Monday, February 03, 2003
Jacques Derrida, born in 1930 in El-Biar, near Algiers, the author of more than 40 books and the subject of more than 400, is the most famous philosopher and perhaps the most self-conscious man in the world.
For a philosopher, but not just for a philosopher, he has had a remarkably eventful life. The chronicle of his friends and feuds alone might make a rousing chapter of 20th-century intellectual history; his travels from coast (Algiers) to coast (New York) to coast (California) to coast (Cape Town), teaching and talking, dressing up and dressing down, might make another. But in front of the camera, he feels, nevertheless, like a fish.
Why is the creator of deconstruction so uncomfortable being filmed? Early on in Amy Ziering Kofman and Kirby Dick's documentary "Derrida," which will play at the Museum of Fine Arts from Feb. 5 until Feb. 19 (the directors will be present on the 9th), the philosopher addresses the question of the importance of a thinker's biography. He quotes a remark of Heidegger's about Aristotle: "He was born, he thought, he died." Paraphrasing Heidegger, Derrida tells his audience that "All the rest is pure anecdote." Deconstruction is an approach to thinking that is extraordinarily suspicious of biography and of the traditional conception of the individual. So what do we find in a biographical film about the individual who invented deconstruction?