Slavoj Žižek Names His Favorite Films from The Criterion Collection

Slavoj Žižek – the world’s most famous Sloven­ian, the “Elvis of cul­tur­al the­o­ry” – read­i­ly admits that he’s a big fan of movies. After all, there are few bet­ter ide­o­log­i­cal deliv­ery sys­tems out there than cin­e­ma and Žižek is fas­ci­nat­ed with ide­ol­o­gy. In his doc­u­men­tary The Pervert’s Guide to Ide­ol­o­gy, he pars­es some beloved favorites in unex­pect­ed ways. So Taxi Dri­ver is not only an unof­fi­cial remake of The Searchers but also echoes America’s recent for­eign pol­i­cy blun­ders in the Mid­dle East? Okay. So Titan­ic has par­al­lels with the Sovi­et pro­pa­gan­da movie The Fall of Berlin? Sure. Christo­pher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, at its heart, artic­u­lates some very cyn­i­cal notions of gov­ern­ment? Actu­al­ly, I sort of sus­pect­ed that one. Žižek’s ten­den­cy to make wild, sur­pris­ing rhetor­i­cal leaps and his pen­chant for drop­ping nods to pop cul­ture along­side ref­er­ences to Karl Marx and Jacques Lacan have turned him into that rarest of peo­ple – a celebri­ty philoso­pher.

Last fall, Žižek stopped by the office of The Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion where he rat­tled off some of his favorite movies from its library. His com­men­tary is inci­sive, fas­ci­nat­ing, occa­sion­al­ly flip and often fun­ny. As it turns out, Žižek is not a fan of Milan Kun­dera; he is one of the very few peo­ple out there who prefers Rober­to Rossellini’s late films over his ear­ly Ital­ian Neo-Real­ist mas­ter­pieces like Rome, Open City; and he end­ed up being a per­son­al inspi­ra­tion for Ang Lee’s film, The Ice Storm. You can watch him talk in the video above. Below is the film list, along with some choice quotes.

  • Trou­ble in Par­adise (1932) – dir. Ernst Lubitsch
    “It’s the best cri­tique of Cap­i­tal­ism.”
  • Sweet Smell of Suc­cess (1957) – dir. Alexan­der Mack­endrick
    “It’s a nice depic­tion of the cor­rup­tion of the Amer­i­can press.”
  • Pic­nic at Hang­ing Rock (1975) – dir. Peter Weir
    “I sim­ply like ear­ly Peter Weir movies. … It’s like his ver­sion of Stalk­er.”
  • Mur­mur of the Heart (1971)- dir. Louis Malle
    “It’s one of those nice gen­tle French movies where you have incest. Por­trayed as a nice secret between moth­er and son. I like this.”

  • The Joke (1969) – dir. Jaromil Jireš
    “The Joke is the first nov­el by Milan Kun­dera and I think it’s his only good nov­el. After that it all goes down.”
  • The Ice Storm (1997) – dir. Ang Lee
    “I have a per­son­al attach­ment to this film. When James Schamus was writ­ing the sce­nario, he told me he was read­ing a book of mine and that my the­o­ret­i­cal book was inspi­ra­tion [sic]. So it’s per­son­al rea­son but I also loved the movie.”
  • Great Expec­ta­tions (1946) dir. David Lean
    “I am sim­ply a great fan of Dick­ens.”
  • Rossellini’s His­to­ry Films (Box Set) — The Age of the Medici (1973), Carte­sius (1974), Blaise Pas­cal (1972)
    “Rossellini’s his­to­ry films, I pre­fer them. These late, long bor­ing TV movies. I think that the so-called great Rosselli­nis, for exam­ple Ger­man Year Zero and so on, they no longer real­ly work. I think this is the Rosselli­ni to be reha­bil­i­tat­ed.”
  • City Lights (1931) – dir. Char­lie Chap­lin
    “What is there to say? This is one of the great­est movies of all times.”
  • Carl Theodor Drey­er Box Set — Day of Wrath (1943), Ordet (1955), Gertrud (1964)
    “It’s more out of my love for Den­mark. It’s nice to know already in the ‘20s and ‘30s, Den­mark was already a cin­e­mat­ic super­pow­er.
  • Y Tu Mamá Tam­bién (2002) – dir. Alfon­so Cuáron
    “This is for obvi­ous per­son­al rea­son. I do the com­ment. [He did the DVD Com­men­tary for the movie] Although, I must say that my favorite Cuáron is Chil­dren of Men.”
  • Antichrist (2009) – dir. Lars Von Tri­er
    “I will prob­a­bly not like it, but I like Von Tri­er. It is sim­ply a part of a duty.”

Žižek goes on to say that he often­times enjoys the DVD com­men­tary of a movie more than the actu­al film. “I am a cor­rupt­ed the­o­rist. Screw the movie. I like to learn all around the movie.”

And below you can watch Žižek’s take on John Carpenter’s over­looked gem, and left­ist para­ble, They Live!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Good Cap­i­tal­ist Kar­ma: Zizek Ani­mat­ed

A Shirt­less Slavoj Žižek Explains the Pur­pose of Phi­los­o­phy from the Com­fort of His Bed

After a Tour of Slavoj Žižek’s Pad, You’ll Nev­er See Inte­ri­or Design in the Same Way

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing lots of pic­tures of bad­gers and even more pic­tures of vice pres­i­dents with octo­pus­es on their heads.  The Veep­to­pus store is here.

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