The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology (Fiennes, 2012)

pervertsguidetoideologyIt’s possible, I suppose, to like movies and not like Slavoj Žižek, who I usually describe as the lunatic genius from another dimension.If that’s not helpful for Christian audiences, I usually say: “Imagine Francis Schaeffer with a thick, Slavic accent. Then make him a Marxist-Lacanian.”

The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology is Sophie Fiennes’s follow up toThe Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, where she allowed Žižek to riff on movies from recreated sets where he became a lecturer/participant. It’s a clever conceit, but it wouldn’t be near clever enough if the philosopher’s observations weren’t so provocative and his delivery such an endearing mix of enthusiasm and pedantry. Žižek brings a kind of manic energy to the discussion of Plato, Marx, and Jameson that is normally reserved in our culture to sport’s radio.

With the passing of Roger Ebert, Žižek is the closest thing we have to a figure who transcends the division between film-critic and fanboy, one who is equally respected among academics and yet as willing to use John Carpenter’s They Live to make a point as he is to sing the praises of canonical films like The Searchers or Triumph of the Will. His Marxism shows a little more heavily in the film, in part because he engages in full-scale cultural criticism, referencing current events as well as films.

As a Christian, I found his reading of Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ to be unpersuasive, and his riffs on formal similarities of Nazi and Soviet propaganda to Hollywood blockbusters to be a little repetitive and opaque. But that’s Žižek. When he’s off, he can make you roll your eyes, but when he’s on—like he is with his comments on “Ode to Joy” and The Sound of Music—he’s intellectually intoxicating.

Fiennes’s films are like cramming for your Political Science, Philosophy, Religion, and Psychology exams with a genius roommate who somehow manages to clarify every concept the professor made sound impenetrable just by talking to you about your favorite movies. Your mileage may vary, particularly towards the end of the film’s 136 minute running time, but I’d be happy to see Fiennes do a new Zizek film every couple of years.

Pervert’s Guide to Ideology releases 2/18 through Cinedigm on  iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, XBOX, PlayStation, Google Play, YouTube , and through Zeitgeist films on DVD. The review originally appeared at Christianity Today Movies and TV as part of its coverage of The Virginia Film Festival. The film also played at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2012.

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