The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema Is Slavoj Žižek at His Most Accessible


Slavoj Žižek is the closest thing contemporary critical theory has to a rock star, in part because he regularly addresses pop cinema and—more controversially—frequently indulges in the worst kind of provocation-for-provocation’s-sake (e.g., arguing for 300 as an anti–Iraq War parable). iek’s cult of personality has given him more screen time than any of his peers, and 2006’s The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema (originally broadcast as a BBC miniseries) is his longest, most high-profile chance to stretch out. Given his predilection for constant contrarianism, you’d be forgiven for thinking the title was less about sex than the joy of willfully perverse debate. iek steers clear of his usual dense Hegel-centric language and goes straight for the fun bits. His basic premises are pretty standard (cinema as a fantasy-based true mirror of the human id; viewers’ complicity in granting the screen the power to move them), but the details are fun: With obvious joy in his accent, iek enthusiastically pronounces words like “obscene”; coins the phrase “drabness of time” to describe Tarkovsky’s work (yes!); decodes David Lynch’s filmography as a meditation on the father as phallus; and generally entertains (and occasionally convinces). Frequently speaking from mock-ups of the sets of the films being discussed—underscoring his “fantasy realer than reality” point nicely—iek offers up what’s essentially an illustrated lecture. Plenty of film history’s most nerve-wracking clips alternate with iek speaking from various amusing locations, real-world and otherwise.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 14, 2009

Archive Highlights