The Pervert's Guide to Cinema

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Slavoj Zizek mimicks Hitchcock's The Birds.

Zizek mimicking the rowboat scene from Hitchcock’s The Birds. [idealterna / Flickr]

Uber-theorist Slavoj Zizek and filmmaker Sophie Fiennes have teamed up to make a remarkable documentary called The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema.

To put it bluntly, this is one of the coolest and most compelling films I’ve seen in a long time. It’s about using film to understand psychoanalysis, and using psychoanalysis to understand film (both individual films and film as a medium).

Watching it is like stepping into an alternative reality behind the screen. Zizek hops from iconic moment to iconic moment in the history of cinema, moving from the Marx Brothers to Hitchcock to Alien in one fell swoop. Zizek and Fiennes went back to the actual shooting locations or reconstructed sets from many classic movies, like the motel bathroom from The Conversation and Dorothy’s living-room from Blue Velvet, which gives you the eerie impression that Zizek is actually talking to you from inside these films. All the while, he puts films into conversation with one another, using them to illustrate ideas about the unconscious, maternal angst, or the nature of desire.

The art of cinema consists in arousing desire, to play with desire, but at the same time keeping it at a safe distance. Domesticating it. Rendering it palpable…

The problem for us is not are our desires satisfied or not. The problem is how do we know what we desire? There is nothing spontaneous, nothing natural about human desire. Our desires are artificial. We have to be taught to desire.

Cinema is the ultimate pervert art. It doesn’t give you what you desire. It tells you how to desire.

Slavoj Zizek, The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, 2007

We’re going to use this cinematic guide as a jumping off point to talk about film, but also about fantasy, reality, sexuality, subjectivity, and desire.

Do you think film is better suited than other art forms to get at the nature of human desire? Do you have a favorite film you’d like Zizek to help pick apart?

Slavoj Zizek

Philosopher and Psychoanalyst

Professor, Institute for Sociology, and the European Graduate School

Sophie Fiennes


Director, The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema

Screening Room

The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema comes to theaters and film festivals in Boston, New York, San Francisco and Washington, DC this April. (Click here for a full list of screenings or to buy a copy of the DVD.) In the meantime, check out the following clips:

The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, Theatrical Trailer

The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema – Excerpt 1 (about Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 film The Conversation)

The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema – Excerpt 2 (about David Lynch’s 1986 film Blue Velvet)

Extra Credit Reading

Alok, The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, Dispatches from Zembla, January 23, 2007: “I think he is arguing for ‘constructivism,’ the idea that reality is not ‘real’ but rather constructed and cinematic fiction helps us understand how this reality is constructed in tune with our desires and psychic needs.”

Joyce Huntjens, Vertigo. A vertiginous gap in reality and a woman who doesn’t exist, Image [&] Narrative, January 2003: “The construction of Madeline reveals that she is not a woman, but John’s object-of-desire, she does not exist as such. When the mystery of Madeline is unveiled at the end of the film, she turns out to be an ordinary woman. John is cured from his vertigo, but at the cost of the woman’s life, for a real relation turns out to be impossible.”

Theresa Duncan, Hollywood Gossip and The Woman Who Doesn’t Exist, The Wit of the Staircase, February 3, 2007: “A brilliant analysis of a bit of celebrity gossip we would otherwise have absolutely no interest in, in which a famous rock star discards his female mates, only to insist his new date transform, Vertigo-like into her predecessor….”

Chris, Analyzing the Exorcist, chris_nunnally, August 9, 2005: “It’s the concept of your body being invaded and destroyed by an alien force beyond your control – be it the devil or disease – that spawns a great deal of the terror that the movie generates. Remove the demon and replace it with cancer and a lot of things in this movie would not change.”

Matt Zoller Seitz, Matt Zoller Seitz, The House Next Door, December 3, 2006: “It hews to the anarchist vaudevillian spirit of its subjects, prefacing a detailed look at the dialogue-free mirror scene in Duck Soup with with a blank page that represents “ghostly, unreal silence.”

Movie Geek, how I see David Lynch, Penguin Pete’s Blog, January 26, 2007: “The point isn’t to be correct, because there is no correct answer to “what do David Lynch movies mean”. The point is to frolic on what Larry Niven would call a “playground of the mind”….First off, David Lynch is a moralist.”

kier, Alien gender or the “monstrous feminine”, Aussie Diary, January 25, 2007: “What is significant in this particular instance is the ‘othering’ of the organic, biological procreator – the alien. The maternal computer’s womb is crisp and sterile. The alien’s womb within the derelict spaceship is dark and slimy with a layer of ominous fog. Technology/masculinity is clean and safe. Biology/femininity is dirty and dangerous.”


The producers of King Kong visited the Soviet Union just before shooting the film, in the late 20s, and they were showing the modernist plans for the new Palace of Soviets. High tower, on the top of it, gigantic statue of Lenin. And they said, wait a minute, if we replace Lenin with the big ape, we have it. So, paradoxically, the origin of one of the exemplary, iconic, images of Hollywood — King Kong, ape on the top of the Empire State Building — is Soviet communism.

Slavoj Zizek


One of the things that I learned from Hitchcock was this point that he would always watch a film completely silent, before he locked off the picture, because then he would see how it worked purely visually.

Sophie Fiennes


And that’s for me the true mystery of cinema. How even after you see the machinery behind, the magic remains. It’s as if there is more reality, more power, in the magic, in appearance, than in the machinery behind.

Slavoj Zizek


The problem I see with [Werner] Herzog is often the overwhelming obsession, strength, that he puts in the creation of his films — it’s too strong, it simply overwhelms the films itself.

Slavoj Zizek


In Hitchcock there are always two stories: one story and its counterstory. And I think Hitchcock, in this counterstory of “Vertigo,” in the figure of Judy, presents a more substantial case for female subjectivity than many many of the official feminist films.

Slavoj Zizek


My own Betty Crocker home-cooked theory is this one which I call psychic transvestitism, where there’s an opportunity for me in fiction to actually kind of surf female experience that they can’t access or actualize for themselves in reality as such.

Sophie Fiennes


I love the strange moments that shift you, that films can generate. It’s beyond even the narrative, it’s when you actually have a sensation the film generates, and David Lynch is brilliant at manipulating those moments.

Sophie Fiennes

Related Content

  • Lumière

    ///also about fantasy, reality, sexuality, subjectivity, and desire\\\\

    Hmmmm… was going to propose a show called: “the perfect lover”

    Guests ? No not Dr Ruth, someone from the porno industry and, of course, Joe Frank, if he is still alive.

    More Baudrillard….


    Most aspects of hyperreality can be thought of as “reality by proxy.” For example, a viewer watching pornography begins to live in the non-existent world of the pornography, and even though the pornography is not an accurate depiction of sex, for the viewer, the reality of “sex” becomes something non-existent.

    These shows are starting to gel…

  • I’d be interested in their read on “Until the End of the World”. I believe that it is a Wim Wenders film.

    Also, “Antonia’s Line”

  • Robin

    Allison- can you give us a quick synopsis of those films or a particular scene or moment you think is telling? What made you suggest those films in particular?

    Lumiere- Joe Frank is very much alive, although he is getting up there. I saw him speak at the Third Coast Festival a few years ago, and it was remarkable. He is amazing. I just wonder how candid he’d be willing to be in an interview.

  • Lumière

    Yeah, I’d like to hear Joe do his bit from ‘the loved one’ again:

    Is it my suave, sweet, utterly charming, disarming and yet unassuming down-to-earth style?

    Is it the quality of my mind?

    The endlessly amusing, sometimes profoundly moving stories I tell?

    Is it my command of language? The depth of my insights? The sheer scope and range of my knowledge?

    The synthesis of my intellect as it ranges over a wide field of topics?

    Able to discuss the manufacture of extruded molybdenum, renaissance printmaking, various schools of Japanese sword-making under the Tokugawa Shogunate?

    The temperate scale before Bach?

    The history of aniline dyes, North African leather-curing techniques, the flora of the western Appalachian slopes?

    Comb-filtered developments in digital tuners and subatomic particles attendant to the cluster of Black Holes as postulated by Hawking?

    Is it because I’m a world-class expert in bioluminescence and have developed my own species of fluorescent porcupines?

