Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Night at the Museum III - The Reluctant Psychoanalyst Bids Robin Williams Farewell

Night at the Museum has been a fun, if not very demanding, franchise.  Starring Ben Stiller, our neurotic hero, and special effects that take us on crazy tours of museums in the US and Europe, the third and final film boasts a fine ensemble cast and two final performances by stars - a very brief one from Mickey Rooney and a poignant one by Robin Williams.  The film seems to follow the "Save the Cat" Hollywood formula that I have just discovered - which is based on a book about how to write screenplays.  In case I am not the last on the planet to discover it and you, too, have been in the dark about it, briefly it is a formula in which the hero, mood and tone of the movie are established in the first 10 minutes (including when the hero "Saves a cat", getting the audience clearly behind him - perhaps as Stiller does by confronting his son who is refusing to go to college, but also by recognizing his son's need for independence), the hero then faces some life changing event (in this case the ancient Egyptian tablet that brings the museum to life is deteriorating), then, at 25 minutes or so in, the hero leaves the old world for a new one, a second plot is introduced that is a mirror image of the first, and the fun and games commence.   Here, the hero travels to London, sneaks into the British Museum, and searches for the exhibit that contains the answers to how to fix the tablet, with the mirror plot being the search that his small companions take through the heating ducts within the museum where they have been sucked by the power of the air recirculating system.

At or about the midpoint of the movie, according to the "Save the Cat" rubric, the bad guys close in, and the hero must face them - in this case with the help of Sir Lancelot, who - though not actually an exhibit in the real British Museum - helps Stiller fight off a nine headed Chinese serpent - also not an exhibit in the real museum, and adds a bit of mayhem, becoming, himself a threat for a period of time - which leads to the crescendo - which should usually occurs at about 75 minutes into a 110 minute film.  Called the "dark night of the soul", which seems a bit melodramatic for this bit of fluff, all seems lost until a solution emerges (which I won't give away in case you haven't seen the movie).  By 85 minutes the crisis is resolved, the secondary plot merges with the primary plot and the last 25 minutes involve dispatching enemies in hierarchical order.  All neat and tidy, except that it is about mortality - and the limits of our ability to exert influence on the ways that things go, especially in other's lives.

In order to say farewell to Robin Williams, I will have to give away some of the particulars.  Williams portrays Teddy Roosevelt in this film as in the other two (actually I can't vouch for the second as I don't think I've seen it).  He is a wax figure who comes to life at night due to the magic of the tablet.  In this film, he and other favorites from the Natural History Museum in New York accompany Stiller to London to solve the problem.  The solution to the problem means that those who are from New York must, at the end of the movie, return to a sleep from which they will never awaken.  Stiller has to reinstall them in the museum and say good bye to them.  Knowing as we do that Williams will shortly die, this is a particularly poignant moment in the movie - one in which Williams, who has been incredibly restrained, for him, throughout the film, tells one last joke on parting from Sacajawea, his love interest, noting that despite their saying it could never work out because he was made from wax and she from polycarbonate, their love has triumphed.  The line was delivered with what, perhaps with the wisdom of hindsight, seems to be great wistfulness and sadness.

Google, in its year end greeting, noted that the searches for Mrs. Doubtfire were the ones that exploded in the wake of Williams' death.  This movie (one that seems as I review it in my head to also have followed the "Save the Cat" format - apparently most do),  captured Williams' humanity - his wish to connect with people - that his humor seemed to simultaneously fuel and prevent.  We were drawn to his manic humor because it was amazing - he could hold us spellbound with his ability to turn something as simple as a scarf into a shawl, a rickshaw, a violin and whatever else might occur to him in the space of 2 or 3 minutes, creating or accessing a wealth of characters as he did so.  This let us in, but also kept us apart as we viewed him, as we do all entertainers to some extent or another, as an object.  But the fluidity of his thought; his ability to jump from here to wherever at the drop of a word or expression lent new meaning to the term free association - his comfort with his unconscious and the power of that unconscious - and his seeming effortless conscious control of the material so that he could channel it within bounds was awe inspiring - and therefore distance creating.

