For Examined Life, filmmaker Astra Taylor collected nine of the world's great thinkers, took each to a place that holds resonance for their central concerns and, for the most part, just let them talk. It's a simple approach that would seem to be effective on first glance, but it ends up revealing the limitations of a union between deep thoughts and a standard documentary format.

For Examined Life, filmmaker Astra Taylor collected nine of the world's great thinkers, took each to a place that holds resonance for their central concerns and, for the most part, just let them talk. It's a simple approach that would seem to be effective on first glance, but it ends up revealing the limitations of a union between deep thoughts and a standard documentary format.

On a walk through the park, Avital Ronell discusses ethics and conscience. Peter Singer hits the diamond district for thoughts on the direct and implied ethics of consumerism. Ecological ethics are covered by Slavoj Zizek (the subject of Taylor's first film) in a trash facility, and Cornel West spins his tale of the primordial funk in the back of a New York City cab.

Taylor's film works as a mixtape on modern philosophy, but the 10 minutes of screen time she gives each contributor feels like it just scratches the surface. And her efforts to illustrate their ideas with obvious cutaways (such as consumers with shopping bags in Singer's section) suggest a simplicity that doesn't jibe with the subject.