    All I know is that my presence in a room is electrifying

  • hurley

    I’ve wanted to suggest a show on Joe Frank for a long time, but figured he was just another of my obscure enthusiasms. But Lumière and Robin’s mention of him suggest that it’s high-time you shape an hour in his honor. You’d have to go back to Jean Shepherd for anything remotely similar.

    I look forward to the show about Zizek. You might ask him about his obsession with toilets. The clip you provided about The Conversation reminded me of analysis (no pun) of what toilets reveal about national character. But then maybe that’s not the stuff of radio…Thanks ROS, you’re on a great run, and I’m enjoying it hugely.

  • Lumière

    ///…obscure enthusiasms.\\\

    Indeed !

    I taped the show and played for my friends – no one got it.

  • I have an obsession for the visual color feast, love, death and flying footwork of Chinese films like Crouching Tiger, Hero, and House of Flying Daggers. I would love to hear their take on these.

  • Hi Robin,

    “Until the End of the World” is a very surreal film about a man chasing his girlfriend around the world. They end up in Australia with some scientist doing some strange studies of a machine that does something with dreams. I’m vague because I haven’t seen it in I don’t know how many years. I can’t find a copy of it. It was apparently never released on DVD. BUt it pops into my head once in a while, because Sam Neill is on this quest that he won’t give up no matter how bizarre his chase gets. There is a rather faux spy-like intrigue with iconic visuals of different parts of the world. And frankly, though I recall enjoying the film, I didn’t understand it. It felt like a film I needed to see several times before I got the big “Aha”. But I remember it being captivating. Wim Wenders films can be like this. “Wings of Desire’ is perhaps my favorite all-time film. The concept of the angels reading out thoughs and being pained by what we put ourselves through in our minds. And the contrasting angelic figures in “Wings of Desire” and “Faraway, So Close”, the sequel. It was about a year after watching the sequel that I had a moment of realizing what he might be getting at. Different kinds of passions, both pure in an angelic way, but leading to exqusitely different experiences of joy and pain. And all with a bit of humor.

    Antonia’s Line is a Dutch film. Antonia announces to her rather extended “Family” that she is going to die that day. Then the story of her life and the village she is in is told. She is a singularly strong, independent, compassionate and humanisitic woman. I was struck by the relationship of the women in the film, but also by the richness of the seemingly poor life of a predominantly farming community. There is a fair amount of brutal tragedy along with insanity, inanity and loving joy. At one point there is a fabulous scene where different couples are all loudly making love in this farmhouse. It’s hysterical, but it’s also very heartwarming – the unharnessed acceptance of this kind of intimacy sharing. So antithetical to our “keep it to yourself, please” culture. This film manages to depict the possibility of inhibition without detaching from the reality of life and the need to face hardships and take care of one another. In our American films, inhibition is usually couple with immorality or some kind of separation from “normal, functioning” people. It also a film about the inevitability of death and the concept of embracing that. The film is sensual in unorthodox ways, I think, But perhaps I’m just not aware of a genre like this, that might exist more in Europe than it does here.

  • Oh, another film: Japanese Story. Set in Australia about a Japanese business man who has to tour the family business in Australia and the female geologist who gets manipulated into being his tour guide of Australia. The way they connect across some serious cultural/gender divides and where it all goes is stunning. You think you’re watching a fairly standard boy meets girl formulaic film and then half way in you’re absolutely jarred with shock and the intensity of the rest of the film is exhaustingly wrenching. It’s not a love story. I won’t say what it is. It’s worth seeing it to find out. But I’d be interested in hearing what this film represents psychologically and whether, being made in Australia, there are some psychological trademarks that differ from what would be made in the US.

    Two sets of films to make this kind of comparison also are:

    “Wings of Desire” – german and “City of Angels – american

    “Vanished” – dutch/french and “Vanished” – american

    It will come as no surprise that I find the European version vastly superior. But I always wonder a)why the american companies feel that they have to make the changes they do and b) what does this reflect about the mass psyche here in the US vs. in these other countries.

  • jongleur

    I’d suggest Wim Wenders’ movies for Zizek to comment, too. “Paris, Texas”, for one.

  • Lumière

    Paris, Texas – luved it ! Ry Cooder’s soundtrack too!

    allison Says: ////In our American films, inhibition is usually couple with immorality or some kind of separation from “normal, functioning” people.\\\

    A couple of disturbing films along that line:

    Irreversible (2002)

    Requiem for a Dream (2000)

    My question:

    what did these films tell us about ourselves


    why do we need to know that – that we are violent and compulsive.

    Escapism films vs. reality type films where the reality is hyperreal –i.e. extreme

    Why appeal to the extreme other than to sell tickets?

  • Lumière

    Here is my all-time favorite melancholy French film.

    Rosetta (1999)

    Probably because I am an artist I am more interested in the craft playing out in front of me vs. being told who I am by way of “ me/not me” . I watch for the way the writer, director, and actors manipulate my feelings with craft.

    Rosetta is the opposite of Irreversible or Requiem for a Dream – it is a very simple story about everything in real life.

    At the end, I had such strong feelings that I could not tell whether I had been manipulated or did I really have to those feelings?

    I had to watch the movie again right after it finished – then again the next morning – I rarely watch anything over.

    A photographer I know tells our arts group the story of his uncle who asked about an image: Is that a real photo? (We all laugh assuredly.)

    Funny question: Was Rosetta a real movie?

    Da Vinci said “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

  • Lumière

    ah then….

    Rosetta ends with an act so simple, it is to be perceived pure (unmanipulated, uncontrived). The perceived purity renders the act real – i.e. it is so well crafted I can’t see around my feelings, to witness the craft.

  • Alison, A quirky Australian film Love Serenade is one of my favorites. It has such a stunning twist I’ll never forget it.

  • silvio.rabioso

    This may be off topic–I’m not sure if documentaries enter into the Pervert’s Guide–but what about Herzog’s recent Grizzly Man (2005)? It seems like it would be right up Zizek’s alley; although whenever something *seems* right up Zizek’s alley, you can bet that he will shock you with a totally unexpected reading…

  • nother

    First of all it’s vital to point out that out of the 43 films that are discussed in this documentary, a woman made only 1. Any discussion concerning desire (or anything else for that matter) must be prefaced with that fact.

    I know Robin knows this but Laura Mulvey, in her essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”, introduced the concept of the gaze as a symptom of power asymmetry, hypothesizing about what she called the “male gaze.”

    The eye that looks through that little camera lens and decides what our perspective will be – is a man! The director and the cameraman and most of the crew for that matter have been men throughout the history of cinema. To think that most of our film memories through all these years have been from that homogeneous perspective, is well, I can’t even think of a word for the potential repercussions.

    “The male gaze denies women agency, relegating them to the status of objects. The female reader or viewer must experience the narrative secondarily, by identification with the male.”

    “Mulvey’s essay was one of the first to articulate the idea that sexism can exist not only in the content of a text, but in the way that text is presented, and in its implications about its expected audience.”

  • nother
  • Lumiere, Requiem for a Dream was the most disturbing film I’ve ever seen. It was one that I knew I never wanted to see another scene of again. I felt quite haunted at the end of it. And other than as a “don’t do drugs” device for teens, I didn’t see the need for this story. Talk about pornographic.

    Peggysue, thanks, I’ll add it to my Netflix list.

    nother, thanks for reminding us about the lack of female perspective in the directorship. Sometimes, I am astutely aware of this. Even with authors. I thought it was odd that a man wrote “Memoirs of a Geisha’ I was struck when he dared to write about what her first experience of intercourse was like – as she was sold to the highest bidder. He actually couldn’t write about it at all. It was one sentence. The idea of a geisha was presented from a male perspective. I applaud the effort to try to get into someone else’s shoes, but we must remain aware that it is still a man telling a woman’s story from his gaze.

  • babu

    Wim Wenders and Sam Sheppard released a gem of a movie last year; ‘Don’t Come Knocking’ which I went back to see three times in 48 hours.

    Couldn’t help myself; I was at the theater when it opened the next day and again that night. Then it just disappeared….no audience, I think. Anyone else?

