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Washington Center for Psychoanalysis

September 21

The Piano Teacher (La Pianiste) (2001)(130 minutes)

How far is a man willing to go to be with the woman he wants? Erika (Isabelle Huppert) is a veteran piano instructor at a famous music conservatory in Vienna. Erika is highly respected for her remarkable  talent and strong discipline, but she's also known to be a harsh taskmistress and does not suffer fools gladly; among her students,    Erika's class is considered a highly rewarding challenge, but difficult to weather. Erika seems to get her stern and unforgiving nature from her mother (Annie Girardot), with whom she still lives, and without a husband or a lover.  Erika discovers she has attracted the attentions of one of her students, Walter (Benoit Maginel), gifted and good-looking young man  who does not seem at all put off by her icy personality. 

 La Pianiste was shown in competition at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival, where Isabelle Huppert and Benoit Maginel were named Best Actress and Best Actor, and writer/director Michael Haneke received the Jury's Grand Prize.     

Discussant:  Tarpley Long, MSW

October 19

The Diving Bell and The Butterfly (Le Scaphandre et le Papillon) (2007)

(114 min) 

Jean-Dominique Bauby, the real-life editor of the French fashion magazine Elle, suffered a pontine stroke at 43 that left him with “locked-in syndrome” – complete paralysis of all his voluntary muscles except for those of the eye and eyelid. The film is based on Jean-Do’s remarkable memoir of his illness, dictated with 200,000 eye blinks to his amanuensis. While this prison became a kind of "diving bell" for Bauby -- one with no means of escape, his solace lay in the "butterfly" of his depthless fantasies and memories. Neoexpressionist artist Julian Schnabel’s film is about the life of the mind, unencumbered by corporality, about the possibilities of desire, and about the limits of realization. Given its premise, it might come as a surprise to discover that this film is entirely engaging, lyrical at moments, ironic, giving.

Discussant: Robert Winer, M.D.

November 16

500 Days of Summer (2009) (95 min)  

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel star in director Marc Webb's wry, nonlinear romantic comedy about a man who falls head over heels for a woman who doesn't believe in love. Tom (Gordon-Levitt) is an aspiring architect who currently earns his living as a greeting card writer. Upon encountering his boss' beautiful new secretary, Summer (Deschanel), Tom discovers that the pair have plenty in common despite the fact that she's seemingly out of his league.  Before long Tom is smitten. All he can think about is Summer. Tom believes deeply in the concept of soul mates, and he's finally found his. Unfortunately for Tom, Summer sees true love as the stuff of fairy tales, and isn't looking for romance. Undaunted and undeterred by his breezy lover's casual stance on relationships, Tom summons all of his might and courage to pursue Summer and convince her that their love is real. 

Discussant:  Angela Martin, MSN, CS-P

January 18

The Man Who Loved Women (1977) (104 min.)

Scientist Bertrand Morane, "never in the company of men after 5," seduces women by evening and writes about the experiences in the early morning. Though 40ish and somewhat square, no woman in the town of Montpelier seems capable of resisting his earnest advances. Not much else happens in The Man Who Loved Women, but in the hands of master visual storyteller François Truffaut, the threadbare plot accumulates deep and ominous philosophical resonances.  A deceptively simple film, The Man Who Loved Women is neither an indictment nor an apology for philandering; rather, it's a courageous, lovingly detailed portrait of a complex, intelligent man suffering from an altogether intractable complaint. 

Discussant:  Marcario Giraldo, Ph.D.

February 15

The Night Porter (1974)(118 min)

Max (Dirk Bogarde) is a discreet, unassuming night porter working in a posh hotel in Vienna in 1957, tending to the guests' needs, from ice water to a bed-warming gigolo. Then Lucia (Charlotte Rampling) arrives at the hotel, on the arm of her husband, an American conductor, and their past comes flooding back to him. It turns out that Max, as revealed by flashbacks, was an S.S. officer  at a Nazi concentration camp where Lucia was a beautiful 15-year old prisoner and Max's sexual slave who was protected by him.  Now, years later, their reunion shatters both of their lives. Lucia stays in Vienna after her husband travels on and they renew their former sadomasochistic relationship. His former S.S. comrades have been "filing away" witnesses to obscure their culpability. Max tries to keep Lucia's existence a secret from them but they eventually discover her. They consider her a threat and they urge Max to turn her over to them.  Max and Lucia hide out in his apartment in a regressive sadomasochistic state while his former friends keep a threatening watch. 

Discussant:  Bruce Sklarew, M.D.

March 15

That Obscure Object of Desire (1977) (100 min)  

Adapted from Pierre Louys' 1898 novel La Femme et le Pantin, That Obscure Object of Desire is the 30th and final film from the great Luis Buñuel. Recounted in flashback to a group of railway travellers, the story wryly details the romantic perils of Mathieu (Buñuel favorite Fernando Rey), a wealthy, middle-aged French sophisticate who falls desperately in love with his 19-year-old former chambermaid Conchita. Thus begins a surreal game of sexual cat-and-mouse, with Mathieu obsessively attempting to win the girl's affections as she manipulates his carnal desires, each vying to gain absolute control of the other

Discussant:  Richard Waugaman, M.D.  


April 5

Elegy (2008)  

Cultural critic David Kepesh sits in his ivory tower, divorced from any romantic or familial entanglements -- until the sultry 24-year-old daughter of Cuban exiles reawakens his sense of sexual excitement in this well-acted drama.  Adapted from author Philip Roth's novel The Dying Animal, director Isabel Coixet's elegant tale of obsession explores the relationship between a highly respected professor (Ben Kingsley) and an impossibly gorgeous grad student (Penélope Cruz). As their relationship deepens, the professor finds his ego challenged by the girl's enchanting beauty. Dennis Hopper and Patricia Clarkson co-star. 

Discussant:  Julio Szmuilowicz, M.D.