Behind the rather ambiguous title, A Pervert's Guide to Cinema is a brilliant documentary film about cinema and the psyche. The endearing and engaging Slavoj Zizek, Slovenian psychoanalyst and philosopher, takes us on a magical demystifying tour of how films play on notions of fantasy and reality. Zizek uses psychoanalytic concepts, but explains so clearly with apt clips from a range of films, that no one should be deterred by the theory.
The film, which I should warn you is long, is divided into three parts. Part 1 deals with the workings of the unconscious in movies. It maps the way film uses Freudian concepts to confront anxiety, and of this Hitchcock is exemplary. Part 2 looks at desire: this part is particularly persuasive about how fantasy is used to escape reality but when fantasies become real they are even more nightmarish than reality. He draws on Solaris, The Piano Teacher and David Lynch's movies to demonstrate. Part 3 is about illusion. We know film is an illusion but why do we still find it so convincing? Zizek shows how even when we know what will happen, we still are drawn in by the subjective experience of spectatorship.
What makes this film so much more than a lecture, is that Zizek travels to locations and interperlates himself into the sets of the movies he discusses. Zizek's style is witty and frank, and his emotional intesity on screen makes him as good a performer as any RADA-schooled actor. Probably predictably, he draws mainly from the horror genre which lend themselves most readily to Freudian/Lacanian concepts of subjecthood, but the array of films referred to is wide: The Matrix, Eyes Wide Shut, Blue Velvet, The Tramp, to name but a few
Fascinating, enlightening and enjoyable -- everyone interested in film and representation should see this movie. I recommend seeing it in the cinema as the clips have much more presence than on TV. But if you can't make it to the ICA before 2 November and you're interested in the ideas, an edited transcription is here.