  • Lumière

    allison Says: Requiem for a Dream was the most disturbing film

    then don’t see Irreversible – it must be 10X worse than Requiem for a Dream.

    I fast forwarded through the first five minutes of Irreversible, before I realize the beginning of the movie is the end !

    But this is radio, so we only have to talk about them.

    Again I am interested in craft, so both movies have something to offer me. Craft is the allegory, the story behind the story, vs. the narrative, which one may find objectionable.

  • Lumière

    ///….43 films that are discussed in this documentary, a woman made only 1.\\\


    that fact is a historical artifact – it is a distinction without any difference.

    Woman and men do process visual info differently, but

    can you tell the difference between a film made by a women or man?

    Please let me know how that is done.

    This reminds me of a show on WGBH (btw, does everyone know that wgbh stands for: well God bless Harvard? ) 😉 classics in the morning with (I can’t remember the host) he had a woman on who was promoting woman classic composers. She said something about dead, white, European men, to which the host responded: we listen to them because they are good.

    If ‘good’ is to be politicized, watch out.

    I’m thinking about the awards I have won. They are probably 80% from women jurors, since women control the gate in terms of curatorial positions, director positions, etc.

    I’m going to continue to think I was given the award b/c my work is good, especially since the women jurors didn’t know me.

  • Lumière

    ///”The male gaze denies women agency, relegating them to the status of objects. The female reader or viewer must experience the narrative secondarily, by identification with the male.”\\\

    The above is ridiculous and why, if I can help it,

    I don’t read anything coming out of academia.

    Visual perception takes the outside world in directly, unlike language, which can only refer to the other senses.

    If we are talking about visual info, the female is not a ‘reader’ she is only a ‘viewer’ – ipso facto, she is perceiving info unfettered by political narrative – she is taking it in directly.

  • Lumière

    ///I don’t read anything coming out of academia.\\\

    That is too broad – I meant anything related to my work.

  • Lumiere:

    I’m sure your work is good and you deserved your awards. That is not the issue. Why are there STILL so few women even in the position to be considered for awards in the arts?

    As an artist you might be familiar with Linda Nochlin’s famous 1971 Artnews article “Why are There No Great Women Artists?”

    Nochlin, Linda. “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” ARTnews Jan. 1971: 22-39, 67-71.

    It turns out the answer to this question is varied and complex. Sufice to say the deck is stacked.

    If you are unfamiliar with Nochlin’s article (or if it is too academic for you) perhaps you have heard of the Gorilla Girls, feminist art activists.

  • “If we are talking about visual info, the female is not a ‘reader’ she is only a ‘viewer’ – ipso facto, she is perceiving info unfettered by political narrative – she is taking it in directly.”

    In watching the clips above I found the commentary on the first one of interest but on the Blue Velvet clip the commentary seemed irrelivant and when the male actor said “don’t look at me” I said “OK fine” and quit looking.

  • Lumière

    In terms of the local visual arts scene in RI, it is mostly women.

    Yes, I am familiar with all of those – so I need to addendum my above addendum.

    I meant anything related to my work since reading everything and deciding everything read is of no consequence to the actual production of work being that I only need to stay within the frame and the work will flow out beyond the next zeitgeist and I only need never for one minute be concerned because good art will always be good art no matter how it is defined or, even better, if it is never defined, but acknowledge in some quiet way such as a smile or nod.

    There are, and always have been, great women artists; Artemisia Gentileschi comes immediately to mind.

    As Edward Hopper said to Jo:

    It is in the work – everything is in the work.

  • Lumière

    ///Why are there STILL so few women even in the position to be considered for awards in the arts?\\\\

    You know why the power relationships are what they are – it is for the most part biological. The race of Amazons, which we now know existed, did not dominate long enough or well enough to be with us now.

    So yes, it is complex, but it comes down to relationships that account for herd survival.

    ///I said “OK fine” and quit looking.\\\

    Visual thinking (my definition derived from Arnheim) is the integration or disintegration of structure.

    Was it something in the structure of the scene that made you quit?

  • Lumière

    ///…the male actor…\\\

    To parse that object in a formalist visual context:

    center-of-influence in the frame

    A center of influence is THE power object – the one that all the other objects in the frame are influenced by or derive their power from or exist in entropy, counterpoint, balance or vector relationship.

    Everything else is language narrative. The object was male, was a political narrative, at least for you.

    peggysue ? hit & run?

  • Artemisia Gentileschi was great. Like most female artists of her time she learned from her father because women were not allowed in the academy. When her father exhausted his expetise he hired a private tutor for her. The tutor raped her and due to the scandal after the trial, where she was subjected to thumbscrews to make sure she was telling the truth, she had to leave town. She moved to Florence where she did continue to create great art but those are just a few examples of stumbling blocks female artists have run into that male artists have not.

  • Lumière

    There are great female artists, but they faced stumbling blocks males don’t?

    How many male artists never became famous because they wouldn’t sleep with Peggy Guggenheim?

    Andy was rejected by his gay cohort’s Johns and Rauschenberg, but that didn’t stop him.

    The stumbling blocks didn’t stop Artemisia precisely b/c she was good. We know of her, not because she overcame stumbling blocks, but because she was good.

  • “Was it something in the structure of the scene that made you quit? ”

    Mine was not an intellectual response. It was the creepy feeling in the pit of my stomach. That is what made the commentary irrelevant to me. I, the veiwer, did not want to be in that room even as a voyeur. The violent male/passive female dichotomy is all too common even though this is an extreme example.

    I think the reason a popular movie like Thelma & Louise was such a hit was because it was such an unexpected surprise for the viewer to see that power dynamic reversed (even though the women die in the end). In Blue Velvet I can not stand it that the women doesn’t practice some flying feet Kung Fu on the dude or at least smack him upside the head with that burbon bottle and get the heck out of there. She wasn’t going to do that but I, as a viewer, was free to leave.

  • She was VERY good (Gentileschi). Still, if her father had not been and artist who was willing to teach his daughter and encourage her we would never have known how very good she was.

    How many male artists never became famous because they wouldn’t sleep with Peggy Guggenheim?

    I don’t know but I would bet you the farm that its a minute percent compared to the women who have been kept out for similar reasons.

    Nothing stopped Lee Krasner either because she is also very good but she did not get the attention she deserved until she reached old age even though she was aurguably as fine a painter as her violent alcaholic husband.

    Many of Camille Claudel’s sculptures were signed by Rodin because they were so good yet he is remembered as a genius while she is remembered as a crazywoman.

    I agree with you that the important thing is the work but when it comes to getting recognition males have the advantage.

  • Lumiere:

    Another tidbit for you: When Kathe Kollowitz was chosen for an important art prize the Kaiser argued against her being awarded it saying, “I beg you, gentlemen, a medal for a woman, that would really be going too far… Orders and medals of honor belong on the breasts of worthy men!”

    And she was very good.

  • Lumière


    Totally unrelated, but I have to tell you I have respect for the fact that you were part of earth first – although I would have wanted to, that was not something I could have joined.

    Will look up Kathe Kollowitz – you have to realize some of these woman’s issues here are past.

    In RI, there were many woman’s groups that have since assimilated – Hera Gallery, 19 on paper etc.. The reason is that, once everyone joined, their exclusive polices and focus on power worked against them internally. I think that was the result of change actually having occurred.

    Julie Shelton Smith did a show here (male nudes all cut up) and her brochure was full of femo-terrorist mentions. I think she was a member of guerrilla girls. Google her now and all that is gone from her resume. I met her at a show, she was a very nice person – not a bad thing to be.

  • Lumière

    Pollack had alcohol as his stumbling block – My reading of Lee was that she was always considered good, but that she was, in terms of fame, in Jackson’s shadow.

    Jo Hopper wasn’t considered good, but now is being resurrected as such.

    I would agree that men had or still have an advantage, but if the work is good, that is what matters.

  • Lumiere, you’re lack of ability to see how the millenia of male-dominated culture has self-fulfilled a vision where men “Simply make better work” saddens me. To throw one example like Peggy Guggenheim is disingenuous. Men have had a near-monopoly on power brokering throughout western history.

