The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology

By: Addison WyliePervertsGuidePoster

The conceptual idea of a philosopher (in this case, Slavoj Žižek) walking audiences through beloved and forgotten films and giving their outlook on the film’s ideological take has potential.  The documentary, however, has to have competent direction and a confident mind at the forefront in order for the project to work.  The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology has neither.

Sophie Fiennes’ doc is hitting home runs with most movie goers (it currently holds an impressive 90% on Rotten Tomatoe’s Tomatometer) and it’ll more than likely wet the whistle for those who caught Žižek and Fiennes prior collaboration The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema.

If you haven’t caught their predecessor, you can still take in The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology as a stand alone film.  To my understanding, the films only share Žižek’s appearance and Fiennes’ jumpy narrative.  That said, you may also finding yourself – as I was – using all your will to stay tuned in to this hyperactive headache-inducing collaboration of humdrum proportions.

Slavoj Žižek bumbles his way through theory after theory while Fiennes tries to keep up with all the transporting into different movies.  Žižek has been integrated nicely into movies like They Live, Taxi Driver, and A Clockwork Orange, but he speeds through explanations with slight confidence in his rambling.

It’s easy to see that this eccentric personality cares for what he’s talking about, but he always appears to look disheveled and anxious.  If he had papers in his hand, you bet he’d be shuffling through them constantly.  As a viewer, I need to know that the main speaker I should be believing in can have the ability to educate me.  I couldn’t take Slavoj Žižek seriously at all.  If that’s part of the joke, Fiennes hasn’t done a good enough of a job to emphasize that.

Watching The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology was really trying.  It was kind of like being trapped in an elevator with a distant, slightly inebriated uncle who has found out cinema is a fascination of mine.  In order for him to vent but also make a connection with me, he uses this newfound information to a supposed advantage.  Instead, the reactions I have are exhaustion and irritation and they get only worse over the two-hour runtime.

The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology is for a specific crowd.  Mainly those who are devoted followers of Žižek’s.  I’ll take this unpleasant experience as a sign that I’m not part of this audience.

Readers Comments (2)

  1. I want to like Zizek, but honestly his criticism rings so hollow and banal. I remember one book of his spent a lot of time focusing on how militant pop music is. That’s a great observation. And one Dave Marsh made in Rolling Stone some 25 years before Zizek did.

    Sometimes I think the people that like Zizek are the kind of people who like hearing their own opinions shouted back at them. It’s too bad because some of his stuff is pretty incisive.

  2. I was not a “devoted follower” of Žižek when I saw the fil-um a month or so ago, but I would say that I’ve been moved in that direction since. I would guess that the majority of those contributing to such an impressive Tomatometer rating might also differ with the characterization of “devoted follower”. I suspect that the appeal of the film is far broader than you’ve given it credit for. Further, I differ with your assessment (which should be totally cool given that we are simply sharing personal opinions here), that some sort of joke was being played, either by the filmmaker or Žižek. On the contrary, the ideas being dealt with are quite serious and current. To me the genius of Žižek’s delivery is that it’s honest. It’s not some pre-packaged, well-rehearsed, scripted pseudo-reality, but as you pointed out, simply a quirky but really intelligent dude who’s undeniably passionate about emerging from Plato’s cave to share what he’s learned. Is it complex and confusing at times? Absolutely. But so is ideology. And I felt that, by being willing to do the mental hard work and follow him down the rabbit hole, he was actually leading the viewer to an important place. Cheers!


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