On the surface, Slavoj Zizek, a native of Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, might seem like an unlikely subject for a documentary. After all, how could a Lacanian-Marxist philospher and author, whose book "The Puppet and The Dwarf" takes a look at the Lacanian psychology of Christianity (the kids are goin' crazy for the Lacanian psychology these days) be anything but deadly dull and dry? You're in for a surprise with Astra Taylor's compelling, occasionally dazzling doc about the man who's held forth on everything from Alfred Hitchcock to opera to the aftermath of Sept. 11 – Zizek! is a fascinating look at the man dubbed "an academic rock star."
Initially coming off like a bearded kook straight out of central casting, Zizek reveals himself to be a keen observer of the human condition, spewing forth dizzyingly complex and occasionally, deceptively simple, concepts about humanity that stay with you long after the film. Director Taylor (who makes a few brief cameos in Zizek!) spends her lean running time conducting interviews with the tightly wound, twitchily energetic Zizek and following him around to various engagements and of course, his neurotically arranged apartment.
This mind-expanding Slovenian genius (and 1990 candidate for president in his home country's inaugural democratic elections) is well worth the time spent on him, but if there's one complaint that can be leveled at Taylor's film, it's that there's an assumed familiarity with Zizek's field (not everyone has boned up on cultural theory) and perhaps not enough basic material covered to make less aware viewers comfortable. That said, even if you don't understand a single concept coming out of Zizek's mouth, you'll never be less than entertained.
The clean, clear 1.85:1 non-anamorphic widescreen transfer is perfectly adequate, as the interview footage and fly-on-the-wall images don't smear or suffer from video noise. Some grain appears fleetingly, but overall, this is a very solid visual representation.
Zizek! relies heavily upon dialogue so while the Dolby 2.0 stereo soundtrack won't knock the speakers off the walls, it gets the job done, conveying Zizek's ceaseless tide of ideas with no distortion or drop-out. Optional English subtitles are included, for those who might occasionally struggle with Zizek's slightly thick accent.
Under the heading "Zizektopia!" are housed the disc's special features: seven deleted scenes, playable separately or together, seven unused interviews and lectures and the complete, four minute and 58 second broadcast of 2003 "Slavoj Zizek on Nitebeat," as presented on Boston cable television. The film's theatrical trailer is also on board and the included insert reprints a Film Comment article in which Zizek lists his "guilty pleasures" of cinema. Would you believe Freddy vs. Jason, Dune, Top Hat and The Black Cat?
Even if you don't understand a single concept coming out of Slavoj Zizek's mouth, you'll never be less than entertained by director Astra Taylor's charming, compelling look at the man who's been called "the Elvis of cultural theory." Recommended.