Friday, March 20, 2009

The Pervert's Guide to Cinema (Rhoades)

“Pervert’s Guide” Plays Peeping Tom at Tropic

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Sorry to disappoint you, but “The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema” is not about X-rated movies. No hot-pillow action from Jenna Jameson. No looking back at Linda Lovelace’s gastronomical feats.

Instead, we have a cinephile’s tour of some famous and ultimately mystifying movies by Alfred Hitchcock, David Lynch, Ingmar Bergman, Stanley Kubrick, Andrei Tarkovsky, the Marx Brothers, and many others – in effect a film critique that decodes the hidden meaning within some of your big-screen favorites. And in doing so, uncovers what movies can tell us about ourselves.

Hosted by a bearded Slovenian geek named Salvo Zizek, “The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema” started off as a British television series called “Art Shock.” Director Sophie Fiennes helped Zizek turn the series into a movie about movies.

“The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema” is currently playing at the Tropic Cinema.

Zizek describes himself as a “philosopher and psychoanalyst” And that’s not a bad description of this highbrow movie buff. He bases his analysis of films on the writings of the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan.

One of the most significant figures in psychoanalysis since its founding by Sigmund Freud, Lacan’s theories extend beyond treating neurotic patients – classifying all mental activity into three functions: the Imaginary Order, the Symbolic Order and the Order of the Real.

The Imaginary refers to the process by which the ego is created in infants (the process through which an alien humanity comes to colonize the body, if you want to put it into sci-fi terms).

The Symbolic is the impersonal framework of society – and includes all social structures from language to the law. As such, it’s what we usually call “reality.”

The Real is the world before language and the rest of the Symbolic Order have carved it up.
Complex? “My big obsession is to make things clear,” says Zizek. “I can really explain a line of thought if I can somehow illustrate it in a scene from a film.”

Following this triptych philosophy, “The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema” is divided into three parts.
The first looks at the workings of the unconscious in Andy and Larry Wachowski's “The Matrix” and Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.”

The second explores the intersection of fantasy and reality in David Lynch’s “Lost Highway” and Hitchcock’s “Vertigo.”

And the third tackles the subject of illusion versus reality in “The Wizard of Oz” and “Alien Resurrection.”

Zizek is sometimes called “the philosopher of the Real” because he discusses “real” topics, such the dialectical-materialist philosophy behind Keanu Reeves films, the toilet bowl in “The Conversation,” and the absurd paternal figures in David Lynch’s films (Frank in “Blue Velvet,” Baron Harkonnen in “Dune,” and Mr Eddie in “Lost Highway”).

Overly intellectual? Perhaps, but Zizek presents his lofty thoughts with the flair of a showman, shooting scenes at original locations and on replica sets, creating “the uncanny illusion that Zizek is speaking from within the films themselves.”

As he says in his thick Eastern European accent, “Cinema is the ultimate pervert’s art. It doesn’t give you what you desire. It tells you how to desire.”

No, we're not back to Jenna Jameson.

The director admits “the film’s title is something of a MacGuffin – just a way to get you into this network.” It refers to the voyeuristic nature of films.

This movie is to cinema what “What the #$*! Do We Know!?” was to quantum physics.
[from Solares Hill)

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