Screening Log #47: The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema (2006)

Written by, and starring, Slavoj Žižek
Directed Sophie Fiennes





Many of the films that I’ve been watching of late have contained, intentionally or not, some aspect that opens them for psychoanalytic interpretation. The connection between the cinema, the image, and the conscious perception of these elements by both the director and the viewer is not an insignificant one. The cinema offers a space on which the internal thoughts and desires of people, individuals or as a collective, may be projected, externalized, and made visual, if not concrete. As such, the cinema offers itself as an objective correlative for an essential expression of subjectivity, however that may be formulated.

The Pervert’s Guide to the Cinema is narrated by the seemingly omnipresent culture critic Slavoj Žižek. Žižek applies his particular brand of psychoanalytic criticism to a list of films, ranging from classic Hollywood to more contemporary fare, through Chaplin, The Marx Brothers, Hitchcock, and Lynch, from Possessed to Star Wars Episode III. Žižek examines the cinema’s ability to, not just articulate but, inform the viewer on how to desire; beyond bringing to light the objects of desire, cinema allows its viewers to encounter them as objects that are more receptive to critical thought.

Žižek speaks to the viewer from within reconstructed models of the sets of the films he is speaking about, or directly from the locations on which they were shot. This strategy gives the film the sense that Žižek is less removing and/or refining ideas from the films, rather, more that he is merely articulating what is already being spoken in the films in a supplementary manner. It also manifests the way that the viewer of a film is as much being expressed by a film, as the film expresses its creators. His readings of the films are at once provocative, insightful, and, at times, rather subversive. Žižek’s interpretation of Lynch’s films – Blue Velvet, Lost Highway, and Mulholland Drive – are especially fruitful illuminations of films whose approaches can be confusing at times. He also brings an interesting new light to the more psychoanalytic nuances of many of Hitchcock’s films that I hadn’t apprehended before, Psycho in particular.

Žižek is an inimitable presence and voice in any line of critical or philosophical thinking. The breadth of his involvement in meaningful cultural discourse is unbelievably wide and his reading of the cinema demonstrates the adaptability of Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis. There is far too much material to summarize or engage in a critical manner, and Žižek is both more eloquent and entertaining than I, so I’ll just leave this small clip instead.


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