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Examined Life

Slavoj Zizek , Cornel West , Astra Taylor  |  NR |  DVD
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Slavoj Zizek, Cornel West, Peter Singer, Judith Butler, Kwame Anthony Appiah
  • Directors: Astra Taylor
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Zeitgeist Films
  • DVD Release Date: February 23, 2010
  • Run Time: 88 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #92,289 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Examined Life" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews


This film is good for your soul! So engaging, hopeful and against-the-grain that it becomes a must-see cinematic tonic for these confusing times. --Scott Macaulay, Filmmaker Magazine

A stimulating quest for meaning.... It's as inviting and accessible as a smart conversation with fascinating friends. --Jeff Shannon, Seattle Times

Ideas beam out from Astra Taylor's engaging new philoso-doc Examined Life; the viewer basks in the intelligence on-screen and, occasionally, soaks up the rays. --J. Hoberman, The Village Voice

Product Description

In Examined Life, filmmaker Astra Taylor (Zizek!) liberates philosophy from the sterile world of academia through entertaining and thought-provoking excursions with some of today's most famous and influential thinkers. Peter Singer's thoughts on the ethics of consumption are amplified against the backdrop of Fifth Avenue's posh boutiques. Slavoj Zizek questions current beliefs about the environment while sifting through a garbage dump. Michael Hardt ponders the nature of revolution while surrounded by symbols of wealth and leisure. Judith Butler and Sunaura Taylor stroll through San Francisco's Mission District questioning our culture's fixation on individualism. And while driving through Manhattan, Cornel West--called "a genius" and "an oracle" by President Obama--compares philosophy to jazz and blues, reminding us how intense and invigorating a life of the mind can be. Offering privileged moments with great thinkers from fields ranging from ethics to cultural theory, Examined Life reveals philosophy's power to transform the way we see the world around us and imagine our place in it.

- 16:9 anamorphic transfer, enhanced for widescreen TVs
- Two extra philosopher walks
- Q&A's with Cornel West, Avital Ronell, Kwame Anthony Appiah and director Astra Taylor
- Theatrical trailers
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired
- Philosopher bios and selected bibliographies

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
I know that "Examined Life" is fascinating to viewers from a wide range of ages, because I'm fascinated in my mid-50s by the questions filmmaker Astra Taylor raises among these top philosophers. Then, in addition, I showed portions of this film to a high school class and they were intrigued. Because our time was limited, I fast-forwarded through one sequence, which led one boy to pop up with: "Wait. We'll miss what she's saying if you do that." If you're familiar with high school classes, you'll know that's a surprising response to a documentary about philosophers.

After class, a girl in the group asked if she could borrow the DVD to see the film from start to finish. There were no grades involved in this. She was genuinely hooked by these heady questions raised by men and women from a wide range of philosophical disciplines--literally walking and talking in the streets.

That's a sign of Taylor's success with her guerrilla, street-level, quick-hit version of life's big philosophical questions. One example of the film's almost break-neck pace is that Cornell West is filmed while riding in a car cruising down a street in Manhattan as if he might jump out at the next corner and vanish. So, he seems to pile his words of wisdom quickly on top of each other.

What??? We wonder: Did Cornell West just summarize several thousand years of human civilization in less than 3 minutes? Zoom! And we're on to the next philosopher.

This is fun, mind-bending stuff. If you don't care for one philosopher's digression into George W. Bush's morality--hey, don't worry. You'll be across town on a different street--or maybe in an airport--or maybe somewhere else--with yet another philosopher in just a moment.

Great film. If you watch it with friends or a discussion circle, you'll have no shortage of stuff to talk about--and to (politely and compassionately, I hope)--debate!
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Questions with Good Philosophers December 30, 2009
I shall first mention that I have not seen the bonus features.

Now with that procedural matter out of the way--I would like to comment that this film is wonderful. It does not lend itself to a detailed study of the philosophers that appear in the film. Rather, small doses of the personalities and individual styles of each of the philosophers is presented in the snippets--sometimes in unexpected ways. The very intelligent Martha Nussbaum comes across as being slightly detached and cold. The often combative and difficult writing of Judith Butler is erased or at least belied by her interactions with the sister of the director.

