Friday, December 14, 2007

A Few Thoughts on the Documentary Zizek!

This will in no way be a systematic or even a coherent critique or review. Such incentive to read something is rare, so enjoy.

Chris Higgs was right when he said I was in for another treat with Zizek!.
It is rare for me to watch something and then want to start from the beginning again when it is finished.
This occured with Zizek!.

Slavoj Zizek is funny.
I would like to hang out with him.
The fact that these are the first items on the list supports Zizek's apprehension that his hilarity has been a double-edged sword for his work reaching its public and being taken as seriously as he would like.
Still, I think that his work is entertaining helps him get and keep the reader's attention.
Being Zizek's son would be great and terrible as a child, but as a 27 year old man who enjoys theory and philosophy and nit-picking commercials it would be brilliant.
Of course, this would probably only be true if I could remain in the detached position of the viewer and he as the character who is always throwing around interesting philosophical tidbits and making vulgar jokes, always entertaining.
This is something that can only take place in fiction.
I think I am going to make this take place in fiction soon.

The documentary is fascinating for both the ideas and concepts and the character of Slavoj Zizek.

By the end of this post, we will all be tired of reading the name Zizek.

I admire Zizek's honesty, his desire for honesty. I don't think he believes in the illusion of absolute honesty, but people being as honest as they can with each other. When he is watching and talking about a video of Lacan giving a made-for-TV lecture, details like Lacan's forced hand gestures and affected way of speaking nag at Zizek as though he feels he is being duped even if the concepts and ideas being presented are insightful lenses through which to analyse the world.

I laughed as Zizek picked apart the Lacan video. I do this with everything on TV: sitcoms, movies, and especially commercials. I am fascinated by the semiotics of advertising. One example is the wide use of the coffee cup as a prop in commercials. To me it seems to signify leisure, comfort, rest, and most of all security. Now my blood pressure goes up a little when I see someone in an advertisement cuddling with their coffee cup and smiling with comfort and contentment. This is why I watch TV alone most of the time. I am not entirely sure where my hypersensitive class-consciousness came from, either, but it is easily provoked and irritated. And yet I still get caught up in the game. I live in a state called Comfortable Dissatisfaction, and it encompasses the captitalist world.

Zizek gets irritated by the facade one puts forth when dealing with the world, with society, with others, and how human interaction operates on a superficial level.
I do not know how human interaction can become a deeply meaningful engagement every time between everyone. I don't think I would even want that. I enjoy the time I spend in my head. Nabakov's novel Invitation to a Beheading deals with this.

I know I am simplifying Zizek's ideas even after they have already been simplified for the documentary.

In the extras on the DVD, Zizek is sitting in a movie theater. He talks about how he analyzes films (phonetically, he says feelums, lisping the s's between his molars). Sometimes he will read something about a film and begin developing a theory, but then he will not see the actual film because he knows it will mess up his theory. I think that honesty is admirable.

I think Zizek might agree that in a society where we pretend that the transgressive is the norm and the shocking is the expected, that there is really no need to sugar coat or censor honesty like he exhibited about his film theories. I infer this from his comments about how thinkers/writers like Derrida and Judith Butler cannot state something without a string of qualifications and quotation marks like flies on death before they can feel acquitted of presupposition, while in the end they are saying the same thing as one who will call "a bottle of tea a bottle of tea." (I'm quoting here, not qualifying).

I enjoy how Zizek engages the world with irony and sarcasm. I like when he is standing by the poster of Stalin hung ironically to greet whomever comes into his apartment with the hope of driving them back out. It is here that Zizek explains his sarcasm as the form of sarcasm beneath which he is really serious.

Zizek has a keen eye for the paradoxes inherent in the psychology of capitalism.

Zizek talks about how all these leftists attend his lectures in hope of hearing some great new wisdom, hoping to gain intellectual fodder, obtaining some direction, some formula for what they ought to be doing politically, seeking spiritual guidance, etc, etc, which sounds a lot like when people go to the tent revivals looking for some spiritual awakening or revelation from the latest super-evangelist. Zizek seems saddened and irritated by this, and uses his irony and sarcasm to return the question to the seeker. I think he is not happy that the left is just as populated with sheep as any other position in the ideological spectrum.

I like that in one scene Zizek is flanked by toilets as he talks to the camera. In another scene he is philosophizing in bed.
Zizek is fascinated on many levels by the concept of chocolate laxatives.
Since Zizek seems to sweat a lot, I now feel better about my sweat-prone condition, too. (I wrote these lines in an attempt to lighten the pontification above. Also: I have spelled analyze two different ways in this post.)

Zizek is comfortable in the camera's eye. He performs well, and is honest about it being a performance even if in the end he does not like the superficiality.

I think next I will watch Zizek's The Pervert's Guide to Cinema, about which there is an article by Jim Cocola online at n+1.

Since the advent of science, philosophy is now a genre of fiction.

I liked Zizek! a lot. I recommend it to everyone.


chris said...

This is an excellent post! I enjoyed reading your thoughts and observations.

My favorite quotes from that film:

"I’ve always been disgusted with this notion of “I love the world” or “Universal love.” I don’t like the world. I’m basically somewhere in between “I hate the world” or “I’m indifferent towards it.” But the whole of reality is just stupid. It is out there. I don’t care about it. Love, for me, is an extremely violent act…Love is evil."

"I am not human. I’m a monster…I rather prefer myself as somebody who, not to offend others, pretend plays that he is human."

"If I were not myself, I would arrest myself."

Josh Maday said...

Thanks, Chris. Those are some of my favorites, too. There are so many good lines and passages it's difficult to remember them all. Really a fascinating film about a fascinating character and thinker. Good call, man.