There was also a sense of naïveté that his characters expressed - the radio DJ in Good Morning Vietnam comes to mind.  In that film, his character believed, on some level, that the US was doing good to and for Vietnam - and that because he had befriended particular Vietnamese, that he was doing them good.  There was visible shock that registered when that friendship, legitimate though it was, turned out to be much more complex - and built on foundational levels that he did not in that moment have access to - and it would take much time to achieve appreciation.  This was certainly a message about America's role as a superpower and our blundering belief in our ability to do good in cultures and places where we have no knowledge, something explored by Graham Greene in The Quiet American as well - but it was also as if Williams, and here I am blurring the actor with his characters, was still Mork, come from another planet, and somewhat confused about how it is that things work here.

So this film, with a subdued seeming Williams playing a wax character - one that feels somewhat removed, observant, but not active - could I say depressed? - seems to be offering, we can imagine, a weird fun-house mirror picture of the person; someone who was struggling with his current TV show - one that felt heavy handed rather than funny - as if the Midas touch of being able to see the absurdity of things was becoming a burden - something to throw in people's faces rather than something to laugh at with them - as if he stood on the other side of a barrier rather than on the same side of that barrier with us.

I never knew Robin Williams, and for that reason I can't ethically offer a diagnosis of him, and I don't intend to be doing that in this blog.  Instead I mean to be wondering - and I do think that we need to wonder about something like suicide, which we are programmed by millions of years of evolution, and the joy of life - to avoid - we need to wonder what causes someone - especially someone as full of wit, conviction about the importance of family, and a naked desire to connect with others - to choose to end his life.  Why do we, who share those attributes, though to a lesser extent, consider suicide ourselves?  Why are we depressed when there is so much wonderful stuff that life has to offer?

I think there is a sense of isolation - a sense of being made of an essentially different substance, that may have been part of Williams' depressive experience.  I also think there may have been some anger - some significant frustration that all of his talent, all of his ability did not give him something that he desperately desired.  I assume that to be a kind of love - a kind of connection - that he felt to be out of his grasp.  I also think that the onset of a progressive illness - one that would rob him of his ability to be as physically fluid and ultimately as cognitively fluid as he was used to - may have angered him.  I don't know any of this - it is a guess.  But I do wonder about the role that anger played in his suicide.

In a small instance of life imitating art, I could not convince the reluctant son to join us for the film.  Despite it being the case that he has enjoyed the first two installments, he has decided that he does not like going to movies, so we were not able to have the family outing experience that I had hoped for.  It was frustrating.  Certainly less so than if he decided that he didn't feel that he needed to go to college.  Perhaps we need models like the character that Ben Stiller was playing to help us think about managing our wish to control our lives and the lives of those around us.

Perhaps also we need to question the Hollywood formula of overcoming adversity with a specific formula.  I have often compared movies to dreams, and think that the Save the Cat formula, present in so many movies, while bankable, constrains our dreaming capacity.  In fact, we need to learn how to manage limitations - and dreams, and movies, can, if we let them, help us with that.  But we have to trust that our audience wants catharsis - that they want to see that their heroes have limitations and live within them.  While this movie let's Williams character go with grace into the night (or day - it is daylight that robs him of his living quality), the end of his actual life does not feel so graceful.  He played characters who gave voice to important positions that were not popular, and they always seemed to be able to triumph on the moral level if not always being able to best the powers that be, though sometimes they were able to do both.  Perhaps it was too much to ask that he do this in his life as well as on screen.  

To access a narrative description of other posts on this site, link here.     For a subject based index, link here.

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Saturday, December 27, 2014

All The Light We Cannot See - The Reluctant Psychoanalyst Reads a Novel about WWII

This is a book about stuff.  It begins in the Paris Museum of Natural History, where the blind daughter of the locksmith, Marie-Laure, hangs out while her father works.  His job is to protect with keys and locks the stuff - and there is lots of it around.  There are mollusk shells, and gems, and dinosaur bones and stuff, stuff, stuff from all over the world.  And one of the things in the museum is rumored to be incredibly powerful - and therefore incredibly valuable, especially as the Nazis approach Paris.  It is a diamond - called the Sea of Flames - that is cursed.  The owner will live forever, but those the owner loves will endure endless misfortunes.

This is a book about media.  It begins in a coal mining town in Germany where a technical wizard named Werner lives in an orphanage run by a French Nun with his sister after his father was buried alive in the mines.  He is able to make a radio out of bits of wire he finds in the trash and it brings into his life music, the propaganda of the third Reich, and lovely stories broadcast in French that describe to children how the natural world is constructed and address some of the precocious questions this very bright boy asks.

