Slavoj Žižek Names His 5 Favorite Films

Any­one who has read the prose of philoso­pher-provo­ca­teur Slavoj Žižek, a potent mix­ture of the aca­d­e­m­ic and the psy­che­del­ic, has to won­der what mate­r­i­al has influ­enced his way of think­ing. Those who have seen his film-ana­lyz­ing doc­u­men­taries The Per­vert’s Guide to Cin­e­ma and The Per­vert’s Guide to Ide­ol­o­gy might come to sus­pect that he’s watched even more than he’s read, and the inter­view clip above gives us a sense of which movies have done the most to shape his inter­nal uni­verse. Asked to name his five favorite films, he impro­vis­es the fol­low­ing list:

  • Melan­cho­lia (Lars von Tri­er), “because it’s the end of the world, and I’m a pes­simist. I think it’s good if the world ends”
  • The Foun­tain­head (King Vidor, 1949), “ultra­cap­i­tal­ist pro­pa­gan­da, but it’s so ridicu­lous that I can­not but love it”
  • A Man with a Movie Cam­era (Dzi­ga Ver­tov, 1929), “stan­dard but I like it.” It’s free to watch online.
  • Psy­cho (Alfred Hitch­cock, 1960), because “Ver­ti­go is still too roman­tic” and “after Psy­cho, every­thing goes down”
  • To Be or Not to Be (Ernst Lubitsch, 1942), “mad­ness, you can­not do a bet­ter com­e­dy”

You can watch a part of Žižek’s break­down of Psy­cho, which he describes as “the per­fect film for me,” in the Per­vert’s Guide to Cin­e­ma clip just above. He views the house of Nor­man Bates, the tit­u­lar psy­cho, as a repro­duc­tion of “the three lev­els of human sub­jec­tiv­i­ty. The ground floor is ego: Nor­man behaves there as a nor­mal son, what­ev­er remains of his nor­mal ego tak­ing over. Up there it’s the super­ego — mater­nal super­ego, because the dead moth­er is basi­cal­ly a fig­ure of super­ego. Down in the cel­lar, it’s the id, the reser­voir of these illic­it dri­ves.” Ulti­mate­ly, “it’s as if he is trans­pos­ing her in his own mind as a psy­chic agency from super­ego to id.” But giv­en that Žižek’s inter­pre­tive pow­ers extend to the her­menu­tics of toi­lets and well beyond, he could prob­a­bly see just about any­thing as a Freudi­an night­mare.

You can watch anoth­er of Žižek’s five favorite films, Dzi­ga Ver­tov’s A Man with a Movie Cam­era, which we fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture a few years ago, just above. Whether or not you can tune into the right intel­lec­tu­al wave­length to enjoy Žižek’s own work, the man can cer­tain­ly put togeth­er a stim­u­lat­ing view­ing list.

For more of his rec­om­men­da­tions — and his dis­tinc­tive jus­ti­fi­ca­tions for those rec­om­men­da­tions — have a look at his picks from the Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion and his expla­na­tion of the great­ness of Andrei Tarkovsky. If uni­ver­si­ty super­star­dom one day stops work­ing out for him, he may well have a bright future as a revival-the­ater pro­gram­mer.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Slavoj Žižek Names His Favorite Films from The Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion

Slavoj Žižek Explains the Artistry of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Films: Solaris, Stalk­er & More

In His Lat­est Film, Slavoj Žižek Claims “The Only Way to Be an Athe­ist is Through Chris­tian­i­ty”

Free: Dzi­ga Vertov’s A Man with a Movie Cam­era, the 8th Best Film Ever Made

Alfred Hitchcock’s Rules for Watch­ing Psy­cho (1960)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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