Friday, March 5, 2010

Academy Awards 2010

Daunted by the Academy’s nomination this year of ten films for the honor of Best Picture, some that I might still choose to never see, I will not be blogging about the nominees this season [despite my great love for the Coen Brothers and for Tarantino] in this category, save one, Up in the Air. I will also say something about A Single Man, of which I think the Academy mistakenly failed to include as a nominee for Best Picture, along with their oversight of Julianne Moore for Best Supporting Actress.

When one in the psychoanalytic field thinks of trauma and loss, one thinks of the idea of a relational home which serves to mitigate both. Shelley Doctors notes that Relational therapists are attuned to how two together interact, what is uniquely co-created from this interaction, and, yes, what meaning is made of it. Being in relationship with another can facilitate the capacity of being with; being with our painful feelings, and, as Doctors, adds, the perception of the other as receptive creates an atmosphere “in which experience may be known and shared;” what Hazel Ipp says permits “ a sense of release, revitalization, and enhanced connection.” Robert Stolorow also intimates the importance of a relational home when he writes that “Painful emotional experiences become enduringly traumatic in the absence of an intersubjective context within which they can be held and integrated.”

Up in the Air (directed by the very adroit Jason Reitman of Juno and inspired by the novel by Walter Kirn) is about a hired gun (George Clooney), who performs the dirty work [no, this is not Michael Clayton again] as the firing agent for companies which, though downsizing, want to avoid breaking the heart-breaking news to their soon to be former employees. Ryan Bingham (Clooney) is connected to no one, has no significant other, and has little contact with his family of origin. Nonetheless, he almost blithely dispenses advice and encouragement, and solves problems on a need to need basis. Many of those devastated by job loss in this film are portrayed by people who are not actors but who have lost, in their real lives, their jobs. It is somewhat precious that they now get to respond to their, albeit fictional, hang men. What is most striking about these real people are their explanations, at the end of the film, about what kept them going despite the loss of a huge part of their days and identities: unequivocally it is their loved ones, their relational homes. This is in vivid contrast to Bingham, and to George Falconer ( A Single Man).

In A Single Man (adapted from Christopher Isherwood’s novel and boasts fashion designer Tom Ford as first time director), Falconer (Colin Firth) has lost a sixteen year emotional home when his lover was killed in a car crash. The victim’s family, eschewing its son’s homosexuality, did not even allow Falconer to attend the funeral of his beloved. And, because this is 1962,because Falconer is a teacher (professor at a California college), or perhaps just English, he must keep his homosexuality a secret, both falconer and captive falcon. This culturally and self imposed isolation leaves him consequently having no one, save Julianne Moore, with whom to share his loss. There is no relational home which might serve to mitigate overwhelming grief.

While Up in the Air aptly captures the cold starkness of hotel rooms (even those upgraded for the million, or ten, mile club) befitting of a man unconnected, A Single Man has the beautiful cinematography of a period piece (1962! with JFK and finned cars), sometimes shot in black and white, sometimes in dreamscape. Is it strange that I found both movies so uplifting? Bingham, for his temerity and generosity despite having no current connections? and Falconer for his ability to see beauty moment by moment despite, perhaps because of, a great loss?

Lycia Alexander-Guerra, MD

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