This film is good because it gives multiple perspectives, though favouring continental thought, about what it means to lead an examined life. What does it mean to become a philosopher and most importantly what does it mean to philosophize? These thinkers deal with these difficult questions, and perhaps it is these questions that are the root and possibility of philosophy itself.

This is not a film for people looking to learn about a particular philosophy. The film is heavily edited and does not go into detailed arguments about each line of thinking.

The film is great for style. Avital Ronell, the dark lady of deconstruction, talks in the language of Derrida and Heidegger as she walks in a "hermeneutic" path of circling ideas. Cornel West gives his sporadic and enthusiastic responses in the back of a cab. Nussbaum walks along straight paths and over bridges. Michael Hardt talks about revolution while rowing a boat( an upper class pastime) while surrounded with the tools of the proletariat(bull dozers). Zizek is surrounded by garbage (a classic move) moving with his tic-ish hand gestures and nose rubs.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Enjoyable and Accessible February 20, 2010
I thoroughly enjoyed this film. For the most part, the ideas were presented clearly and in plain English (a rarity when it comes to philosophy) and the philosophies were enlivened by the diverse personalities of the presenters.
What I enjoy about Philosophy is finding new ways to think about things and there were plenty of these to be had in this film.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Finite Journey Towards an Infinite Destination March 9, 2012
Through art and philosophy, the material-minded man or woman is inveigled into the contemplation of the spiritual realities and universe values of eternal meanings. And so it is largely due to my appreciation for philosophy and art that I enjoyed watching the streaming version of this movie that streamed its way into my cosmic consciousness like a raging river of deep thoughts with superior gems of theoretical conjecturing and speculative reasoning often flowing considerably faster than my ability to comprehend. In fact, I recall a few memorable instances where I even enjoyed the rapid rhythmic structure of verbosity-saturated sentences containing numerous funky words whose meanings were far beyond my limited intellectual grasp. They simply flowed like passionately-potent pastry-prose poetry combining the occasional street-slang slur with intricately woven phrases of subtle sophistication concealing their hidden mystery-meanings beneath lyrical layers of perplexingly abstract idea-patterns. The presentation style contradicted what I have come to expect from many documentaries, namely a question-answering talking head in a well-lit dull-looking room, just sitting there in that sleepy chair with the very absence of movement in the scene inherently evoking a sense of boredom in me unless I am hearing content interesting enough to sufficiently sustain my motivation to stay awake. So, in this film, the non-traditional use of walking alongside the talking philosopher (or being in a moving car) while they extemporaneously expounded about this or that was a refreshingly welcome change from the usual soporific format. And to me, it had philosophical implications as well since I perceive philosophy to be more about The Journey as opposed to The Destination. The Journey of Life is more about The Search for Truth and where that takes me rather than foolishly thinking I found all of IT at some hypothetically final destination point in time and space where the journey is no more.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
It's fun too.
Published 1 month ago by Guy Till
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a wonderful inducement to think
I first came across this CD on the net and watched it over so many times that I bought it to include in my library and have it around to turn my friend onto. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Ken Green
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should watch this.
A perfect documentary. This is life on earth. Watch it and learn. Be amazed by the people in this film.
Published 15 months ago by dailymuse
5.0 out of 5 stars A great introduction to current thinking in philosophy
Major philosophers of today presented as real people, interacting with the filmmaker and discussing their ideas. Read more
Published 20 months ago by HemingwayFan
5.0 out of 5 stars Modern philosophy for everyone
My hope is that this film is every high school classroom, watched by every young person around the globe. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Deanna Lee
2.0 out of 5 stars Politics, Not Philosophy
The title of this movie is misleading at best, complete BS at worst. Obviously, the creator of the film didn't take time to examine whether or not her own film was about philosophy... Read more
Published on February 14, 2012 by Radical Libertarian
5.0 out of 5 stars EXAMINED LIFE
Hey Examined life is deep, that is to say it will wake you up
faster than a jump into a cold swimming pool. Read more
Published on November 7, 2011 by James L. Johnson
4.0 out of 5 stars Not philosophy but democracy...
In which the 'examined life' is given over entirely to the democratic prejudices of the super-star professors. Read more
Published on March 3, 2010 by born into this
5.0 out of 5 stars Postmodernism 101
Postmoderns do not view human nature or value systems or civilizations as fixed entities but as flexible functions. Read more
Published on December 22, 2009 by Doug Anderson
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