Jacques Lacan (1901-1981) is widely regarded as one of the most influential psychoanalysts of the 20th century, one whose work has refashioned psychiatry both as a theory of the unconscious mind and as a clinical practice. His seminars and writings have also had a widespread influence throughout the humanities and social sciences, especially in education, legal studies, literary and film studies and women's studies.
As 'Jacques Lacan Speaks', a rare filmed documentary record of a 1972 university speaking appearance, makes clear, Lacan was also a highly controversial figure, with legions of both worshipful adherents and scornful critics. Appearing before a packed lecture hall, Lacan discourses—in his slow, deliberate, often circumlocuitous speaking style—on such subjects as death, language, psychoanalysis, love, alienation, paranoia and life itself. At one point his talk is disrupted by a young student, who contributes his own Situationist-inspired ridicule of self-styled public intellectuals such as Lacan. Rather than allowing security personnel to remove him, Lacan allows the young man to speak and later attempts to "respond" to his criticisms and to incorporate them into his presentation.
The following morning Lacan submits to a filmed interview, in which he responds to the filmmaker's questions about psychoanalysis.