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philosophy is garbage

February 26, 2009

[Salon] Astra Taylor knows she’s a little over her head in the whimsical, earnest series of conversations with philosophers that makes up her film “Examined Life.” But the young filmmaker uses that fact to disarm us, putting herself clumsily into the frame during a stroll in New York’s Washington Square Park with inscrutable post-Heideggerian feminist philosopher Avital Ronell, who declares that she would like to interview Taylor, rather than the other way around.

As the scene continues, Taylor apologizes for the shallowness of trying to present an introduction to several important contemporary philosophers in an 85-minute feature film. Rather preeningly, Ronell quips that it’s fine that the other philosophers in the film are restricted to 10 minutes each, but she should not be subjected to such an indignity, and then launches into an extended monologue about the healthy uses of anxiety and meaningless in the postmodern world. It’s good to feel bad, more or less. OK, she doesn’t actually say “postmodern,” but she might as well. Meanwhile, Taylor’s camera wanders around the park, capturing the book-readers and iPod-listeners and park-bench smoochers and frolicking dogs in the middle distance while Ronell keeps talking. One of these people has just been made to look like an ass, and it isn’t Taylor. (read full review)

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