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Actors: Jacques Derrida, Marguerite Derrida, René Major, Chantal Major, Avital Ronell
Directors: Amy Ziering, Kirby Dick
Genres: Indie & Art House, Documentary
NR     2004     1hr 24min

One of the most influential and iconoclastic figures of the 20th century, French philosopher and father of "deconstruction" Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) has single-handedly altered the way we look at history, language, art ...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Jacques Derrida, Marguerite Derrida, René Major, Chantal Major, Avital Ronell
Directors: Amy Ziering, Kirby Dick
Creators: Kirsten Johnson, Amy Ziering, Kirby Dick, Matthew Clarke, Gil Kofman
Genres: Indie & Art House, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Biography
Studio: Zeitgeist Films
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 01/20/2004
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 1hr 24min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 4
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English, French
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

Where Was Oprah?
Thomas M. Seay | Palo Alto, California USA | 03/09/2004
(2 out of 5 stars)

"I recently attended a showing of "Derrida", a biographical documentary on the French philosopher, Jaques Derrida, who is famous for "deconstructionism". A californian film crew follows Derrida as he gives lectures, answers interviewers' questions and discusses aspects of his life and philosophy. It's not often that we get to see documentaries of famous living philosophers in America, so I was quite enthusiastic about viewing this film.Derrida observes towards the end of his film that this documentary will have more to say about the film crew than about him, Jacques Derrida, because it will be the film crew to edit the shootings and decide "which Jacques Derrida" is to be presented. If that is indeed the case, then the movie tells us its creators were young, inexperienced, not well-versed in philosophy; they missed a golden opportunity to meaningfully explore the life and philosophy of the last great post-structuralist.At regular intervals, difficult passages from Derrida's writings flash on the screen, leaving us little time to ponder them. Sound bytes dont work well for Derrida! The interviewers questions are haltingly broad, "What do you have to say on the subject of love?", haltingly personal, "Tell us about how you fell in love with your wife?", or haltingly stupid, "which philosopher would you have liked as a mother?". To his credit, Derrida either refuses to answer such questions, or reformulates them into intelligent ones. At one point Derrida begins to make interesting comments on the myth of "Narcissus" and "Echo", obviously alluding to the relationship between "source" and "simulacra", but the interviwer fails to ask penetrating questions to draw him out on the matter.After a family lunch, Derrida himself, turning the tables, asks an overly broad question of the interviewer: "What did you think of my family?". "Il sont tres gentils, tres chaleureux" is the response. I wonder if the irony of this was lost on Derrida and the film crew.We see Derrida eat, get a haircut and meet friends...a warm fuzzy to remind us that Gallic philosophers are, after all, just like us. In short, if Americans suddenly took more interest in the lives of French philosophers than Britney Spears, this film would be on "People" magazine's recommended list. Tant pis.-Thomas Seay"
Derrida as Ozzie Osbourne
peter krapp | minneapolis | 01/22/2004
(1 out of 5 stars)

"This mockumentary is guaranteed to attract some interest, since Derrida, whatever the audience may know of him, is rather telegenic. Unfortunately, he gets the Ozzie Osbourne treatment here - the philosopher as the slightly uncooperative star of his own reality show, unable to shake the camera crew for long.You learn how he finds his house key, how he prepares a snack, and how he puts on his coat. You see his wife, some of his friends, tight smiles, trying to stay out of the picture. What you don't get much of is the man doing what made him famous - and even less an exploration of his career. Who or what does he read, talk about, care about, when he is not forced, by the insistent camera, to answer slightly embarrassing questions?To give him credit, Derrida works hard to contribute something intelligent to the show, as for instance when he reflects on the impoliteness of philosophical biographies. Indeed, this stalker movie makes you wonder what they actually wanted from Derrida. Kirby Dick never got any of the dozens of people he filmed to tell a good Derrida joke, and Amy Kofman's flirtations with the tan and trim thinker will make the audience squirm.If you want to see Derrida talk about film, watch 'Ghost Dance' or his television interviews with Stiegler. If you want to hear him reflect on his career, watch the French documentary Safaa Fathy made with him. But if you ever wondered what might happen when you put a professor into a kind of reverse witness protection program, as Warhol did with Ondine, then watch this DVD. Beware though: the heavy-handed use of voice-overs may make you sad that the years of footage and access Amy Kofman and got in the end amount to little more than having the fan put the master's words into her own mouth."
Felt... unfinished.
Robert P. Beveridge | Cleveland, OH | 01/21/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Derrida (Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman, 2002)Kirby Dick (Sick, Private Practices) and first-time director Amy Ziering Kofman take a look at, arguably, the most important and influential philosopher of the twentieth century, Jacques Derrida. And perhaps "take on" is the best way to understand the dynamic of this film.Kofman's intention was to get away from the philosophy, for the most part, and get to the quotidian existence of Derrida's life. Which is all well and good, except that people who go to see a film about Jacques Derrida are going to want the philosophy. But looking at it strictly from the slice-of-life aspect, the film still comes off looking like a student project. (Co-director Kirby Dick, who came in after the start of production, mentions the "naivete" of the footage that had already been shot in interviews. Indeed.) It probably doesn't help that Derrida keeps throwing monkeywrenches into the works himself. It's not as if he feels uncomfortable with the camera, though his reactions at times may be mistaken for such; it is more that Derrida feels an acute sense of being filmed, which at times makes him reluctant and at times makes him somewhat mischievous. (Kofman is from Los Angeles; during a lecture, for example, Derrida mentions that the last film the class looked at from LA was footage of the Rodney King riots, and goes on to pull the parallel out farther.) The end result being a documentary with no finesse about a subject who is reluctant to be a subject.One thing of note, though: the wonderful score by Ryuichi Sakamoto (Wild Palms, etc.). It is brilliant, and perhaps does a better job of underscoring things here than does the direction. Lovely.While a look into the life of Jacques Derrida is a rare and wonderful thing, and needs to be treasured, I wish Dick had been the author here, or a similarly gifted documentarist. What we have could have been-but wasn't. ** ½"
Unbelievably self-absorbed and insipid
grube | Auburn, CA United States | 02/14/2004
(1 out of 5 stars)

"Agree with the prior customer views, big time. On Derrida's resistance to the project, he gets no complaint from me. He clearly gave extraordinary access and tried very hard to cooperate, but the crew was so intrusive and inefficient with lights and mikes and the questions so insipid, that he just seemed constantly amazed at what he was being subjected to. Alas, name it Derrida Butters His Toast if you want to do some self-inflated student art project. I learned close to zero about Derrida the thinker, other than he seems to be a nice old French fellow with a long standing marriage and a successful practice in teaching and writing. Taking on a project with this potential, spending years with this level of intimate access, and calling it Derrida, suggesting breadth of content, but bringing little insight about his thinking to the screen outside of mostly silly gimmicks, is a sad sad thing."