    There is a wonderful passage in Jane Austen’s “Possession” where a woman and a man are each defending their gender’s claim to have the nature that loves longest despite the state of the beloved. Finally he posits that if women have a stronger attachment that leads to a more dramatic sense of mourning, then why are all the great stories about the passions of men. To which she replies, “all the stories are written by men.” And the sub-context is: men never saw fit to educate, much less publish the stories by women.

    Women are centuries upon centuries behind in the practice of artistic expression. They have little to no legacy upon which to build. The psyche and the language of women isn’t even really at the stage of being subversive. Women have yet to find their “voice” because they are still reaching inside to even hear it. They have been trained through the generations that they don’t have a voice. Certainly, we can point to the rare exceptions. And certainly, we can claim that women have access to education and opportunity now. But it could take nearly as long as we got here to unravel the inherited chain mail around the expression that is a uniquely female genius.

    Your blithe comments about men facing stumbling blocks only demonstrates how far we have to go. Everyone faces hardships, of course. But when the fundamental cultural baseline is askew, you can’t compare the situational challenges that some men face when they don’t reach the finish line first in the male-dominated culture to the “not even allowed out of the starting block” tilting at windmills that women have had to face if they even think about entering the race.

    I grew up as one of three daughters to a man who liked to believe that he was all for equality and the independence of women. And yet: I have one sister who has two children. After her first was born and the father of the child left her, she signed up for welfare and went to college. Art school. And she has struggled financially ever since. My father refused to help her out. When my other sister, who never kept a job for more than 6 month, never paid the bills for herself in her life and dropped out of college, got married my father gave them $20,000 for a downpayment and then financed the remaining mortgage at a substantially lower than market rate. Now, he has the right to do whatever he wants with his money. I’m simply pointing out that in these so-called modern times where women supposedly have equal access to education and opportunity, they are told in a plethora of seemingly insignificant and even blatant ways, what is really expected of them, wha they are really valued for. This story is far from unique. It takes quite a well-centered and strong psyche to push these relentless signals aside and claim your own genius.

    Men may face their individual struggles, but at the outset they are at minimum a card-carrying member of the dominant tribe, with a fair chance of finding their way to follow their calling. Yes, a few women will cut through and become power brokers. But these examples do not prove that the work of men is chosen more often simply because it is inherently better. We have all been trained since before recorded history to see the masculine as the superior. We have no objectivity about it. And women have barely begun to explore what their work really is and how to present it outside of the context of being not-male.

    I think of the history of knitting when this subject comes up. Knitting was first a man’s purview. There were guilds and the work was taken seriously, and you had to apprentice – which gave you the time to study the craft and move towards a mastery that led to artistic creation. These men did nothing but knit. It was their profession. Then women were taught to knit as a money-saving device in difficult economic times. Women had to knit in their “spare” time, or even while they were doing other work. In this context they were very practical and pragmatic about the knitting. Things were simplified and innovations were about functionality, not aesthetic. And once women were knitting, the act of knitting was devalued. The guilds ceased to exist and knitting became known as a lowly craft. Even today, if a man knits he is artistic, even bold for defying the manly world, but the women who knit are crafters.

    If men refuse to see what goes on and the profound impact it has, the self-fulfiiling cycles and how one big piece of moving humanity into the land of humane-ness is tearing down these walls as relentlessly as they are erected, sadness prevails on the planet. (Obviously, these same things can be said for racism, theologism, nationalism, etc.)

  • Please forgive the length. Sleepless night and I didn’t realize….

  • Lumière

    This is what I said:

    March 17th, 2007 at 11:16 am

    but can you tell the difference between a film made by a women or man?

    March 17th, 2007 at 12:55 pm

    There are, and always have been, great women artists;

    March 17th, 2007 at 4:04 pm

    There are great female artists,

    March 17th, 2007 at 5:58 pm

    My reading of Lee was that she was always considered good

    March 17th, 2007 at 5:58 pm

    I would agree that men had or still have an advantage


  • Lumière

    I just researched Lacan & Zizek

    Wow, here we go, into the unconsciousness, back to Freud and Lenin

    They need to come up with a better word than unconsciousness. The cloak of the unconscious is too alluring and it is the cloak of charlatans.

    Zizek :He suggests as well that the true coordinates are much better hidden than we realize.


    Kuspit came to the unconscious conclusion about art. I can prove he is wrong, can I then discredit everything about unconsciousness? Wow, that would be tough row to hoe, huh?

    Any lightweight neurobiologist can whip these people silly.

    Why don’t you get Gerald Edelman on the show, his work is pretty simple to follow.

    This stuff is so 1950’s it is amazing they can get an audience – or maybe, that is why they can get an audience – nostalgia for a simpler time when all motivations could be traced to latent homosexuality

  • Lumière

    This stuff is so preposterous, I can’t stop thinking about it:

    His (Zizek) nostalgia is for very large gestures: the meta-Real, the Universal, and the Formal.

    So he looks to Freud and Lenin?

    Not very original, but then it wouldn’t be nostalgia.

    He needs to get a hobby where he can explore the emptiness of the neutral Form – clear his head of historical garbage.

    But hey, he’s packing them in to hear about an economic theory based on ‘utopia now’ – something traders call “the greater fool theory”.

  • nother

    Thank you for that thoughtful post allison and as always, thank you peggysue for your straight talk.

    “If ‘good’ is to be politicized, watch out.” Luminere I never said anything about those movies being good or not. This discussion is about “desire.”

    Now, if you and I and a bunch of guys got together over a few beers (assuming you’re a guy) and we discussed everything we could think of about “desire.” Do you really think we would have a full picture of what desire means?

    So yes, those are “good” pictures about desire – from a man’s perspective

  • nother

    Sorry Lumiere, I misspelt your name.

  • Lumiere (I think you may enjoy this – I hope so)

    regading Freud, (and our conversation about gender) Freud cannot be taken seriously without imagining, as Gloria Steinem brillianly does in her essay What if Freud Were Phyllis? a female point of view.

    The following presents a speculative fictional gynocentric rewrite of Freudian theory, placing women centre stage and men at the problematic margins of social and psychological life

    find excerpts of the essay at…

  • The complete essay is in Gloria Steinem’s book–Moving Beyond Words. The footnotes are extensive and well worth reading.

  • Alison, “Please forgive the length. Sleepless night and I didn’t realize…..

    I loved every word. I did not know that history of knitting. This may only be relavent here by a dangling thread but my mother who is in her eighties and losing her memory has turned to her knitting with a grand passion. She knits constantly and while each piece is small, in a size that she can easily manage on her lap, they are beautiful. She used to paint but now her artistic expression is coming through in these small kintted rectangles incorporating a variety of patterns and stripes. We can barely keep her supplied with yarn. My sister just sent me a box of these pieces and donates many to homeless shelters in the Seattle area. It’s kind of amazing.

  • Lumière

    ///….43 films that are discussed in this documentary, a woman made only 1.\\\

    Nother I can’t let you go without answering the question:

    Can you tell the difference between a film directed by a man vs. a woman?

    What about LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE directed by a man & a woman?

    Why he chose 43 men & 1 woman may have to do with genre-fication to get cohesiveness. This would make the film good vs. politically correct.

    In the case of cohesiveness, a balance between men & woman would be like shuffling a novel.

  • Lumière

    Thanks peggysue !

  • Lumière

    I missed this:

    ///…over a few beers (assuming you’re a guy)\\\

    why, you wouldn’t want to invite Peggysue, Thelma, or Louise?

    All you need to know about desire is that, after beauty, everything else IS desire.

    Ps scotch/winter Gin/summer

  • Lumiere, I knew when I watched it that Little Miss Sunshine was written and/or directed by a man.

  • Lumière

    Directed by Husband & wife

    Jonathan Dayton

    Valerie Faris

    Michael Arndt (written by)

  • Lumière


    Enough time has gone bye for you to respond regarding the hack job you did on what I wrote – so that ain’t gonna happen.

    Let’s start anew:

    You mention Memoirs of a Geisha (a movie I elected not to see) .

    ///I thought it was odd that a man wrote “Memoirs of a Geisha’\\\

    How would a woman’s perspective be different?

