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directed by Astra Taylor
Canada 2008

 

Astra Taylor’s zesty documentary wants to bring philosophy back to the streets, inviting nine key thinkers to engage with their surroundings on a walk-and-talk. Slovenian maestro Slavoj Zizek, in a bright orange tabard, debates ecology at a rubbish dump; controversial guru of utilitarianism Peter Singer queries the ethics of consumerism on Fifth Avenue. Self-described “bluesman” of ideas Cornel West has some astonishing riffs inside a Manhattan cab which are alone worth the admission price, but this is an addictive and stimulating experience all round.

Excerpt of review from Tim Robey located HERE

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Theatrical Release: November 20th, 2009

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DVD Review: Zeitgeist Films - Region 1 - NTSC

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Distribution

Zeitgeist Films

Region 1 - NTSC

Runtime 1:28:12
Video

1.85:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.23 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0)
Subtitles English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Zeitgeist Films

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen letterboxed - 1.85:1

Edition Details:
• Extra Walk: Simon Critchley (5:14)
• Extra Walk: Colin McGinn (7:18)
• Q&A with Cornel West (8:00)
• Q&A with Kwame Anthony Appiah (5:02)
• Q&A with Avital Ronell (6:04)
• Philosopher Bios
• Theatrical Trailer
• Zizek Trailer

DVD Release Date: February 23rd, 2010
Keep Case

Chapters 11

 

Comments

I suppose that I should begin this review by stating that I won't be completely objective. As of the time that I'm writing this I'm in my final year of a Ph.D. program in philosophy and can count a few of the film's participants as acquaintances, whose work I greatly admire. That being said, the majority of the participants in Astra Taylor's "Examined Life" come from a tradition that I am not overly familiar with and therefore served as a decent enough introduction to the work of some of the most influential thinkers in the Continental tradition. Those unfamiliar with any of the philosophers presented here, will likely find their work accessible and unintimidating, but I doubt that it was the director's intent to give a mere sampling of works. Instead, I take her as pursuing a metaphor of philosophy as a dynamic enterprise (forcefully pushed by having the participants walking, driving, or rowing outside of the confines of academia) that helps us determine the most ancient of questions: "how ought I to live?". In this sense Taylor's film is certainly a success. By presenting challenges to the comfortable but isolated existence that many of us enjoy in the West, I hope that viewers of this film will do what philosophy sets out to do: get us to question some of our most deeply held beliefs and ask ourselves whether we have good reason for holding them.

The film was shot on digital HD and looks about as good as one can expect from the medium on SD. Colors tend to be bright and vibrant, but with the near constant motion of the image, the captures probably don't do justice to how good the film looks when running. Since it was released last year, there are no instances of damage or artifacts (with the possible exception of some edge enhancements that I may have caught a few times, but I'm not sure). It's also worth noting that I came across another review stating that the disc is interlaced. I have a copy of the final product and can confirm that it is a progressive transfer that has no instances of interlacing.

 

There's very little that bears mentioning on the audio front. The film boasts a mono Dolby soundtrack that competently does about all that could be requested of it. There are no instances of unwanted background noise like pops or hisses, and the English subtitle track is clear and unobtrusive.

The disc boasts a decent amount of extras as well. First, there are a pair of cut interview segments which would have been welcome additions to the film itself. Particularly of interest was Colin McGinn's discussion of the problems of perception. Additionally, the film also sports Q & A sessions between Taylor and three of the participants in the film, which expand upon the themes discussed in the main work. Rounding out the package are trailers for the film and Taylor's previous work "Zizek", and biographies of the film's participants.

While dedicating ten minutes to a subject is far from ideal, the film does an admirable job of introducing its viewers to the material. The package is quite good with an impressive transfer, so it's certainly recommended.

  - Brian Montgomery

 



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DVD Box Cover

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Distribution

Zeitgeist Films

Region 1 - NTSC

 

 




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