Derrida (2002)

Genres - Culture & Society, Spirituality & Philosophy  |   Sub-Genres - Philosophy, Biography  |   Release Date - Oct 23, 2002 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 86 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Joslyn Layne

This biography is something of a missed opportunity; the makers had such open access to the life of this brilliant philosopher and yet asked such poor questions. Even Derrida himself chides director Amy Ziering Kofman at one point for a question being too generalized, explaining she can't just ask him to "talk about love -- ready, go." Peppered throughout the biography are voice-over segments of passages from Derrida's works, translated into English, read by Ziering Kofman. The chosen passages effectively offer viewers a glimpse into his output's variety, scope, and sheer amount (as does the visit to a university's archive), and may inspire viewers to go read more by Derrida. The narrator, however, delivers them in an unnecessarily melodramatic tone more appropriate for inspirational poems than for Derrida's writing; the selections already have meaning and feeling and don't need dramatizing for emphasis. Despite these weaknesses, it's wonderful to see what Jacques Derrida is like, experience his sense of humor, meet his family, see the twinkle in his eye, and watch him in action teaching a class, being at home, and visiting with friends. His strong personality comes through clearly in this film. And, with so many of his thoughts and ideas readily available in print, isn't what he's like as a person what we're actually looking for here, anyway? While flawed, Derrida is still of great interest to anyone curious about this brilliant man or about modern philosophy in general.