Description from TIFF 2006 catalog by Thom Powers:

“Cinema is the ultimate pervert art. It doesn’t give you what you desire. It tells you how to desire,” says Slavoj Zizek. It turns out that the world-renowned philosopher and psychoanalyst is also a great film lover. In this three-part documentary, Zizek combines these areas of expertise by supplying his provocative analysis to a treasure trove of clips by his favourite directors.

Alfred Hitchcock, David Lynch, Andrei Tarkovsky, Charlie Chaplin and many others are subjected to his special analysis, deepening our own appreciation of the form. He conjures up delightful metaphors – the Marx brothers, for example, represent the Ego, Superego and Id. He breathes new meaning into popular films like The Matrix and Alien, and illuminates lesser-known works such as Clarence Brown’s The Possessed and the Stalinist musical Cossacks of the Kuban.

Director Sophie Fiennes – sister to the celebrated actors Ralph and Joseph – directs this intellectual feast with a delightfully light touch and an exquisite sense of art direction. She places Zizek in meticulously recreated settings of famous films – the bedroom from The Exorcist, the spaceship from Solaris, Bodega Bay from The Birds. Zizek tosses off hilarious asides. Standing in a recreation of Blue Velvet’s suburban garden, he remarks that tulips are disgusting: “Basically it’s an open invitation to all the insects: ‘Please come and screw me.'”

The sexual subtext is ever-present. He declares that Persona contains the most erotic scene in cinema, and Michael Haneke’s La Pianiste the most depressive. He points to Eyes Wide Shut as an example of the “utter impotence of male fantasizing” : “In sexuality, it’s never only me and my partner,” he observes, “There has to be some third, imagined element which makes it possible for me to engage in sexuality.”

Fantasy, anxiety, mortality are all grist for Zizek’s mill, but there’s none of the sterile feeling that so often accompanies theory. He brings passion and wit to the task. The emotions of City Lights, for instance, aren’t the least bit reduced by Zizek’s interpretation – they’re heightened. This documentary will make you proud to call yourself a pervert.

– Thom Powers

About the director:
Sophie Fiennes was born in Suffolk, England and studied at the Chelsea College of Art and Design. She worked with Peter Greenaway for several years before directing the documentaries Lars From 1-10 (99), The Late Michael Clark (00), Because I Sing (01), Hoover Street Revival (03) and The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema (06).

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