  • Only women were Geishas and it was a world forbidden to men so it really was incredible for the author of Memoirs of a Geisha to be male. I heard him interviewed on NPR. He did a great deal of research and became close to one of the few remaining Geisha then living in NYC (I believe she has died since). I’ve read the book and seen the movie. He did a wonderful job. Less talented men can do a real hack job of creating “female voice”. Cheap macho thriller books tend to create female voice in what seems to me to be a wishful thinking (what they wish women were like) mode.

    Not that women are more talented than men but because male point of view is more prevalent in society I think generally it is easier for a female writer to create in a male voice.

  • Lumière

    I opted not to see the movie because I perceived, from what I read, it might be sensation based. Since Geisha’s serve men, from and artistic standpoint it might be a subject to hear from a male POV. The Geisha’s POV would be what? The men they serve are cruds? That POV would speak volumes about the speaker, no?

    This is the kind of insight into the work that is relevant:

    //// I’ve read the book and seen the movie. He did a wonderful job. Less talented men can do a real hack job of creating “female voice”\\\

    Thanks for your comments.

    Ps. what interested you so much that you read the book and saw the movie?

  • silvio.rabioso

    umm…so I hear this guy named Zizek is gonna be on the show. And Zizek likes movies.

    Zizek also makes very provocative statements. I’m sure he’ll have an interesting answer for why he only included one woman filmmaker in the documentary.

    But until then, may I suggest that we all agree that the identity of a filmmaker *does* matter? Memories of Underdevelopment is different from All About My Mother is different from The Swamp…is that because one director is Cuban, another Spanish, and a third Argentine? Or because on is a straight man, one a gay man, and one a straight woman? Or because one worked in Communist Cuba, another in movida Spain, and the third neoliberal crisis Argentina?

    The point is that all of these factors matter…and many more that I could not begin to name.

  • mynocturama

    This is something of a dream show for me. Quite literally – I once had a dream about Sigmund Freud and Pauline Kael together in the dark womb of a theater. Please ask Zizek about any possible primal scene interpretations…

    You can’t discuss dreams and desires and cinema without discussing David Lynch. He’s one of the very few who truly tap into the intrinsic dreaminess of film. Even a quality offering like The Sopranos (overhyped, perhaps, but largely deserving the praise) often fumbles when it comes to presenting dream scenes, precisely because they are presented as “dream scenes.” Dreams never, or at least very rarely, reveal themselves as such. Because of this bracketing, the dream scenes come across as mechanical and forced. But with a film like Blue Velvet, the dreaminess is more a matter of degrees, continuous with, rather than set apart from, the rest.

    I guess I’m asking for Zizek to elaborate on David Lynch, as an exemplar of the film-as-dream director.

  • Lumière

    silvio.rabioso Says: ….point is that all of these factors matter

    Or they don’t – universality?

    The premise, for some, is that 43 men give it a man’s POV

    i.e. the premise is that there can only be two points of view: a man’s or a woman’s

    Ansel Adams said that he could tell whether a photograph was made by a man or a woman.

    Exhibit A is rose and driftwood:


    I’m still waiting for not her to tell me how I can tell, in terms of film direction, the difference. I’ll concede the writing might be a ‘tell’.

    Chuck Close’s portraits are from the point of view of the medium: paint.

  • mynocturama

    Lumiere – funny you should mention Gerald Edelman as (I assume) an antidote to antiquated psychoanalysis. His book “Bright Air, Brilliant Fire” is dedicated in part to the memory of Sigmund Freud.

    And why are you lumping Freud with Lenin? Do you mean Freud and Marx, and so Freudianism and Marxism as examples of outdated theories?

  • Lumière

    Yes, he would do that – he could be the Steven J Gould of neurobiology.

    From the above Slvoj link:

    That Lenin failed is immaterial, since Zizek is extracting the signifier “Lenin” from the historical continuum, which includes that failure — or the onslaught of Stalinism. The version of Lenin that Zizek often chooses to re-enscribe into radical political discourse is ostensibly (by his own admission) the Lenin of the October Revolution, or the Lenin that had the epiphany that in order to have a revolution “you have to have a revolution.”

  • Lumiere:

    “what interested you so much that you read the book and saw the movie?”

    I’ve always been interested in Japanese culture and the Geisha were highly trained in Japanese cultural arts. In the story there are 2 sisters. Their father sells them after their mother dies. One is seen to have less potential and is sold into prostitution. The other is trained to be a Geisha, more like a very highly regarded courtesan than a prostitute. Still, she is not free to love whom she chooses which is the tragedy of the story. It was a good book and I also liked the movie. It did not portray “men as crud”, some were good and some were bad and the same is true of the women in the story. It showed the whole culture, in particular the ancient traditions, being blasted apart by the effects of WWII.

  • Chuck Close’s portraits are from the point of view of the medium: paint.

    and the grid?

    As for Freud, he was a total male chauvanist pervert from the get go.

  • Lumière

    ///and the grid?\\\

    All I can say is …..Mondrian

  • Hey Lumiere,

    I don’t know what yoy mean by a hack job. So, perhaps we can talk about that. You seem to be offended by my post and I certainly didn’t intend that.

    My post was responding to this: “There are great female artists, but they faced stumbling blocks males don’t?

    How many male artists never became famous because they wouldn’t sleep with Peggy Guggenheim?”

    It felt like a specious argument where you were arguing that women artists get plenty of acclaim and should stop whining because men have as many stumbling blocks. Now, perhaps, you were being facetious. But it was this comment in response to someone else that I chimed in about. I’m not sure what about my post constitutes a “hack job” (especially since I don’t know what one is.) I apologize if you felt treated unfairly. Your later concession that, yes, women, face a different obstacle didn’t change the fact that you tried to equate the difficulties of male and female artists in getting their work appreciated, valued and recorded. You clearly seem upset about my response.

    As for me not responding as quickly as you deemed was required, I’m not online every day. I sometimes back away for several days on purpose both to make sure I meet the demands of my life and to keep some perspective. In a virtual community such as this, I ask that you have patience before assuming that someone has offensively written you off.

    I was curious about “Memoirs of a Geisha” because it was so highly acclaimed. I liked the richness of the narrative and the attempt at a sweeping saga that focused on what, for most, was an obscure part of the culture of Japan which was affected by the war. As far as what I expect would be different if a woman had written the story, it lies in the details and how women experience them and express them. A woman would not have glossed over the impact of losing her virginity to a lecherous old doctor. In a life completely out of her control she experienced a sanctioned rape. And it was most likely not physically pleasant. It was also with her doctor, someone she should be able to trust with her life and who clearly doesn’t see her as a human being. This would have impacted her way of relating to men, trusting them, wanting to be with them. In a strange way, I think that the practice of selling a Geisha’s virginity was one way to secure her future chastity – since they were supposed to be non-sexual entertainers. If her first experience of sex is rape, she may simply never want to be bothered again. And in the story, the protagonist doesn’t seem to ever have intercourse again. The fact that the man she loves is married and unavailable and is still a satisfactory relationship would be at the core of the way a woman would examine the story of this woman’s life. It wouldn’t be so much about the cunning of the people in overcoming the obstacles.

    That’s just one example. I don’t mean to say that a story of this sort told by a male doesn’t have it’s value. It’s one kind of storytelling with it’s own meanings, etc. But sadly, there are so, relatively, few stories since the advent of writing that record a woman’s perspective on story-telling. I’m sure Nick will correct my use of meme here, but the persistent practice of storytelling from a male perspective is like a cultural meme that imbeds us with the concept that it is the only good storytelling. So that now, we have a predilection for it. Let’s face it – it’s still acceptable in the cultural mainstream for women to like action films. And we don’t call them Man Movies. But a focus of relationships and the details of a life process are called Chick Flicks and, in the mainstream, we are supposed to see them as having a lower cultural value, especially for men.

    Please forgive me if I wasn’t eloquent or gracious enough to write my response to you Guggenheim comment in a way that assured you didn’t feel personally attacked. I enjoy your participation here and simply disagreed with that point. Admittedly, as a woman who has lived the experience of being dismissed when in a room full of males, I have a passionate and probably reactionary response.

  • “when in a room full of males”

    whoops, should have written: “when in a room full of men…”

    male is an adjective, not a noun.

  • Allison: Re: Geisha – Right, and starting out by having your own father sell you might also give you a basic lack of trust.