The book alternates from chapter to chapter between these two children, growing up worlds apart, but also lets us know that their fates are linked - they will meet, briefly, in St. Malo, a storybook city in seaside Normandy the girl runs to with her father when they flee Paris entrusted with the Sea of Flames, to hide it from the Nazis.  A city that will be destroyed by the allies as they work to retake France.  And a city that Werner will be directed to after he uses his radio skills to perfect triangulation as a means of finding and destroying radio operators in the field because Marie-Laure's uncle, the St. Malo resident to whom she fled with her father - and the very person who broadcast the lovely stories that Werner tuned into, is now broadcasting intelligence to the allies.

For a period of time the book bounces not just between the two children, but also adds in chapters about the Fuehrer's gemologist - the man pursuing the Sea of Flames.  Initially he is in pursuit of it to add it to the collection that will be housed in Berlin of the great things of the world - though this is the kind of thing (in High School I read a book about the Spear of Destiny that Hitler tried to acquire) that Hitler would have wanted to personally own.  This man, dying of cancer, becomes obsessed with the idea the that the gem will cure him, and he does not care about the cost: we are briefly introduced to his family, who would be cursed were he to achieve his goal.  His pursuit becomes indicative, then, of not just the pursuit of Hitler, but of the German people who sell their souls to the devil in order to dig themselves out of a very deep pit that the First World War has left them in - the same pit that has imprisoned Marie-Laure's uncle in his home - fearing to leave it because of the ghosts who have haunted him since his own horror in the trenches.

So, this is a nicely told story - one that weaves together various elements to create the seemingly inevitable - perhaps only so in retrospect - denouement where all three characters come together at the same place and same moment in time, as the rage of war rains down around them.  This meeting was more suspenseful than it sounds here - and felt chancier - more daring - and certainly more dangerous than I am able to give it credit for because I would like to focus on something that feels less central to the thrust of the narrative, but that this story may represent more viscerally, and that is our transition from the material world as our grounding and resonant point to the world of ephemera - one that is largely driven by electronic representations of others rather than material ones.

In Freud's view of the development of the infant, he was confronted with a dilemma.  Why does the child become invested in the world around him?  As infants, our needs are met by caregivers.  We don't have to do anything and they materialize.  What leads us to give up this cocoon like world in which others adore us and we adore being alive and cared for (he called this primary narcissism)?  His answer was a simple one, that the child, driven, somewhat tautologically, by drives, invests in the things that gratify his drives.  These things, from Freud's perspective, happen to be people, but later writers, most notably Margaret Mahler and then Daniel Stern in The Interpersonal World of the Infant proposed that it was not by accident that we get invested in people, but by design - and that our development is intrinsically caught up in connecting with and investing in our relationships.

But we shouldn't throw the old man out.  We don't just invest in people, we also invest in things - in stuff.  We will work for stuff - certainly for money - but to be able to acquire things.  And when we meet a kid, he or she will frequently show us some of his or her stuff as a means of introducing him or herself.  Maybe, through some kind of convoluted pathway, they have invested in the stuff because their dependence on others has been disappointing, but the stuff is always available, but maybe it is also because the stuff has been given to them by the others and they feel some kind of connection to the others through being connected to the stuff - and maybe just because the stuff is neat and they like to play with it and therefore it is a representation of their passions and what they have invested their passions in - and maybe for all of these reasons and more - kids will hand people their stuff as a way of introducing themselves.

The world of stuff, then, is a complex, interesting, psychologically charged world.  Marie-Laure lives deeply in this world - she is drawn primarily to the mollusks and loves to feel their shapes - but more than just the dead mollusks which she organizes by shape and size, she ends up being drawn to the living mollusks - the snails which, as an adult, become her life work.  She manages to invest in both the shells, but also the inhabitants of them.  She uses the stuff as a means towards connecting more and more closely with the world around her.  A world that is viscerally but not visually available.

Werner lives in a different world.  One that is peopled by disembodied voices.  He leaves his sister behind to go off to camp because of his radiological gift.  There the propaganda becomes no longer disembodied; it is shouted by his fellow campers and brutally enacted.  He sees the impact of the propaganda on his friend - a bird lover and quiet soul who doesn't belong in a camp to train future soldiers and pays dearly for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Werner, who understands and, I think, loves both his friend and his sister ultimately fails them both through the very human sin of being concerned about his own hide.  And the vehicle to safety - the stuff that will protect him - is the electronic world of radio - a world that can carry lovely voices opening up the world, but also propaganda that warps many of the minds of those who hear it.

