Easily one of the most eagerly anticipated films at this year’s festival is The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology, director Sophie Fiennes’s followup to her 2006 cult hit The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, which also debuted at TIFF.
Audiences will be left reeling at the latest collaboration between Fiennes and Slovenian cultural critic Slavoj Zizek, which has its world premiere tonight at TIFF. In their 2006 film, which contributed to Zizek’s growing reputation as an iconoclast, Fiennes captured Zizek pontificating about movies and ideology.
The sequel is a singular trip through some iconic American film moments, in which Zizek is inserted into the action – sitting on an ice floe next to Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in the final scene of Titanic, lying on the bed like a brooding Robert De Niro did in Taxi Driver, and prancing across the same hilltop Julie Andrews did in The Sound of Music – all the while explaining his theories about what ideological ideas each movie contains.
Zizek’s romp through pop culture feels like a strange dream, with a mad professor re-enacting our favourite movie moments through the eyes of a therapist. The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology is invigorating, zany, entirely memorable and often hilarious. Zizek goes from praising Coca-Cola to analyzing what the shark attacks really mean in Jaws.
Zizek has legions of followers and has been the subject of films before, including Canadian director Astra Taylor’s 2005 feature, titled Zizek! The fawning media attention and star status has also led to charges that he superficially combines different theories, with one particularly nasty recent charge that Zizek is the Borat of philosophy. “This is part of the propaganda against me,” he says. “If you call someone a star, a stand-up comedian, he’s funny, it’s a way of not taking them seriously. Now they’ve started to say I should be taken more seriously – that behind the laughter there’s a dangerous message.”
While Zizek says he was able to pack a lot of ideas into the new film, he concedes some cuts had to be made – ideas and dialogue that were just a bit too perverse. In one sequence Zizek had imagined about The Sound of Music, he wanted to sing a Stalinist version of My Favourite Things, in which the list of favourites would include “torture, gulags and intimidation.” The idea could not be included, he says, “because of copyright issues. If you’re too mocking of the films, they won’t allow you to use the clips.”