's deconstructions are a very satisfying form of entertainment, for others Zizek's performances are proof that opposition and dissent are still alive and well and that not everything has been subsumed by the dominant ideology.
In sum, Zizek is the ultimate humanist because he believes that no one individual or society is ever totally subsumed by ideology. There is always an excess that is not contained, and therein lies the optimism (the utopian urge) inherent in all Zizekian discourses (or counterdiscourses).
One of the things that bugged Zizek most about making this documentary (or so he says at least) is the general attitude with which the viewer approaches the film, namely attempting to search for the private, nice person behind the theorist Zizek. We watch the film and expect to come out of it with some convenient, intimate truths about Zizek that then form the basis of us trying to relate to him. As Zizek says time and again in the film, he would rather be seen as a monster and actively tries to frustrate the viewer looking for paparazzi-info on his person. Certain sequences and items in the film were hence deliberately placed to create this effect, playing with the expectations of the reader. Some of those scenes include: Zizek in bed (where we can cleary see how he ridicules the sensationalist-tabloidist gaze of the viewer), the toilet arrangement and, importantly, the Stalin picture and its discussion.
Zizek surely cannot be characterized as a theorist who uncomplicatedly embraces Stalinism. He is, however, known to give it serious, often controversial consideration many people shy away from in order to arrive at a serious examination of the potential for totalitarianism in times of neoliberalism. The film expresses this quite nicely at times and is, purely for that reason, definitely worth seeing.
He only touches down briefly on a series of topics so the documentary works well as an introduction to the esoteric philosopher. I wonder at times why he fascinates me so much, seeing how I disagree with a good deal of his work, but the documentary made me realize it's because he challenges me at times. Whatever your political/philosophical stances are you will certainly be challenged by the "Most Dangerous Philosopher of the West."