Stephen Holden reviews Zizek's new movie:
In this globe-trotting documentary, directed by Sophie Fiennes (sister of Ralph and Joseph), Mr. Zizek, a blustery, excitable lecturer, is often filmed speaking on the actual locations of the films he discusses, or on recreated sets. We find him riding on a motorboat in Bodega Bay in northern California, the site of “The Birds,” and prowling around the locations of “Vertigo”; those are the two Hitchcock films besides “Psycho” to receive the closest scrutiny.
Like Freud’s division of the psyche into three parts, the movie unfolds in three loosely overlapping sections. The first examines how the movies arouse our desires and allow us to channel unconscious drives into entertaining thrills and chills. The shower drain in “Psycho” and the toilet bowl that backs up in Francis Ford Coppola’s conspiracy thriller “The Conversation,” he says, are vehicles for transporting evidence of our brute animal selves to a safe distance.
The second part examines sex and fantasy in movies and reaches some major conclusions: that sex is impossible without fantasy; that anxieties are the most authentic emotions we feel; and that fantasies, and by extension the movies that address them, are defenses against anxiety.
Part 3, which contemplates appearance versus reality in movies, explores the paradoxical scene from “The Wizard of Oz” in which the all-powerful Wizard is discovered to be an old man pontificating from behind a curtain. Even when the illusion of the Wizard’s omnipotence is exposed, Mr. Zizek theorizes, there is something more real in the illusion than in the reality behind it. And so when the old man hands the Scarecrow a diploma to prove he has a brain, the Scarecrow is convinced he is smart.