How strange it is see the banal paired with the almost Talmudic elements of Derrida’s thought. This pairing, this humanizing of Derrida in Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman’s documentary that shares his name is, in an subtle way, the mystification of abstract thoughts. The idea that one must humanize the philosopher still implies a certain alienation from abstraction that one sees here in Derrida. The key moments on the speech on forgiveness and all the Heideggerian and structuralist jargon with Derrida twists and turns into his maze of Deconstructive readings which can be frustrating, but as also illuminating. Derrida does play with the filmmakers at times, reflecting on how rude the biographies of philosophers can be, or what the sex life of his precursors could have been, but that doesn’t save this film. One can also feel Derrida’s discomfort with the camera and lights, and with the flirtations of idealization of philosophy.
The idea that we need the quotidian to off-set the “special” abstract still puts in place the special abstract: for no one doubts that a mechanic eats his lunch and can love his wife, but so for the philosopher? An inversions of banal cliché is itself a way to perpetuate that very cliché that it wishes to problematize. What is interesting is given that the thin line the documentary walks on humanizing Derrida, it does not particularly do a good job at humanizing him, and as I said, Derrida’s acute sense of the camera makes this entire humanization seem forced.
Perhaps a biography of Derrida will correct this now that Derrida has pasted and more of his lectures are being published. We shall see.
-C. Derick Varn