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Zizek and Henri-Levy on Kusturica

in Filmmaking
on Oct 28, 2008

In a piece entitled “Clash of the Titans” at the Haaretz.com blog, Shlomzion Kenan writes about the recent debate between two “superstar philosophers,” Bertrand Henri-Levy and Slavoj Zizek, at the New York Public Library in late September. At one point, the conversation veered into a discussion of the Serbian director Emir Kusturica, whose vision of his homeland Zizek subjects to a a typically idiosyncratic critique of “the carnival.”

From the piece:

Joyously, Zizek spreads arms out and declares to Levy: “I hope we share another point, which is – to be brutal – hatred of [director] Emir Kusturica. ‘Underground’ is one of the most horrible films that I’ve seen. What kind of Yugoslav society do you see in Kusturica’s Underground? A society where people fornicate, drink, fight – a kind of eternal orgy.”

Linking this to Levy’s description of the May revolution as “immortal youth,” Zizek makes another wee turn of the screw to unhinge the hippie mask: “The moral duty today is precisely to problematize this carnivalesque, transgressive model. ‘Order is bad, let’s suspend the rules, let’s have free excess’ and so on. Do you know a detail which maybe will interest you: Mikhail Bakhtin, the great author of the theory of carnival, you know that a Russian friend told me that now they discovered some private papers from the 1930s, when he was writing his book on Francois Rabelais, and you know what was his model of carnival? Stalinist purges: We have to see ’68 in all its ambiguity.”

The applause, again, is vigorous.

Levy, trying to keep up with the sarcasm, comments only that Kusturica is a case in which a man is so much less intelligent than his work that it cancels out the opposite possibility.

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