    Lumiere: If you get up close to a Chuck Close painting it looks like small abstract expresionist paintings organized on a grid. When you step back you see the portrait. That is what I was thinking of when I said “grid”.

    check out… (you can zoom in and out)

    Ah but Mondrian… would you say meticulous balance?

    (this thread may be about film but I’m enjoying the heck out of conversing about painting)

  • Yes, peggysue, I forgot about the father selling her. From my womanly perspective, it feels like a man’s romanticized viewpoint to not have this be the lens through which this woman experiences everything. And especially to have her pin all her heart and hopes on this one man, who happened to be kind to her once. I mean, he’s married and he’s spending a lot of time with Geishas. His best friend deosn’t even like geishas. So, he’s the one dragging them there. Yes, perhaps the norm in Japanese culture, but I think women have a different perspective on that and how admirable, or not, it is.

    And then in Little Miss Sunshine, it’s supposed to be funny and endearing what the grandfather does with his granddaughter? And the family is endorsing it, with no sign that there is going to be any discussion about it, because it’s sticking it to the pageant world? Hmmmm…. Doesn’t feel life a woman’s perspective to me, either.

    But then, I was appalled that so many peole thought the Harvey Keitel character in The Piano was romantic and that it was at all plausible that this woman would fall in love with a man who manipulated her life and coerced her into sexual relations. While people were fawning over that film I found it to be offensive and condoning of abuse. So, I’m obviously not the “norm”. Even amongst women. (Well, almost always amongst women I’m not the norm. *sigh*)

  • Hell, I’m totally straight but I think I’d sleep with Peggy Gugenhiem if it would get me into a good gallery.

  • Allison, in the Piano… if I recall didn’t he cut off her finger with a hatchet? That is the only scene that sticks in my mind from that movie.

  • nother

    I took this subject as an opportunity to re-watch the most sublime of flicks, Fellini’s “8 ½.” I have to say that I was surprised this was not on their list, it’s extremely apropos. Maybe they thought it would be overkill; in this autobiographical film Fellini does his own psychoanalyzing, it’s part of the motif. Fellini’s protagonist is also a movie director who is also attempting to write an autobiographical film. A mid-live crisis is hindering their inspiration and both Guido (the protagonist) and Fellini look to dreams and fantasy for redemption.

    I see this movie as uber-play of the “Madonna-whore complex.” He even makes his mistress who is cheating on her husband, dress up as a “whore” and role-play.

    The semiotics in this movie will make your senses swirl.

    Observe how make-up is applied differently to different women.

    Observe hairdos are frazzled or tight or styled?

    Observe who is wearing black or white or both.

    Observe the constant counterpoint of sound.

    At one point Guido says to himself, “enough of these escapist themes of purity and innocence.” “Then what am I looking for?” In the next scene his mistress wraps a white veil seductively around her head.

    -Oh, but the conflict that drives this movie is Guido wrestling with his desires. Two scenes illustrate this especially well:

    Guido is talking the newest object of his affection, Claudia. (the lead actress in his next film) They are discussing the motivations of the male character (who is ostensible Guido and Fellini as well)

    Guido asks: Could you choose one single thing and be faithful to it? Could you make it the one thing that gives your life meaning?

    Claudia asks” How about you, could you?

    Guido responds: “No, the character I’m thinking of couldn’t. He wants to possess and devour everything. He can’t pass anything up. He’s afraid he’ll miss something. He’s drained.

    -Guido only finds salvation at the end when he lets go of his narcissist desires and embraces his reality.

    Guido returns to his wife and says the following:

    What is this sudden joy? Why do I feel strengthened and renewed? I do accept you… I do love you! How simple it is! Luisa, I feel I’ve been freed! Now everything seems worthwhile…meaningful…true. All the confusion of my life…has been a reflection of myself! Myself as I am, not as I’d like to be. But that no longer frightens me. The truth is: I do not know…I seek…I have not yet found. Only with this in mind can I feel alive…and look at you without shame. Life is a holiday! Let us live it together! Accept me as I am. Only then will we discover each other.

  • katemcshane

    Allison, I not only enjoyed your 2:04 post, it was a great relief to read it. Also, I agree with your assessment of THE PIANO. You’re the first person to articulate exactly what I felt when I saw it.

  • Just wanted to point out that the film in question above (“The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema”) is produced and directed by a woman. Fiennes’ name has not appeared in any posts. Zizek’s name has appeared 14 times (so far).

  • Lumière

    Oh geesh, talk about not being able to see around an agenda !

    Thanks AK !


  • mynocturama

    Thought I’d put in a word for Freud. It’s too simplistic to call him and his writings chauvinist and simply leave it at that. His works and the works that follow from it are far too much of a mix to be dismissed so easily. It’s worth appreciating the irony that much of feminist criticism and theory uses psychoanalysis for its own ends, despite the undoubted male-centeredness of classical Freudianism. It’s as though Freud at once endorsed and exposed the male-centeredness or phallocentrism around him. So it’s a complicated legacy, to say the least.

    Whenever I get a chance to plug Adam Phillips, a British psychoanalytic essayist, I take it. He puts psychoanalysis to fluid and beautiful use.

    As far as Lacan goes, I’ve read some secondary stuff on him, and have tried to read his writings directly. Don’t want to be dismissive, but, based on my experiences so far, a good rule of thumb would be: The moment you start taking Lacan seriously, is the moment you need to get the hell out of the academy. Or, at the very least, get out and take a nice deep breath, before stepping back in.

    His obfuscations even tempt me to take that easy snide derisiveness towards the French so prevalent here in the good ol’ US and A. Lacan is Freud unfortunately Frenchified. And I actually like France.

    Still, I try to be open-minded about these things. And I definitely dug the above scenes from the documentary. So I challenge Zizek to change my hardheaded pragmatic American mind.

  • mynocturama

    Thanks from me as well AK. Sometimes what’s right in front of our noses needs pointing out.

  • Lumière


    Don’t get me going about grids:

    Imo, grids are not a compositional structure and not something found in nature

    In the movie Artemisia, she is shown using a grid-device to get perspective on a landscape – the grid is counterpoint to composition, it allows you to see what is there, by overlaying something that is not there.

    Chuck’s work…eh

    I honestly don’t get fascination with the objects he creates, but I understand his ethos.

    Chuck was on Charlie Rose last week and he said something akin to an Ad Reinhardt quote – I noticed it then – later Rose asked him what his influences are and he said: Ad Reinhardt is a major influence, although, Ad would hate my work.

    This is the Ad Reinhardt quote:

    Only a bad artist thinks he has a good idea. A good artist does not need anything.

  • nother

    “Desire” speaks to the cliché – the grass is always greener on the other side. We desire what we can never have. In those instances that we do obtain what we desire, we lose our contentment quickly – we desire more.

    I see it over and over again with men for instance. We will go to the end of the earth to court the object of our affection and when she succumbs, we lose interest and move on to another conquest.

    We are wrestling with the realization that no matter how rich you are, how good looking, how smart, there are some things that you will never taste touch or obtain – you will run out of time.

    When we desire, we give the middle finger to mortality, but mortality has the last laugh. Ultimately, our desires coagulate into a yearning for eternal youth.

    Years ago, I went through a depression after a break up with my girlfriend. I had initiated the break up, but now I desired to get back together. She said no. She got engaged to another man. Confronting this denial of my desire was like running full speed into a brick wall. It broke me.

    Movies enable us run into those brick wall vicariously.

  • Ben

    I just saw Bunuel’s Viridiana, it made me really wonder who in contemporary film is using sexuality in the dramatic form to comment on or criticize the the world around us in the indirect and elegant way he did.

  • nother

    In the story of stories – Adam and Eve sinned by placing their desires above what God had told them and through this act of sin entered the world.

  • nother
  • nother

    Ben, the filmmaker who blows me away these days is Richard Linklater. His films “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset” are two of my favorites, but his film “Waking Life” is groundbreaking as well.

    Have you seen Sofia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation.”

  • nother

    This is my last post but I wanted to say that I hope that someone, anyone, checks out the movie “Dreams” by Akira Kurosawa. Simply mindblowing.

  • katemcshane

    nother — DREAMS is my favorite Kurosawa film. Beautiful, delicate and tender. I’m going to get it from the library this week, if I can, now that you’ve reminded me of it. I’ve been telling people about it for years.

