A thumbnail portrait of international gadfly culture-theorist Slavoj Zizek, Astra Taylor’s debut doc follows in the tire tracks of Derrida—singing to the smug choir of post-structuralist academia, who have so few movies made for their matinee satisfaction. More of a widely worshipped name brand in Europe and South America than here, yet the memorable subject of a New Yorker profile a few years back, Zizek may’ve been almost elected president of the newly independent Slovenia, but his primary claim to fame is his post-Lacanian ecumenicalism. He’s fully capable— during what seems to be a 24-7, lifelong caffeine seizure—of talking rapidly about nearly anything: Stalin, utopianism, love, faith, Vertigo, commercial culture, suicide, capitalist politics, fame, himself.
Taylor traipses around after Zizek on a continent-hopping lecture tour, and we get a face full of the man’s tireless analysis, in a style that can only be characterized as hyperactive grizzly bear, complete with spit-spewing speech impediment. Hardly an effortlessly enjoyable talking head, Zizek is by some consensus less a seminal thinker than an inexhaustible polymath, and, honestly, much of what he blurts as a priori hardly makes sense. Maintaining that philosophy won’t help us if a meteor hits is a mild point to make (but he makes it as if it’s epochal); he might also be right when he indicts modern culture for complacent indulgences like sex-without-sex, cream-without-fat, and leftism-without-revolution. But I’m not sure what he’s right about. Still, the level of discourse is high, and we can all come away comforted that in academia, as in poetry and science, adored “rock stars” can be old, paunchy, and less than beautiful.