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Film Comment (2006) - Guilty Pleasures: Slavoj Zizek


  • article: Guilty Pleasures: Slavoj Zizek
  • author(s): Slavoj Žižek
  • journal: Film Comment (01/Jan/2006)
  • issue: volume 42, issue 1, pages 12-13
  • journal ISSN: 0015-119X
  • publisher: Film Society of Lincoln Center
  • keywords: Alfred Hitchcock, American cinema, Edgar G. Ulmer, Feature films, Film (International), Film (Productions), Film criticism, Fredric Jameson, Ivan Pyryev, Mark Sandrich, Motion picture criticism, Motion picture directors & producers, Motion pictures, Ronny Yu, Soviet cinema, Stage Fright (1950), Topaz (1969), [[Under Capricorn (1949)



Zizek presents several motion pictures that he enjoys, including Topaz (1969), Top Hat (1935), and Freddy vs. Jason (2003). He believes that these motion pictures, although considered as insignificant commercial trash, political propaganda, artistic failures, or, in the best case, charming commercial films not to be taken seriously, are to be taken seriously.

Article Extract

Topaz (69)

One of the standard exercises of Higher Hitchcockian Criticism is to pick the master's "failure" and proclaim it his great masterpiece: in France, there is a whole school of thought that claims Under Capricorn, the ridiculous historical melodrama set in Australia, fulfills the role; Fredric Jameson's choice (from the same period) is Stage Fright; and so on. As far as I am aware, nobody has dared to consider Topaz, the anti-Communist spy story generally dismissed as Hitchcock's worst film (at least after WWII). Although critics usually praise some scenes, they dismiss Topaz as a clumsy, over‑long mixture of rehashed Hitchcock motifs and anti-Communist clichés. However, what if we re‑perceive Topaz as a European art film‑ with its complex love triangles, "cold" marriages where affairs are tolerated, echoes of the old camaraderie of the Resistance, chamber‑drama atmosphere, and strangely twisted non-linear narrative? This shift allows us to appreciate the film's qualities properly.