So Marie-Laure, it seems to me, is living in the world of my parents.  They were children of the depression, but also children of an era in which stuff got infused with meaning.  Gifts were given, and the giver was remembered each time the gift was used - whenever an event occurred - like it started to get dark - and the "lamp that Uncle Wes and Aunt Nancy gave us for our wedding" was used, or simply in the act of putting on the sweater that Mom had given me that Christmas and I could feel the warmth not just of the wool, but of her choosing this particular object for me so that it reflected who I was - so that it fit and was of value and use to me.

Werner, on the other hand, seems to reflect the world of my children and my students.  They snap-chat the latest experience to each other, knowing that it will be swallowed up and disappear in a heartbeat, and the triumph of knowing what is going on now seems to trump the fact that the picture will be gone never to be seen again.  Books, which hold an almost sacrilegiously sacred place in my psyche, seem to have almost no pull for my students - the idea of building a professional library is anathema to them.  And why, it seems to me they seem to wonder, am I assigning books for them to read - especially books by people who wrote 50 or 100 years ago, when they can access summaries of the work at the flick of a finger from anywhere at anytime?

It is as if my students don't need to know, when they are sitting with a patient, something deep and timeless about the human condition - something that is unpredictable that they need to know at that moment, but something that they can glean from these books, that they may put into their own internal system that is searched, not by subject or author but by feeling and intuition - by an associative network that is richer and deeper than anything Google will ever create.  But I think that I have gotten derailed by a rant - for I, too, am drawn in by TV - to watch the ephemeral - and I have lost much of my earlier attachment to stuff - especially as there is more stuff seemingly than there ever was - and more distractions in terms of demands on time - much of it from electronic sources - and these sources, when they are embodied - whether as the cell phones themselves or laptops or even TVs seem outmoded only moments after they impress with the new and brilliant ways that they present information.  It seems to be the information - the knowledge - and the connection with the people who are snap-chatting, with the wisdom of the people on Instagram and Vine and Twitter and Pinterest who are concisely and wittily summing up what is important, what is of interest, this kind of knowledge, is what is important.

So this book, read on this level, becomes a morality play about the ways in which things - like the Sea of Flames - protect us but endanger those around us.  Marie-Laure, who ironically doesn't even know what she possesses, survives the war, but loses the people that she loves, indeed she loses the entire city that surrounds her while her home, and she within it, miraculously survives and is protected by someone whom she grows to love.  We could expand the metaphor and suggest that the Sea of Flames engulfed all of France in the war - drawing the Germans to her wealth.  France survives, but does so by enduring endless misfortunes.

Werner, on the other hand, is drawn not by things, but by things as a means of connecting with others and, through the machinations of the Third Reich, of using that connection as a means of killing others - sometimes, perversely and unintentionally.  The dead in no way deserve the death that he has inflicted.  He is haunted by his misdeeds, and does what he can to undo them - to do right by those he encounters now and to provide what he can to those whom he has left behind.

The after story of this novel nicely allows both Werner and Marie-Laure's stories to move forward in time, through a period not torn by war, and to come to somewhat peaceful conclusions.  The fate of the stuff - the fate of the Sea of Flames - is left up in the air.  Marie Laure has tried to leave it behind, but it haunts her 'til the end, and we don't learn its ultimate fate.  Werner's connections with those he loves are traced - they were not erased by his pursuits nor by the propaganda that his machines transmitted.  Quite the contrary, he seems to have remained connected, in his heart, to the people that he has left behind - and to the person, Marie-Laure, he has just met.

The author's final vignette explicitly includes the modern world of electronic connections.  Marie-Laure's grandson is playing a video-game - something she cannot see, but can sense his investment in - and she can sense his return to being engaged with her once he has been killed in the game.  He is also connected to stuff - anticipating his twelfth birthday, he is looking forward to being able to drive the moped.  And he is connected, deeply connected, to Marie-Laure.  Perhaps the author is trying to overcome his (and/or my) reservations about our entering this brave new world.  A world that is populated by electronic strands that knit us together - with each other, but perhaps also with those who have died - or perhaps we have all died a bit as we have connected through the ether to people who aren't really people but just opponents against whom we test our ability to quickly press a button or our knowledge of trivia or whatever we are doing at the moment with whoever is out there.  Perhaps we use these media to draw ourselves into the world - as Freud postulated we invest in things in order to emerge from our primary narcissistic state - but we certainly also use them to return to a narcissistic world; a world where we are inert - infantile - and entertained by the images flickering in front of us.  Even if we have moved from a world that was only filled with stuff to one that is also peopled by various ghosts, we still face the same tension - the same dilemma of how to invest ourselves in moving forward when there are so many siren calls that promise forward movement while actually delivering solipsistic emptiness - as destructive if misused as any world war that was driven, at least in part, by the wish for stuff.      

