The exclamation mark in the film’s title is entirely appropriate as Astra Taylor’s film explores the life and work of the mercurial Slovenian thinker Slavoj Zizek. Prolific, paradoxical and profane (vegetarians are ‘degenerates who will turn into monkeys’), Zizek is wonderful documentary material, not just because he’s often extremely funny and provocative, but also due to the nature of his thinking. He’s an intellectual who thinks on his feet, and so each new situation leads to a new set of thoughts and observations. Where Kirby Dick’s 2002 film Derrida was as exhaustingly equivocating as its subject’s work, Zizek! is as immediate as lightning.
Based chiefly around lectures Zizek gave in Buenos Aires, New York and Boston, we also get to see the great man at home in Ljubljana with his son, and in confessional mode when he talks about his angst over disappearing if he shuts up. No fear of that here as he explores such subjects as ‘bad food’ which contains its own opposite. Before moderation was the key, now the antithetical becomes synonymous: alcohol free beer, decaf coffee, fat free cream. Then there’s the idea of the term ‘enjoy’ becoming an imperative: we can’t perhaps enjoy something; we must enjoy it. But how can we enjoy something that becomes a mandatory pleasure?
Sometimes in print Zizek’s paradoxical thinking can lead up a blind alley, or to an intensely original thought, but here it becomes something in between - and closer to a brilliant stand-up routine. He might not be happy with the comparison, but we could have found the new Bill Hicks.
GFT, Glasgow, Fri 15 & Sat 16 Jun.