Ali’s blog

Mostly quant stuff with occasional digressions

FT interview with Slavoj Zizek

Posted by alifinmath on March 7, 2009

Yes, I’m a Zizek devotee. I hang onto the man’s every word and gasp at his verbal pyrotechnics. I believe I have almost every book he’s ever written. He’s been interviewed by the FT today  (March 07, 2009), and I’m posting a couple of choice extracts:

He claims that São Paulo in Brazil is mutating into a real-life version of the film Blade Runner (1982). The city now has 70 heliports with the rich travelling on another level to the poor….

Žižek is obsessed with the way that societies interpret events and the belief systems that underpin politics. One of the most powerful ideological “factories”, he argues, is Hollywood, which is influential in forging our understanding of the world. Žižek admits he enjoys many Hollywood films and says that the best, such as Robert Altman’s Short Cuts (1993), deserve to be called art and are superior to many “fake” European films. But, he suggests, Hollywood also serves an ideological purpose, shaping the way we lead our lives. “I don’t mean big ideological schemes. All that’s dead, I know. What interests me is ideology as part of everyday life,” he says. “My interest is: what’s the message? I like to find a different texture which gives another story.”

Take Titanic (1997). Most viewers see it as a straightforward love story. Not Žižek. Many critics noted the anti-establishment tone of the film: how the rich passengers are cruel while those on the lower decks are far more sympathetic. But, according to Žižek, the film reinforces the social order rather than subverts it. The true narrative concerns a spoiled, rich girl who has lost her identity. She takes a lower-class lover to restore her vitality, to put her ego image together, he says. The lover literally draws her picture. “And then, after his job is done, he can f*** off and disappear. He is – what I would call in theory – a pure vanishing mediator. It is not a love story. It is vampiric, egotistic exploitation.”

After discussing the ideological “messages” of Batman (1989), Kung Fu Panda (2008) and The Lives of Others (2006), which all – in their very different ways – explore how we can happily live with deceit, we arrive at the similarities between the Hollywood disaster movie Armageddon (1998) and The Fall of Berlin, the great Stalinist movie of 1949. This sets Žižek off about the mutual fascination of Hollywood and high Stalinism: how the producers of King Kong (1933) stole the idea of a giant gorilla on top of a skyscraper from the futurist architects who wanted to place a giant statue of Lenin on top of the Palace of Soviets; how Stalin’s favourite film stars were Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.

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2 Responses to “FT interview with Slavoj Zizek”

  1. Vladimir said

    A film buff friend has given me a 2006 documentary/interview featuring Zizek’s critical exegesis of Hollywood film titled “The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema – Lacanian Psychoanalysis and Film.” I haven’t had the time to watch it in its entirety, but apparently my conversations with said friend prompted the recommendation. I will upload to my video-sharing account soon and then post a link in the comments to this entry.

  2. alifinmath said

    Yes, my family (i.e., my wife, my son, and myself) like “The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema” very much — we’ve seen it a few times. Zizek’s frantic and intense energy is beguiling and riveting. Zizek is the master of the counter-intuitive insight — insights which work like Zen koans in that they demolish familiar structures of thought. I am a Zizek devotee.

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