THE PHILOSOPHY community calls him the "wild man of theory" and, in Astra Taylor's new documentary, Slavoj Zizek is all that and a nuclear-mutated bag of chips. Zizek! shows the 57-year-old author/philosopher touring the international lecture circuit, spouting jittery, manic genius talk on belief systems, global capitalism, and pop culture, and getting balls deep into the "invisible workings of ideology." It's heady, tangled, difficult stuff, but the man's humor and delivery (like a coked-up grizzly bear) makes for a fun hour and a half.
Maybe a bit of background would be good here: Slavoj Zizek was born in Ljubljana, Slovenia in 1949 to devout communist parents. Dad wanted him to be an economist, but Zizek's early education in American films and philosophy led him to teaching. After the university judged his master thesis "too Marxist" and denied him a promised position, Zizek went at making a name for himself as a renegade theorist; his combination of Marxist thought and Lacanian philosophy didn't sit well with academia but it turned him into something of a celebrity thinker.
As his star grew, Zizek helped found Slovenia's Liberal Democratic Party and ran for a seat in his county's four-member collective presidency (he finished fifth). But, in the film, his political history takes a backseat to the man's ideas—which are blasted at the camera with spit-flecked, psycho-eyed passion. As he goes off on revolution without revolution, Marxist dialectics, surplus enjoyment, and depolitization, it's easy to get lost in heavy rhetoric and dizzying parables that zing at you like bullets cutting through long grass. Which is to say: Don't go to this film tired. Don't go stoned or drunk or expecting filler or handholding. Zizek! is a rough ride—but it's a ride worth taking.