By admin | October 27, 2002

Even if you have no idea what French philosopher Jacques Derrida’s theories are about, allow your mind the chance to be teased and twisted by the unique new documentary “Derrida.” Co-directed by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman, “Derrida” presents a respectful portrait of the “Father of Deconstruction” while also giving the man ample space to play around with the documentary form, as you would expect someone in possession of a mind like his to do. He’s no easy mark, Derrida, but trying to keep up with him as he reasons his way through even the most simple questions makes for a rewarding experience. Explaining what exactly Deconstruction means would take weeks, for this critic anyway – but seeing this film will put you on the path to understanding.
Dick (Chain Camera, Sick) and Kofman have recorded a priceless historical record of one of the 20th – and 21st – century’s great minds at work. They also happen to know how to have fun. There’s a wonderful series of moments they create which goes as follows: in one interview, Derrida and his wife, Marguerite, grow uncomfortable discussing how they first met. Later, we are shown footage of Derrida watching the tape of this interview, pondering his own reticence. Later still, we see footage of him watching the earlier tape of him watching the original interview. When one’s laughter subsides, an appreciation is left for how really clever Dick and Kofman can be, and how ideally a subject like Derrida is suited to their talents.
One of Derrida’s dearly held assertions is that any or all biographical material on a given philosopher is no substitute for close study of even one paragraph of the philosopher’s own work. To that end, the filmmakers provide plenty of well-chosen quotations from Derrida’s voluminous texts. It’s rarefied territory, to be sure, but any ponderousness is offset by moments such as when, in response to a basic question on love, Derrida simply states “I have an empty head on love in general.” It’s to Derrida’s infinite credit that when he doesn’t know an answer, he doesn’t hesitate to say so.

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