dir. Dick & Kofman

Opens Fri Feb 21

Cinema 21

There are some very serious problems with Derrida. This documentary is about Jacques Derrida, the French philosopher credited with founding deconstructionist thought. It's difficult to know where to begin, but the most immediately obvious aspect of this film is its tedium. Derrida is shot doing dull things like eating breakfast, faxing, and getting his hair trimmed. There are also shots of him lecturing, commenting and complaining about the filmmaking process, and smoking a pipe.

Theoretically, one of the film's intentions is to demonstrate deconstructionism. However, the film makes absolutely zero attempt to illuminate the audience as to what exactly that is. For anyone who has not studied Derrida, this documentary is as mystifying as it is dreary. For those familiar with his work, it offers a pretty unsubstantial peek into his personal life. It does, however, regurgitate some neato passages from his books in monolithic voiceovers, during dizzy shots of crap like water.

Perhaps the lowest points of this film are the embarrassingly unsuccessful interview segments. The pretentious filmmakers ask vague questions, such as what his thoughts are about love. Not only are they dumb questions, but most of the time Derrida refuses to even answer them, astutely protesting their insufficiency. What they end up with is a lot of footage of him not participating in the interviews, evading questions about his personal life, and frequently mentioning the fact that their attempts to capture him as he is naturally are confounded by his discomfort around the camera.

Devotees of Derrida might enjoy this film, if only to witness the charms of the touchy Frenchman, whose occasional bouts of humor are the only ray of entertainment present in the film. However, anyone who lacks a fluent understanding of deconstructionism certainly won't learn a goddamn thing about it here, especially since most of what is said would be much easier to absorb out of a book rather than an amateurish, glorified home video. It is a wholly pretentious, alienating documentary that fails to do much documenting. The most edifying aspect of Derrida is the opportunity to practice subtitle speed-reading.