  • Lumière

    ///Movies enable us run into those brick wall vicariously.\\\

    Excellent insight….or through those brick walls

    Regarding conquest:

    As an artist, my interest is the beauty found in nature.

    If this is sexist, so beit: women are the only true works of art

    Thusly, it is not conquest, but the sharing of sublime moments that characterizes my relationships with women; relationships that, over time, are corrupted by power.

  • nother

    Katemcshane, my plan was to watch it again and blog while I was watching it, like I did for “8 1/2”, but I ran out of time.

    I’m going to watch it again this week and It would be great if you would email your thoughts on the movie after you watch it, I’ve never talked to anyone else who has seen it. I was even strolling through the internet to find some writings on it, and I couldn’t.

    btw, I think “breathtaking” would be an even better description than “mindblowing.” 🙂



  • nother

    Lumiere, thank you for writing, “corrupted by power.” I would maybe appreciate it a little more if you took ownership of those words and said something like “I” was corrupted by “my” desire for power – but it’s a start.

    Your combative nature on these threads has me wanting to avoid engaging you in conversation, but your self-deprecating post above offers me hope. I would be more open if I read more comments from you that started “good point Potter/Peggysue/Allison, I hadn’t thought about that. It feels like you’ve been more inclined to tear down – in the past, but maybe thats in the past. Lumiere you are in presence of some fascinating souls in this ROS circle and it would be a shame if you didn’t try to tap into that. Please don’t look for battles, enrich yourself with the knowledge and energy of these people; you have nothing to prove here.

    And by the way, I too find the beauty of woman one of the few joys of life and I too yearn for those shared moments of sublimity, and I too have been corrupted by my desire for power.

    So we can a least agree on that. 🙂

  • Lumière

    There were many relationships, but corrupted by power was the universal insight.

    I hesitated to post that – ran over all the relationships for half hour or so.

    But it was the ‘corrupted by power’ that finally motivated me to post it and that it was perhaps a different POV.

    Power came from within and from without (society’s demands). My perception that beauty be uncorrupted by power, was what let me, let them go.

    Ps. If I say excellent insight to you, which I did, it is not a matter of polite form, but, I hope, a true reading of your thought, which I enjoyed.

  • Ok, I”m sneaking in one last comment before getting the car for a retreat.

    I think a conversation about the concept of relatonships being corrupted by power would be a good one. Thanks for that kernel, Lumiere. The idea of keeping the focus on what we see in our personal relationships, or in literature and films, before pulling that lens out to see how it looks in the larger context of culture would be interesting to me. I have a feelng we would not be able to get away from your thought, Lumiere, about power from within and without. And maybe an exploration of how desire may stem from a feeling of being diesmpowered? Maybe, desire is handing our power over to the object of our desire? Maybe we don’t like to have power over ourselves? You know, as stated in that Marianne Williamson quote that Nelson Mandela used. The one about being afraid of our power.

    Now, women as the only true works of art? Hmmm. Why not all human beings? Why not all animals? Why not all of nature? Why not the entirety of universe? it certainly seems to have been posited by artists throughout time that women are the essence of beauty. You’re right to think that some of us might consider that very much a masculine perspective. I’ve seen some exquisitely beautiful men in my time. But I will admit that I have more than once said that I see more women that I find attractive – visually – than men. Still, isn’t beauty in the eye of the beholder? Anyway, another good topic for discussion: How can anyone define beauty?

    and in the spirit of my advice to inquire: please tell me more about what you mean “corrupted by power”. Those words can mean a lot of different things to different people. It would be good to understand what you are trying to express here. (And, I assure you that I understand power grabbing to be an equal opportunity employer when it comes to gender!)

    Have fun while I’m gone, everybody. (I think I’ll get “Dreams” when I return. Maybe we can have an ROS conversation about that on my Circles forum.

  • jazzman

    Lumière What is your definition of Art? Mine is “Work, well done.” (sorry Potter I just wanted another opinion.)

  • Lumière

    Hey jazz:

    I’m on record as not willing (or maybe not able) to define art.

    You’ve been missing that action at ‘woman at war’ or as I like to call it WW 3

  • Ben

    Thx for the suggestions nother. will ck out the before each. I remember liking Linklater most with Slacker, which was absolutely great, but like a lot of art I love from that era, it now seems somewhat innocent against the backdrop of paranoia and hyper-reality we live with today. L.I.T. was also incredible, but seemed more longing or wistful than the sharp stick in the eye that previous generations like Bunuel produced. Maybe in a time when movies like Syriana or Maria Full of Grace are made as critical statements, the timelessness of directing irony and metaphor at big targets like class or the state are lost as they brush up against our modern directness. Or old movies just may have longer to gestate and produce deeper reactions through their survival?

  • Lumière

    good point Slavoj, I hadn’t thought about that

    Unbelievable !

    Slavoj opens the show with basically the wiki from the first post !

  • Lumière

    good point Slavoj, Sophie, Chris, I hadn’t thought about that

    “People need pain for real”

    i.e. feelings are real !

    We dream to be slaves – passivity is difficult


    Fiennes: Hitchcock watches silent to get purely visual

    The magic remains – after you see the machinery the magic remains

    Feelim – Chris !

    Slavoj Lynch, Altman: The way they wage reality (the medium about the medium)

    Didn’t like Herzog – overwhelms film

    Open democracy/open space reveals our slavery/ amateur cinema / not yet found its (center?)

    Slavoj’s best insight: Freedom exists through great discipline

    Fiennes: disses Youtube b/c is uploaded from TV

    Slavoj: male gaze objectifying woman : opposes this view / woman are not constituted this way in cinema


  • Lumière

    good point Slavoj, I hadn’t thought about that


    It’s called an allegory….

  • I think women are both their masks and that which is behind the masks. And I don’t think a man can tell us what women really are.

  • Lumière

    I am only a mask

  • Lumière

    Did he just call her a freak?

  • jazzman

    Lumière Says: I’m on record as not willing (or maybe not able) to define art…You’ve been missing that action at ‘woman at war’ or as I like to call it WW 3

    Why not willing? What have you got to lose? Give it your best shot – you call your work Art – what makes it so? I will remain missing for the most part as I unfortunately have been tasked with a Herculean project that is taking all my work time (8 hrs.) and unpaid overtime (2-3hrs/day) and my only computer is here at work so this is 1 of the few posts I can make. I can’t get involved in any meta-philosophical or hot button discussions as they take too much time and effort.


  • mynocturama

    I can see Zizet’s point about Herzog’s intensity being almost strangulating. I still think he’s a great director though.

  • Lumiere,

    I just have to say regarding the movie, Artemisia, you know the scene during the trial when she’s in the thumbscrews? In the movie she gazes longingly at Tassi and says, “I love only you”. I did a term paper on her and read the actual court transcript. She had a much better line. According to the court record she screamed “This is a fine substitute for the wedding ring you promised me!” Why anyone would change the perfect line (not to mention what she actually said) is beyond me. They turned her into a sap.

  • mynocturama

    Herzog may represent something of an antithesis to Zizek: passionate, romantic, intense, unabashedly serious, vs. ironic, contrarian, oblique. A simplistic contrast to be sure (I’m not saying Zizek isn’t serious in his way), but it might highlight Zizek’s antipathy to Herzog.

    I loved Grizzly Man by the way. Slavoj should see it.

  • mynocturama

    I should include “impish” as an adjective for Zizek.

  • To Lumiere who said: “If this is sexist, so beit: women are the only true works of art”

    Is that why, (to quote a Guerrilla Girls’ Poster), “less than 5% of the artists in the Modern Art section of the Metropolitan Museum are women, but 85% of the nudes are female. Do women have to get naked to get into the Met?”

  • Haes*

    You can tell the difference between visual art created by men versus women.

    Handke’s The Piano is completely different from Noe’s Irreversible.

    Laura Mulvey is outdated and even she has amended her views on women and cinema.

    And to those who brought up Lacan, Lacan is Freud plus Structuralism, and for that reason (among others!) the words “desire” and “real” are very complicated in this context.

    Also, wiki’ing a term, concept, or theorist does not constitute “research.”

