The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology (2012)

93% – Critics
79% – Audience

The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology Storyline

The sequel to The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema sees the reunion of brilliant philosopher Slavoj Zizek with filmmaker Sophie Fiennes, now using their inventive interpretation of moving pictures to examine ideology – the collective fantasies that shape our beliefs and practices.—P Guide

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The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology Movie Reviews

“If Stalin gives you love advice, it has to succeed.”

Like The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, the second installment in what one might hope will be a series (though who knows what else the man can say about what else in the world with the medium of cinema and so on), Slavoj Zizek commands the screen in a documentary-cum-performance piece that is him trying to use movies and also propaganda films in this case to illustrate a thesis about Ideology. Of course, ideology can mean a lot of things in the world, so he has to make sure his points come across. And he has a ton of them. But the main one I think is presented right up front (They Live) and then subsequently the final film discussed in depth (Seconds) makes the point about what it means to live your life in a certain way and then for that life to be turned completely upside down.

Whether it’s putting on – or fighting a guy for 9 minutes to put on – a pair of sunglasses as an “ideology critique machine”, or putting on a new face to get a new identity – what ideology means in this context is… how are we told to exist in society, who are we subservient to or have to look up to, and what does society do to keep the wheels moving? Zizek certainly doesn’t pick anything obscure, and of course this is one of the keys to possibly, maybe, bringing in people who have no idea who this man is or what his many philosophy books espouse (i.e. Less Than Nothing, Welcome to the Desert of the Real, etc). In fact he goes more mainstream in some ways than in ‘Cinema’, which had more art-house directors (Kieslowski, von Trier, Tarkovsky, Haneke). Here it’s big guns like Spielberg (Jaws), Scorsese (Last Temptation in a really big set piece, which I’ll mention again in a moment, and Taxi Driver), Cameron (Titanic), and stuff like the Dark Knight, The Sound of Music, West Side Story, etc. The main consistent director carried over, at least for a couple of points regarding Beethoven and how to function in the military system, is Kubrick, but then how could he not be.

The effect of this is that we see how in THE most popular cinema of the world, the films that have made by and large the most money, the messages conveyed carry a lot of significance, sometimes of the hidden sort underneath the exterior of high-class entertainment. He juxtaposes this with a movie like The Eternal Jew, which was a Nazi movie to show what the Jewish people were “really” like in society, but making a clear point that is shown: when dealing with a big “other” like a racist regime, you point out the highly intelligent intellectuals and the scummy filth; the enjoyment of life and the need to make enjoyment unattainable for others. In fact this concept of the “Big Other” is a cornerstone of the film. Hell, if you can buy into it, that’s what Bruce the Shark is all about in Jaws.

The key thing that carries the film, aside from how Zizek has the most uncanny, strange but fascinating ability to keep one’s attention through his screen presence (he looks like a college professor, albeit often put into the clothes and set pieces from the movies as was Perverts Guide part 1), is just the quantity of things to ponder. I’ve seen the movie three times now and only now feel like I’ve grasped most of what he’s talking about. This is not to say it’s too dense on a first viewing so much as to say that you get such a massive spectrum on what society does with its people – how Capitalism and Communism have certain very similar structures, what music has a role in shaping ideology, the figures of single mothers and rioters in Britain respectively (but not by much), and ultimately what Christianity and Atheism have to do with one another.

The Atheism part may be a tough to swallow; this was one of the things that kept me from fully loving the film the first time, not that I didn’t get the theory, but it seemed borderline crap. But as I rolled around the concept, particularly with the scene presented from Last Temptation (the crucifixion scene of course), it was provocative and made me rethink how I see what a belief structure is. I don’t know if the film will be as deep as it is for everyone, or if it’s even as memorable as Perverts Guide to Cinema, which is THE study of David Lynch for, like, all time. But Zizek and Fiennes present an entertaining, sometimes very funny tableau (i.e. the Stalin line) and you get to see certain movies you may have not seen before and may want to once it’s done, and so many questions come up: is there any way to change thinking about how we live and function? What do we do when we can’t confide in others for fear of the “Big Other” concept? Do all fascist leaders love cats and small children? Things like that.

A Compelling Questioning of Our Collective Mentality

A superb documentary which takes a sample of Zizek’s capitalism critique and delivers it in bite-sized chunks complete with film illustrations and a dash of wit.

While less focused than his Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, here we see him take the ideas from film and open them out to our social and ideological (obviously) reality. He questions the very nature of ideology (often coming close to utilising the process of deconstruction, something he has rejected previously) and how it filters out reality. The film, one could say, is an attempt to make us aware of our ideological constraints. At times it’s hard to know if his point is throwaway witticism or central point, but that is the nature of his writing too.

Zizek does look to the future in a positive way, commenting on how OWS and the Arab Spring are examples of society finally looking beyond neo-capitalism (whose ideology is that there is no other ideology), though it would be good to delve further into these examples. But Zizek is aware that solutions are not easy to come by, and finishes more on a question than an answer.

This is a strong documentary that occasionally lags but for the most part is engaging and provocative.

We need to change our dreams first – that are influenced by ideology – in order to change reality

The pervert’s guide to ideology is a thought provoking documentary, but at the same time enjoyable and full of wit.

Ideology is so ingrained in society that it has affected our dreams. If we want to change our reality we need to change our dreams first. That seems to be the main theme of the film. Applying psychoanalytic theory to film interpretation, Slavoj Zizek attempts to uncover the hidden meaning of many Hollywood films.

The first film commented by Zizek is ‘They Live’ which is about a man who finds a special pair of sunglasses that allows him to see the real, scary and subliminal message behind posters and adverts in magazines, but also the real monstrous face of some of those living around him. This sets the tone for the film. For the next two hours Zizek attempts to uncover the hidden, subliminal and controlling messages of a number of films produced over the last 50 years. His argument is that Hollywood dictates our fantasies, dreams and desires through ideology. Taking this further, Zizek comments that the ultimate engineered fantasy is not ‘to take what we want but to want to be desired’.

Desire, is not just a desire for something, but also a ‘desire for desire itself’. This is the main way that capitalism works. There is an urge to consume: ‘people nowadays are made to feel guilty because they don’t enjoy themselves enough’, he claims.

For Zizek, there is no ‘big other’, no guaranteed, inherent meaning. We are alone and we have to live with that. All ideology is constructed for manipulation and control. The Titanic for instance, demonstrates that ‘it is OK for the high classes when they are in low vitality to mix temporarily and sexually exploit the lower classes’. Vampires and the undead are also a demonstration of the class struggle, with the blood sucking vampires representing the high classes.

Similarly, the shark in Jaws represents all fears of American people; Americans may fear natural disasters, aliens, immigrants or other, and the shark unifies all those fears. This ideology was adopted by the Nazis who unified the enemy in the face of the Jews, according to Zizek.

Are Zizek’s psychoanalytic explanations to films ‘real’? This is up to you to decide; however, they sound plausible and are worthwhile for consideration. Regardless of whether you agree with him or not, Zizek will change the way you watch films and Hollywood will never be the same again.