Dr. Sandra Cohen, a Beverly Hills psychoanalyst, writes about your favorite film, TV, and book characters
and their real human problems.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917 – 1963) was assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22. 1963. I was sixteen years old when his murder was announced over the loud speaker in my high school English class. School was dismissed. I walked home along the train tracks with a close friend, both of us shaken by the suddenness of death. Leo Hurwitz’s Essay On Death speaks to death’s randomness. Of course, JFK’s murder wasn’t random, but the fact that death can come out of nowhere at any time means that we live constantly with the fragility of life. At the same time, we...

Martin McDonagh’s darkly comic and deeply painful Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri gives us a tough look at how anger and blame is one (ineffective) way of trying to handle very difficult feelings. We have Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand), a bereaved mom: hardened, blunt, feeling uncharacteristically helpless, and furious about it. The town’s much loved and dying Police Chief, William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) has gravely failed, in her estimation, to pay sufficient attention to the brutal rape and murder of her teenage daughter. What else is there to do, but take matters into her hands? Then, there’s the counter-phobic, racist,...

Leo Hurwitz’s film, Here At The Water’s Edge, features the 1960 New York City’s waterfront. Made with photographer Charles Pratt, the film is a cinematic poem to the people who work on the water. Pratt, who largely financed the film, made it possible for Leo to use his vision as an artist and filmmaker while the blacklist still over-shadowed his life and ability to work in other areas. Here At The Water’s Edge, a film without narration, draws our attention to the often-neglected life in, on and around water – as well as bringing into view what workers on the...

Forgetting is a dangerous thing. Yet we sometimes forget when remembering is too painful. Because we can’t, or don’t want to remember, history repeats itself. Freud knew this well when he discovered the repetition compulsion. But, I think the endnote of Leo Hurwitz’s The Museum and The Fury is the best reason for remembering. If we forget: “History is the echo of an angry scream.” Leo Hurwitz was meticulous about truth. He never forgot, even when the immediacy of the horrors of WWII were behind us. He knew (and he would see the dangers now in 2017) that many in our...

This Piece is Written By Manfred Kirchheimer with Edits By Tom Hurwitz The first tape recorders were stolen from the Nazis. Enter John T. Mullin and Bing Crosby. Just after the Allies’ victory in Europe, Mullin was investigating a rumored secret German radio-wave ray for the US Army. He came up dry on the ray, but found two portable tape recorders and a bunch of recording tape, both of which were virtually unknown outside of Germany.  Bing Crosby (no dummy) put up the initial investment to bankroll the Ampex Corporation and it’s line of tape recorders. A revolution was in the...

The Young Fighter begins with a tough Brooklyn narrator’s voice. Tough as the boxing world is tough, tough as Ray Drake’s manager and trainer are tough; tough as the decision Ray Drake had to make. Would he become the Champ his manager and trainer were bent on making, or the family man he also wanted to be? And, why did it have to be an either/or choice? In the fighting world, with the necessity of financial backing for the slightest chance at success, who owns Ray Drake - him or THEM? These questions are the centerpiece of Leo Hurwitz’s The Young...

Leo Hurwitz’s powerful 1948 WWII documentary with its ironic title Strange Victory explores this question: “If we won, why do we look as if we lost? And, if Hitler died, why does his voice still pursue us through the spaces of America’s life?” It is a very strange victory to be sure – when we successfully fight the violent effects of discrimination and persecution in Germany but come home to open expressions of hate in our own country. Why can’t we seem to solve it? Leo’s film gives us vital clues to hate’s tenacity as well as the purpose that...

Life doesn’t shatter in an instant, but it can seem like it when you live in a delusionally “happy,”  thumbing your nose at all kinds of rules, sort of “fun.” This is the stuff of mania and mania teeters on a very delicate balance; it can easily come crashing down. Plus manic defiance is no real way to have an identity or live a life – and it’s certainly no way to be a mom. There’s a delightful freedom of self-expression in Sean Baker’s Florida Project and in the freewheeling and loving relationship between six-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) and her...

The Making of Native Land Leo Hurwitz’s Native Land is a 1942 expose of repressive forces against labor organizing. The film is based on the La Follette Civil Liberties Committee’s (1936-1941) 65 volumes of testimony to the Senate on their investigation. The investigation’s results couldn’t be more troubling. The Committee found that both Pinkerton and William J. Burns Detective Agencies sent spies to infiltrate labor unions and to report on members considered adversaries to the interests of business owners and corporations. What happened to those union members, who were only exercising their civil rights, is the subject of this film. Leo told...

Where is home? That’s the complicated question at the heart of Garth Davis’ film Lion, for a lost, bewildered, illiterate, scared, traumatized, stoically brave, and lovingly gentle 5-year-old boy, Saroo (Sunny Pawar). This little boy accidentally finds himself on a train taking him far, far from home, where he can’t speak the language, and has no one to help him find his way back. As this touching, heart-wrenching, inspiring film unfolds; finding home is what a very determined Saroo Brierley (Dev Patel) will finally do – 25 years later. Lost Saroo and his older brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) set out one night...