Jacques Derrida is the founding father of deconstruction. Focusing on our use of language, Derrida (Jane Doe Films) shows the multiple layers of meaning at work. By deconstructing previous works of scholars, Derrida shows that language is a constantly shifting thing.
With their documentary of Derrida, Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman show that the man is a constantly shifting thing. His inability or refusal to talk of things personal in front of the camera is juxtaposed with his desire to see past philosophers do just that. When asked what he’d like to see discussed in a documentary on Heidegger or Kant, he says, “Their sex lives,” seemingly without thinking about it. He says he would like to see them talk about their personal lives because they don’t discuss such things in their writing.
His refusal to give us the same doesn’t keep his personality from shining through on the big screen. In fact, that’s what we get more than anything else. Though he talks much about his work in the film, the true bon mots are his idiosyncrasies, his narcissism.
Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman show Derrida as a regular guy who thinks irregular thoughts. They let him be human while highlighting his thinking. Throughout the film — using multiple cameras, film of Derrida watching film of Derrida, mirrors, etc. — they often visually represent the ideas being discussed. In effect, the film deconstructs itself.
All in all, Derrida is a beautiful look at a brilliant man. A rare glimpse into the life of a present-day legend. If only we had a similar glimpse at Heidegger, Kant, and so many others.
I marshal the middle between Mathers and McLuhan.
Editor of Boogie Down Predictions (Strange Attractor, 2022), author of Escape Philosophy (punctum, 2022) and Dead Precedents (Repeater, 2019).