Thursday, September 3, 2009

turning on minds

the unexamined life is not worth living – socrates

there can be no higher & intrinsic ideal than this sentiment uttered by socrates at his heresy trial when faced with death for his practise of philosophy questioning the status quo. the greatest pursuit in life is the quest for truth. it is worth dying for. the father of contemporary philosophy did just that despite/because of the magnitude of his public service of enlightenment.

director, astra taylor takes this 5th century BC premise & applies it to a couple of handfuls of the cerebrally gifted: big thinkers taking on a myriad of macro to micro questions all interwoven into a metaphysical matmos related to the human condition on more than an existential plane. this is her new film: examined life.

philosophy for the people marches onto the streets out of the cloistered institutionalised academia which renders it inaccessible for many, giving it real-time practical application: it need not be an intangible outdated concept. free thinking is as current & as integral to fundamental societal principles now if not more so as in even socrates’ time. arguably the tools which can be used to control it, also serve to liberate and share. the democratisation of thought: if we have the courage to do so.

cultural relativism: a modern day ethos of responsibility of values/care given extra bent in light of the enormous amount of inhabitants this world now has. where does one draw the line? recently released sci fi film district 9 effectively raises this issue [review pending] & goes all interspecies/intergalactic which isn’t so fantastic in the responsible relativist debate.

in the question of being & the quest for personal identity & truth sometimes people get stuck before they even get to one, i.e. themselves. the places we run to, in order to shield us from ourselves & the politics of the money we used to hide with when surrounded by trash as treasure when the converse might be more fitting.

despite having an affinity with all the celebrated minds this documentary features as they move & shake with their own distinctive beat amongst their surrounds, i spent the duration of this film developing a major love affair with two of the celebrity celluloid identities during the many ebb & flows which occur throughout the film. being a long-term lover of the social sciences as a political science/philosophy major & a fledgling filmmaker, i was thoroughly engaged from start to finish but still felt the tempo unnecessarily waiver at times. in a perfect world i’d have liked to see welcome limelight thieves cornel west & avital ronell engage with one another before running off with their DNA & promptly popping out their babies like ping pong balls.

the reverence which astra justifiably has towards her brilliant studies also partially limits the equality in engagement as who can not help but be dwarfed by the lyrical conversational prowess of cornel west as he spits out intellectual rhetoric like a master jazzman casually touting a trumpet from the back of his new york drive as astra successfully manages to concentrate on the road. she drives him around the manhattan peak hour bottlenecks before cornel directs her to “just pull over here” as he waltzes out dancing to his own irrepressible beat engaging with all those in his wake. he personifies wakefulness.

the mind is undoubtedly the most erotic organ, and a powerhouse of uncontained chemicals once the right combination of buttons is pushed & wires are connected. this examined life may not be the opiate of the masses but it’s definitely my kind of porn. fellow anti-pornographer femme, andrea dworkin might just [posthumously] approve.

recently premiered in sydney at possible worlds canadian film festival. EP'd by the lovely ron mann.

[photos pilfered from the ever gracious interwebs]

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