Archives for May, 2011


Going Nowhere in Sofia Coppola’s “Somewhere”

SOMEWHERE (2010) is a film where nothing happens, either internally or externally.  With no dramatic action to speak of, no climactic moments or twists, the plot could be summed up in a few dull sentences.  Likewise, nothing goes on inside the main character, Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff), a hard-living actor who lives at a full-service hotel in Hollywood.

Despite random sexual encounters with beautiful women, a couple of parties and a trip to Italy for the opening of his latest film, Johnny has no passion or interest in anything about his life.  As far as we can tell from the outside, he has no interior world.  Throughout the film, except for one scene toward the end, he expresses the same flat geniality, shifting his lips from own "engaging" smile to another while conveying no emotion whatsoever.   He doesn't seem particularly 
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Loving Beyond Projection: “The Enchanted Cottage”

The film The Enchanted Cottage (1945) shows love developing between two people based on their knowledge of one another, in direct opposition to the film Sleepless in Seattle (1993) which shows love between two people who have never even met.

The latter serves to perpetuate certain fantasies that we have about romance: that there is someone out there just perfect for me, that my life will be complete once I meet him or her and, lastly, that I don’t even have to know (or get to know) this person to feel certain they are my soul-mate.

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Defense Mechanisms

Robert Duval in ‘Get Low’: The Lasting Power of Guilt and Shame

This powerfully insightful film begins with a house in flames, and a man running from it with his own clothes on fire; for the next hour and a half, we're left to wonder how this incident relates to the life of Felix Bush (Robert Duval) who has spent the last 40 years as a hermit, concealing himself from the world and shunning contact.  Only in the final moments of the film do we understand that Felix was the burning man who fled; for all the years since, the flames of guilt and shame have been consuming him.

In the second sequence, a small boy throws a rock through the window at Felix's house; when Felix pursues the boy into the barn, his  face remains hidden in shadow -- a perfect image for his faceless existence, a lifetime during which he has not wanted to be "seen."  As do so many people crippled with shame and guilt, Felix defends against those experiences by hiding from view.

At the same time, he lives in self-imposed exile as a punishment for the "crime" he committed.  For years, he has tried to atone for his deeds through this imprisonment; now, at the end of his life, Felix finds that the only way to cool the flames of his conscience is to do the very thing he has avoided all these years -- to reveal himself in public.  And so he plans a "funeral party," to be held while he is still  alive.  He hires funeral home owner Frank Quinn (Bill Murray) and his assistant Buddy (Lucas Black) to mount the funeral.
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Documentary “I Am”: The Conspicuous Absence of the Shadow

I Am, a documentary by Tom Shadyac (Ace Ventura) chronicles his quest to make sense of his life after a serious accident.  He puts two questions to well-known talking heads from diverse fields:  “What’s wrong with the world?  and "What can we do about it?”
The film focuses on quantum physics, consciousness studies and social activism, as well as the effects of consumerism on humanity.  Its simplistic message is that we are all  "one" and that by changing our beliefs, the world in turn will change; human nature is viewed as cooperative instead of competitive.  In my view, human nature encompasses both qualities, and for this reason, I Am appears one-sided, exploring only  the “positive” side of human behavior to support its point of view.

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‘Love and Other Drugs’: Narcissistic Love

Several months before Love and Other Drugs had its theatrical release, I wrote a post about serial romantic relationship addiction on my After Psychotherapy site, inspired by the movie's title.  Now that it has come out on DVD, I've had a chance actually to see it.

Director Ed Zwick has given us a tale of two narcissistic people who take no trouble to hide their manipulative behavior from others but who are saved from utterly empty and selfish lives when love redeems them.  Although the redemptive power of love is one of my favorite themes (see my two-part post on Groundhog Day), in this case the transformation wears the Hollywood imprint a little too heavily.

As in so many romantic comedies, the happy ending feels contrived.  Even so, the film has some interesting insights about what drives narcissistic people and the nature of their attachment when they fall in love.  Along the way, it offers a shallow critique of Big Pharma that gets lost in the graphic sex, snappy dialog and plot twists.

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Anger and Hatred

Exploring the Shadow: Splitting and Integration in “Fight Club” (Part IV)

[Part 4 of a 4-part series]
In Part I, we looked at unlived life in "The Man on the Train," in Part II, at instincts in "Wolf," in Part III, at the Hero and Villain archetypes in "Collateral." Now in Part IV, we'll examine the movie, “Fight Club,” we examine splitting and integration.

Although too violent for some tastes, this film is a great example of how our psyches split into Good and Bad, acceptable and unacceptable. Additionally, it has much to say about contemporary male issues.

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Anger and Hatred

Exploring the Shadow: Hero and Villain in “Collateral” (Part III)

[Part 3 of a 4-part series]
In Part I and Part II, we looked at shadow aspects in our unlived life and repressed instincts, respectively. In this post, we’re going to look at the archetypes of Hero and Villain in the film “Collateral.” (Archetypes are iconic examples of typical and recognizable patterns in human behavior).

Through these archetypes of Hero and Villain, we split people and qualities into “good” and “bad,” what we deem as bad typically, for most of us, being repressed and put into our Shadow. In looking at this movie, we will see an arc of transformation, as our “hero” reclaims some of the “bad” characteristics of the “villain” to become a more integrated and fully developed person.

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