‘The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology’ & ‘Cutie and the Boxer’
Presented at the 16th Encounters South African International Documentary Festival
Currently taking place in Johannesburg (The Bioscope) and Cape Town at Nu Metro V&A Waterfront and The Labia.
The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology Review
This is a 2012 British documentary film directed by Sophie Fiennes and written and presented by Slovene philosopher and psychoanalyst Slavoj Žižek. This is not a film that will change your life if you’re content with eating your steak in The Matrix, but if you are open-minded enough to question even the highest order of things, then it’s message will affect you profoundly.
The film’s commentator (or lecturer, if you will) is a broadly popular anti-Capitalist philosopher, who has written some 75-odd books. He has also starred in another movie, that precedes this work, titled The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema. With a voracious appetite for popular culture, Slavoj literally places himself inside Hollywood’s biggest movies to expose and explore how they reinforce our prevailing ideologies. The film starts off with the brilliant John Carpenter movie They Live and then jumps to The Sound of Music, exposing it’s hidden Catholic teachings. He calls The Dark Knight a very Bush-era movie, that reasserts the necessity of a lie to feed a myth and how our societies can only exist through this feeding of a benevolent lie. Taxi Driver, Titanic, Kinder Eggs and Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” are also among some of the examples used in this stimulating, provocative and often humorous psychoanalytic-cinematic rant.
The Bottom Line
Striking associations emerge throughout the course of the documentary as the ideologies lurking beneath our cinematic fantasies are revealed. The film is in essence a lecture, but it’s associative thinking and understanding of the applicability of psychoanalysis makes it a fascinating one. While his delivery is rather odd, it’s his clarity of complex issues that kept me invested in this intellectual journey that clocks in at just over two hours. The film crams in so much information, that it is probably best viewed in two sittings if possible, because well before the two hour mark I felt the need for a break to digest it’s wealth of information.
Cutie and the Boxer Review
This film is a powerful portrait of the struggle and sacrifice required to create and the personal cost involved. Two struggling artists are brought together by their love for art and their troubled history is explored in this melancholic, yet magical film. Sprinkled throughout with memorable moments, one that really stuck with me is a scene in which Ushio is swimming alone – his face underwater and you hear his voiceover say: “Art is a demon, a demon that drags you along. It’s not something you can stop, even if you should. Maybe you go insane, maybe your wife leaves you or your kid runs away. You throw yourself away to be an artist.”
Featuring original artwork by Noriko Shinohara and Ushio Shinohara, this documentary focuses on their troubled 40-year marriage and is essentially a study in artistic symbiosis. In 1972, Ushio Shinohara was a 40-year-old artist living in New York City for three years, who had won a small but distinguished following for his signature work, a series of canvases he punches with boxing gloves covered in paint. Ushio met Noriko Shinohara, a 19-year-old art student who had just arrived in the United States and the two fell into a relationship destined to become permanent when Noriko became pregnant a few months later. The movie opens on Ushio’s 80th birthday four decades later and the couple are still together, although their relationship is not always a healthy one. He’s a former alcoholic who dominates their marriage and is upset by the fact that his art career has not been more commercially successful. It’s quite clear that he also bears some resentment towards his wife, now that her art has caught the attention of critics. Noriko’s work is a series of comic-style images that express messages of female empowerment, inspired by a struggle with her idiosyncratic husband. The two central characters depicted in her work are herself as “Cutie” and her husband as “Bullie”.
The Bottom Line
Filmmaker Zachary Heinzerling offers an emotionally intense look into the sometimes volatile balance between these two talented but combative personalities. The film has won a number of awards, including the 2013 Sundance Film Festival “Best Director Award”. The committee cited: “It’s rare to see a film so beautifully crafted in all aspects. It captures the complex nature of love and art in a mesmerizing and deeply human way”. Skillfully photographed and crafted it moves fluidly between past and present using archival footage and beautifully animated sequences of Noriko’s drawings. This documentary is at it’s core an exploration of a marriage that has had more than it’s fair share of ups and downs. I was emotionally invested in this affectionate, revealing and occasionally charming insight into a creative partnership from beginning to end and it never outstayed it’s welcome. Highly recommended viewing!