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Birdman (or the unexpected virtue of ignorance) - The Reluctant Psychoanalyst Reflects on Narcissism at the Movies

Michael Keaton, the washed up actor who played Batman years ago, plays Riggan Thompson, the washed up actor who starred in three Birdman movies when younger and who is now making a comeback attempt on Broadway with a play that he wrote (adapted from a Raymond Carver short story), is directing and starring in.  The movie doesn't just imitate art in having an actor play himself - in a role that may earn the washed up actor an Oscar nomination - but it competes with Broadway as "legitimate" theater - taking us behind the scenes as Birdman goes through the paces of putting itself together as a play - giving us the illusion that it is shot in one long scene - that it has the form of a play instead of a movie - it appears seamless, without cut scenes and multiple takes - while noting that the play, unlike the movie, is an unfinished mess that morphs and changes as it limps towards an opening that could be glorious or gloriously ignominious; upsetting the New York prejudice that film stars aren't actors or confirming it beyond a shadow of a doubt.

One of the many nice things that is captured, then, is the manic quality of living on the edge between despair and elation; powered by the twin engines of the wish to show off and the fear of being exposed, that seems to be at the heart of the narcissistic striving that we all, to some extent, engage in.  The artist - and in so far as this movie is art, the actors, the director, and the crew are all engaged in an artistic process - living, at least according to this film, on that edge, and as they portray living on that edge (we would have to see the documentary to know if they are), we fear the edge can't be held and that the movie and the play within it will careen off into something self indulgent and distracting or something simply bad (and there are a few moments where it does this) - that it will collapse and not be art, but schlock.  But it maintains that if it doesn't live on the edge between greatness and self indulgence - which it does - then it can't be art.

In psychoanalysis, when you present the work that you are doing with a patient to an audience of analysts, there is nothing more denigrating than for another analyst to say than the work that you are doing is not analysis, just as there could be nothing more devastating than for the critic to predict that she will say (as she promises to in one of the penultimate scenes) that the play is not art.  Because she threatens to pan the play out of pride - for New York - for Broadway - for the art of serious acting; something that the star-making power of Hollywood corrupts absolutely - at least in her mind; it is not a true criticism of the actor or his art.  So he is, in some weird sense, protected from her criticism, but he does not experience this in the movie.  What he expresses is anger at her - and fear that her review will ruin him - he says financially, but we know that it is more that he will feel himself to be false and small - and, like the character he plays in the play within the movie, that he will not exist anymore without the play's success, which he believes depends on her to determine.

The irony of the critic's criticism is that no one knows the corrosiveness of becoming the star more than he; he battles with his Birdman persona - the part of himself that is not the role but the Birdman himself - the one who has superpowers - on a daily basis.  Indeed, in the wake of the critic's devastating news, he goes on a bender that is followed by a full fledged immersion in the experience of being Birdman - he and we are convinced that he is the superhero.  This star turn distracts him from the task at hand - which is not to be Birdman, but to portray someone who, it turns out, is quite vulnerable; not protected by the magic shield of being the star or the superhero.  To translate that back into the world of the psychoanalyst - it can be difficult for the analyst who can create analytic magic and perform a true analysis to know that he is not the magician - to know that the magic is occurring in the mind of the analysand - just as the magic of the movie/theater is actually occurring in the mind of the viewer who is watching the film/play, not in the hands of the actor who is calling that experience up.

So, the perfect foil for Riggan is Mike - played with incredible manic zeal by Ed Norton.  Mike is Broadway.  He lives for the stage.  Riggan's superpowers - he can apparently levitate and perform telekinesis - only occur when no one is looking.  When people come into the room, it no longer looks like he is directing things to fly into the walls, but that he is throwing them.  Mike is the exact opposite - has no power off stage, out of sight of others.  He needs to be in front of an audience to express his superpowers - which are considerable - his performance is stunning.  Concretely, though, he hasn't been able to get it up with his girlfriend, who also plays his lover in the play within the movie, for months - but does so for the first time when they are on stage and he proposes having sex with her - and attempts it in front of a full house - emerging from beneath the covers with a very apparent erection, as Riggan bursts in finding him in bed, in the play, with Riggan's ex - which leads directly to Riggan's suicide and the end of the play.

