Movies to make you think better
THE PERVERT"S GUIDE TO CINEMA: January 24, at SPACE Gallery.
On January 24, SPACE Gallery kicks off a series of four films and follow-up dialogues exploring contemporary philosophy. Organized by USM’s undergraduate philosophy club, this forum seeks, in the words of USM philosophy professor Jason Read, “to make philosophy part of our culture in general, rather than simply an academic specialization.”
The Phoenix caught up with Read to find out more about the series and its ambitions.
An unfair question: which of these films holds the place closest to your heart, holds the most resonance for you, and for what reason(s)?
I am most interested in showing The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, even though it probably does not hold the place closest to my heart, nor do I necessarily agree with all of it. I do think that it is the most successful in merging film and philosophy, concept and image. The film shows Slavoj Zizek discussing various films to illustrate the nature of narrative, desire, and illusion. What makes it interesting is that he appears to be doing so from within the films themselves; discussing The Matrix from the very chair that Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) explains the “Matrix” from, explaining the symbolism of Hitchcock’s The Birds from a motorboat in Bodega Bay, etc.
On one level this helps make the film more visually interesting than just watching someone talk for hours. Moreover, it makes it possible to make immediate connections between the dense philosophical points of his argument and the narrative of the films themselves. For example: in The Matrix, Morpheus offers Neo (Keanu Reeves) the choice between two pills, one that would reveal the truth of the “Matrix” and another that would let Neo return to the illusion. At this point in his analysis Zizek discusses a need for a third pill. “So what is the third pill? Definitely not some kind of transcendental pill which enables a fake fast-food religious experience, but a pill that would enable me to perceive not the reality behind the illusion but the reality in illusion itself.”
Thus much of the point of Zizek’s analysis — discussing the way in which fictions, narratives, and stories are real in that they determine how we relate to world — is illustrated and exemplified by the film’s own narrative, the false choice between truth or fiction. Zizek’s film is the third pill.
ANTONIO NEGRI: A REVOLT THAT NEVER ENDS: January 24, at SPACE Gallery.
What do you think a philosophy film can do that a philosophy book cannot?
If you pick up the book Empire by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, its dust jacket states: “Antonio Negri is an independent researcher and writer and an inmate at Rebibbia Prison, Rome.” However, the book itself does not offer much of an explanation of that odd little biographical sketch. A film can condense a great deal of history and politics into an hour and a half, connecting the viewer in an immediate way with not just ideas but the context and conditions of ideas.
This particular “genre” of the philosophical film, or philosophical documentary, is relatively new; the films we are showing were produced in the last several years, and there are new ones coming out all of the time. So it is possible that there may one day be films that are considered philosophical works in their own right, rather than illustrations of philosophy.
, Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Slavoj Zizek, More