Get Your Mind Going

Hungry for something deeply provocative? Here is a double feature that spontaneously unfolded over this weekend.

My original double feature, one I had been inexplicably imaging for many, many years, was meant to be Klute and Krull. I don't know what propelled this set other than the strange sounding one word titles. We'd already had a look at Klute and left it unimpressed half way through. When Krull arrived shortly thereafter I had somewhat reduced hopes. It lasted about five minutes in the machine. Out out!

In place of my failed programming we agreed, at around 10pm Saturday evening, to fire up last year's The Act of Killing. This documentary, conceived of and directed by (Texas born) Joshua Oppenheimer, was shocking in the vein of Herzog. I was not expecting to empathize with the antagonists re-enacting, cinematically, their sordid exploits in Indonesia during the 1960s.

The Act of Killing, 2012. 

Throughout the film, I must say, we were wracked with questions and discomfort. Without going into a needless review: I recommend this film for those of you interested in the incredible. The concept, production, and resultant dialogue are reminders of the power of visual arts, human connections, and the problems therein.

Despite the fact that we were a little shaken and perplexed by the unfolding events in the film we drifted off to sleep without any soft chaser. I'm surprised that I was able to do so easily.  

A last minute decision the following day to attend Slavoj Zizek's The Pervert's Guide to Ideology, along with a mob of other Houstonians, gave us the critical language for framing and understanding The Act of Killing. Throughout this film I kept getting antsy to share with Alex the connections that could be made (beyond the fact that both films use cinema, implicating themselves as characters superimposed or unseen, as a vehicle for advancing particular ideas).

For an out-of-academia academic Zizek's vitality for applying complicated theories to pop culture and relating them contextually is a life giving nutrient. Of course there were plenty of arguments that were completely lost on me, but during two thrilling hours there was plenty of activity among my brain cells. So many of his ideas and comments are in line with my underdeveloped ranting sentiments, especially consumerism and desire. I especially appreciated his take on the stupid film, Titanic.

Still from They Live.

After Zizek relented with his manic mad genius charisma we went straight toward the booze for an extended discussion, this time including a couple of our friends from the MFAH's conservation lab (and oddly enough we ran into another couple of conservation colleagues at the bar).  

All of this, along with a caffeine jolt picked up at the Kafeneio (Nescafe Frappe!), got me buzzing with excitement. The complicated feelings unearthed from watching the documentary, heightened by the rapid fire, wide ranging knowledge and theoretical lingo from Zizek, has me feeling quite alive and well. When I worry about my critical mind, my unanswerable questions, I will think of Zizek and be comforted.