  • Lumière

    ///Also, wiki’ing a term, concept, or theorist does not constitute “research.”\\\

    Would it constitute due diligence?


  • Lumière

    jazzman Says: “Work, well done.”

    That could include a Toyota Camry or a grilled ribeye, no?

    Joseph Beuys’ definition might apply: everything is art and everyone is an artist.

    To define something is to exclude everything else – I don’t want to exclude any possibilities, that is why I hesitate.

    But….what you are asking me to do is to lay-it-on-the-line as you do – good luck with this:

    Visual art is, by way of an artist’s intent, the structure of space into a visual allegory: expression, resolution, or suspension of


  • Haes*

    Dilettante-ish, perhaps, but not due diligence.

  • Lumière

    allison Says: And I don’t think a man can tell us what women really are.

    Fair enough, everyone defines himself or herself.

    I think Slavoj was trying to say that a movie, from a man’s perspective, is defining men. The women in cinema are a device used to define a man.

    Women are not intended to be real, but contra-man.

    Slavoj might be saying feminism isn’t relevant to this type of movie because cinema isn’t trying to define women.

  • Lumière

    peggysue Says: Is that why, (to quote a Guerrilla Girls’ Poster), “less than 5% of the artists in the Modern Art section of the Metropolitan Museum are women, but 85% of the nudes are female. Do women have to get naked to get into the Met?”

    Good question

    My arts group is 65% women

    65% of my arts group do nudies (as we call them)

    100% of the nudies are female

    Is any of this to be construed as narcissistic?

    As an artist, you know artists tend to use what ever is readily accessible to them. Although difficult to find, female models are available.

    That is the irony of analyzing art – sometimes a cigar, is just a cigar.

  • Lumière

    nother Says: //// It feels like you’ve been more inclined to tear down…\\\

    good point nother, I hadn’t thought about that

    One of the precepts of modernism is to tear down and then rebuild.

    On this thread I perhaps tear down (not really tear down, more likely jesting) psychoanalysis, but I offer to replace it with neurobiology.

    Hope this helps.

  • Lumière

    Haes* Says: Dilettante-ish, perhaps, but not due diligence.

    Just to be sure, I looked up dilettante in the wiktionary (btw, first time user of the wiktionary.)

    dilettante : A person who enjoys the arts.

    Indeed I do !

    Dilettante I am, because I am not interested in an overbearing knowledge of things.

    For example,

    I prefer not to be weighted down by the infinite substance of Spinoza, but to have it pass through me, like gravity.

    Knowledge of the elephant in the room of Kurdistan is of no value to me, although I am certainly glad for the people of Kurdistan.

    It is the process of learning new things – the context within which they are acquired, that matters most to me.

    I’m sure Slavoj would agree, it is best not to be a slave to anything, with the exception of great discipline.

  • a cigar is NEVER just a cigar.

  • Lumière

    mynocturama Says: I should include “impish” as an adjective for Zizek.

    From oblique (high view point), to “impish”.

    …..after seeing the machinery, will the magic remain?

    File under: machinery, magic, Avril Lavigne

  • Lumière

    a nudie is NEVER just a nudie?

  • There are naked men in art but they are almost always represented in a very different context than naked women are. There is Michelangelo’s David with his slingshot. Compare that to Ingres’s Oddalisque.

    There were a few feminist artists in the 1970s who painted male nudes in the same manner we are used to seeing female nudes, passive & beckoning, these look disturbing to us because we are so unaccustomed to seeing men portrayed in this manner whereas we see passive naked women all the time.

  • Perhaps in the high art world the passive male remains an endangered species. But in advertising and pop culture men have been “leaning” (as Susan Bardo describes in The Male Body—here’s an excerpt: since the 1970s. And this passive aesthetic can be traced to David. The comparison of David to Odalisque is telling, however. Ingres’ subject stares at the viewer seductively—and remember too that an odalisque is a sex slave.

    There are more favorable comparisons, however. Have a look at Jacques-Louis David’s The Intervention of the Sabine Women or Poussin’s Tancred and Erminia. I guess my point is a rather broad a non-controversial one: there are multiple traditions in western art and there are not a few examples out there too help us rethink the most traditional and dominant forms of male and feminine aesthetics.

    Of course, we still have the problem of all male artists.

  • jazzman

    Lumière says to my contention that Art = “Work, well done”: That could include a Toyota Camry or a grilled ribeye, no?

    Yes, a well done ribeye (especially bleu) can be definitely termed a work of art, the Camry as well.

    and then ventures a credo to my query as to his definition of art: good luck with this: Visual art is, by way of an artist’s intent, the structure of space into a visual allegory: expression, resolution, or suspension of conflict.

    I meant ART in the META sense encompassing all sensual experience of ART but I’ll start with visual and pose a few questions.

    Is intent necessary for a work to be ART? Is the intent implicit in creating the vision (which rules out unintended n-order consequences?) Is the defining the structure of space necessary to the ART (I assume you mean negative as well as positive space?) Is ART required to be allegorical or can it just be?

    Expression is the meat of Joseph Beuys’ definition. Why resolution? Suspension of conflict? I suppose that harks back to your confrontational style of self edification: Confront, resolve, suspend conflict. I say “Work” to differentiate from “mother nature’s art” (and she is a spectacular artist – even employing her humans in her quest for beauty but I don’t count those efforts as ART – you could say that the intent is missing) and “well done” to allow for the infinite perceptions of others.


  • Lumiere says:”I think Slavoj was trying to say that a movie, from a man’s perspective, is defining men. The women in cinema are a device used to define a man.

    Women are not intended to be real, but contra-man.”

    With this I can completely agree. I also liked the quote from the director of “Breaking the Waves” where he saw the female character as himself. I can certainly accept that men explore a piece of themselves in the female characters they create.

    But, if this is the case, then it argues for the premise that a film created by a man is inherently different than a film created by a woman. And, that, if we are to all experience the full perspective of human experience, we need to hear/see that which comes from women, as well.

  • Lumiere says: “On this thread I perhaps tear down (not really tear down, more likely jesting) psychoanalysis, but I offer to replace it with neurobiology.”

    Don’t you mean “jousting” rather than “jesting?”

    (That was my attempt at humor. If for no other reason than to show how poorly humor travels over the ‘internets’. Hence the creation of the ubiquitous smileys. Some attempt at indicating the author’s tone. I’d like to suggest that we all use the ‘wink” smiley if we’re being humorous. It looks like this: ; ) (that is, a semi-colon and close parenthesis (or a semi-colon and capital D for a big smile.) Many, many parts of threads have become heated due to an attemp to inject humor which was not read as humor by other posters. Just a thought about how to keep things light…..)

  • Lumière


    I wanted to have a definition that is definitive and inclusive. (The basis of the definition is that visual perception takes the outside world in directly. Thus the definition can only be used on an object that has been perceived – it can not be used to describe a genre or movement.)

    Beuys quip is a sentiment – which I like – but a definition must exclude something.

    A.C Danto includes universality and a historical/cultural component in his thoughts of art.


    Intent might eliminate paintings of an elephant, a computer, or a 4-year-old child. Intent might eliminate The Velvet Elvis, but would include Marcel Duchamp’s urinal.

    Structure of space:

    I was reading a blog about Joe Frank’s work. They were discussing a guy who took Joe’s words and re-wrote them sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph. They couldn’t decide whether this was plagiarism because they didn’t understand that there is a structure to Joe’s work. Just changing the words didn’t negate plagiarism of that structure.

    Visual allegory:

    The concept of the visual allegory gets arcane, but it comes from Rudolf Arnheim’s The Power of the Center: A Study of Composition in the Visual Arts (1982).

    That there are three possible types of allegory, stemming from an assertion that artistic motivation comes from inner conflict,

    is my contribution.

    The structure of an image can be described in terms of one of three visual allegories:

    The expression of conflict

    The resolution of conflict

    The suspension of conflict

    In portraiture the visual allegory is found in the gaze/expression of the sitter. Run your cursor up and down the titles and the image appears at right on Peggysue’s link above – notice anything about the gaze(s)? There are two that jump out at me as different from the rest.

    Chuck’s self-portrait is exactly the gaze I coaxed from a sitter for the expression of conflict.

    Note the infant: resolution or suspension?

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