Pop philosophy and dovish hawks

A famous intellectual examines the ideological underpinnings of movies, and a handful of former Israeli security heads share their eye-opening stories and opinions.

The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology

Celebrity philosopher Slavo Zizek teams up with director Sophie Fiennes for a sequel to their 2006 collaboration The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema. Zizek drops his patented pearls of wisdom about film, this time concentrating on the ideological underpinnings of cinema. Once again cleverly inserting himself into film sets — lying on Travis Bickle’s bed from Taxi Driver, sitting at the Korova Milk Bar from A Clockwork Orange, hanging off the mast of the Jaws boat, and so on — he punctures holes in ideologies from fascism to communism to, of course, our own hyper-consumerist capitalist mindset.

Playing up his pop-oracle persona, Zizek seems to relish his role as the coolest professor you ever had. His style of speaking is charmingly sloppy — sniffling, wiping his nose, tripping over his words, and taking long, oddly timed pauses, which leave you wondering “Is he waiting for a cue, or just making this up as he goes along? Did he just do one take of each bit, or was this the best one they had?”

Despite the familiar context, Zizek dives quickly into the deep end of academic language and complex thought. As such, it’s a bit difficult to imagine who the film’s intended audience is; presumably, it’s young students and older sophisticates who like their pop culture with a sprinkling of intellectual chin-stroking. Both will find a lot to enjoy here; anyone else might enjoy the mental workout but may be frustrated that just as you start to wrap your brain around what Zizek is talking about, he changes the subject. But you gotta love any film that starts off with an analysis of John Carpenter’s 1988 paranoid action/sci-fi-horror flick They Live.

The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology screens Thursday, Feb. 28 as part of RIDM’s Docville series at Excentris (3536 St-Laurent), 7 p.m., $11/$8.50 students.


The Gatekeepers

Israeli filmmaker Dror Moreh’s Oscar-nominated doc interviews all surviving heads of Shin Bet, the Israeli security service, tackling head on the touchy subject of Israel’s relationship with its neighbours as the film walks through the region’s turbulent history.

The men that Moreh interviews are, unsurprisingly, hard-headed pragmatists; they variously shrug off civilian casualties of military strikes, not to mention the torture, and even killing, of captured terrorists. But nearly to a man, they have views that place them on the mainstream left on key Middle East topics: disapproval of Israeli settlements, desire for a Palestinian state and an insistence on the importance of negotiation even with Israel’s bitterest foes. As one of them explains, at the end of a career in which stifling your humanitarian impulses is almost a necessity, “after you retire, you become a bit of a leftist.” Which leaves you thinking, as Moreh undoubtedly intended, “if these hardasses feel this way, what’s up with all the armchair warriors saying the opposite?”

On a strictly cinematic note, the film is very well assembled, but there’s one crucial issue. The non-interview footage is composed of real historical footage and stylish re-enactments; on a few occasions, it’s not clear which we’re watching, which is problematic especially given the political context of the film and its essential lesson about looking at unavoidable truths.

In the end, people’s opinions on the Middle East conflict are so firmly held that this doc is unlikely to change anyone’s mind. But whatever your views are, the film is worth watching for some perspective. ■

The Gatekeepers opens theatrically on Friday, March 1

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