We witness the suicide scene three times - once after the erection, again the next night after Riggan gets locked out of the theater with only his underwear on, has to run through Times Square to enter the theater from the lobby and do the scene as he walks down the aisle - and on opening night, when he knows that the Times critic is going to crucify him.  Each iteration becomes more real as we see the convergence of the player and the role.

We learn more about Riggan in part by seeing the interactions between he and Sam, his daughter, played by Emma Stone.  Sam's mother divorced Riggan over one of his many infidelities - yet she remains connected to him and cares about him.  She also cares that Sam connects with her father in ways that Sam never has.  So Sam is working as Riggan's assistant on the play.  And she has a scene with Riggan where she points out the double edged nature of fame.  She begins with a task that she learned in rehab - she shows him a roll of toilet paper with pen marks for each thousand years and the last sheet contains all of human history.  So what Riggan does, she maintains, will be of little consequence.  On the other hand, she points out, he is so antediluvian that he does not have a twitter account nor even a Facebook account; he is too outmoded to be a star.  So, even though on the grand scale Riggan can't do anything that will matter, he is also incapable on the scale that she, and he, know and measure.  (Of course Riggan's underwear clad romp through Times Square will be you-tubed and trend and be reported in the news, showing that there is some play left in the old boy).  Later in the film, almost to underscore that he is not the guy - that Mike is the guy - she takes up with Mike after Mike's girlfriend dumps him, in part over the sex on stage incident (fear not for the girlfriend, she takes up with Riggan's girlfriend, the fourth actor in the play within the movie - everybody sleeps with everybody in this film...) and now we have another iteration of Mike being in bed with someone that Riggan would have love him.   The tragic element is that Riggan can't quite see that the love he so desperately desires will come more easily if he actually sees and appreciates the person his daughter is becoming, as Mike does, rather than to focus on making himself the person she will desire.

The play is a tragedy, but would Hollywood tolerate that in a movie about itself and its ambitions?  Can the analyst accept his own limitations?  In one of the taped analyses that I review as part of my research, the analyst is older.  He is confronting his own mortality.  And this leads him to focus on his superpowers instead of the experience of the patient.  Weirdly, despite knowing that the analyst was not doing analysis, we rated his work quite highly.  Why?  I think there are many reasons - perhaps including our own wishes to avoid identifying with the aging analyst - but I think the dominant reason is that he was practiced enough to engage, technically, in the analysis.  He was following the rules.  But the music wasn't happening.  I fear that this film disappoints because it does not confront the malignant nature of this kind of narcissism - this self love that occludes making real connections.  Or maybe it succeeds in showing us how we live in a culture - whether that is the culture of Hollywood or the microculture - in my case the psychoanalytic subculture - that promises us superpowers if we dedicate ourselves to the terrible master that each of our particular cultures can become.

Hollywood has long told us - since at least Citizen Kane - that the star is immortal - and that the tragic wound - the remembered happy world that our ambition and the ambitions that others have for us has dragged us from - makes us appealing characters.  Orson Welles, though, had the courage to face the idea that all of his talent - all of his charisma - all of his magic does not allow him to change the fundamental parameters - and that these very gifts are also despotic and demanding tyrants who will, sometimes even despite our best efforts, destroy our efforts to be human as we are lured into being superhuman.  What this film articulates, perhaps better even than Kane, is the way in which the adoration of the other - whether an individual, a critic, or an audience - is so necessary to maintain self cohesion.  That the essence of narcissism, even in its most difficult forms, is not the armor that it provides, but the vulnerability to annihilation, an annihilation that none of us - actor, analyst or Indian chief, can avoid.  This movie's answer to the dilemma is to keep working on the armor.  I think it is more difficult, more humbling, but also more likely to bear fruit to deal with the universe as it is - and to live with rather than deny the resulting vulnerability to annihilation that we do, in fact, inevitably face.

To access a narrative description of other posts on this site, link here.     For a subject based index, link here.

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What is Porn? A Psychoanalytic Reaction.

I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description ["...