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

 “Leo Hurwitz's task in life: creating and practicing the documentary film tied intrinsically to the quest for human freedom, liberation, equality, and truth.” Tom Hurwitz, Leo’s son. In 1926, Leo went to Harvard. This was quite an achievement for the Jewish son of working class immigrants, yet remarkably in line with the family’s intrinsic belief in equality. Leo’s unusual intelligence and literary interests didn’t escape his sister Eleanor’s fiancé, Paul Anderson, in his own last year at Harvard. Leo had inherited his father, Solomon’s, passion for ideas and his mother, Eva’s, creativity. At New Utretch High School, he was editor-in-chief of the...

Baby (Ansel Elgort) wants to change, but … stop running? That’s easier said than done. Especially if you’re a sweet, loving, sensitive kid (that’s Baby in Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver), whose cruel dad is responsible for your mom dying as you sit helplessly watching. What do you do with those terrifying memories? You grow up and you drive fast; blocking out the constant reminders that ring in your head with the sweet music (or any music) of that mom you lost. You drive; better than most people; better than your mom could, since she couldn’t avoid that one fatal accident....

Memories and fantasies originating in childhood influence the course of a life as it unfolds. So do childhood experiences. If someone has a strong creative spirit, as Leo Hurwitz did, these impressionable early times find powerful forms of expression in their creative work. This is certainly true for Leo. Leo’s films speak for those abandoned by the societies they live in and for those who have no voice. We already know Leo’s family of origin had a strong social conscience. Yet, what are some of the personal, early, even unconscious sources leading to Leo’s passion? Thanks to direct quotes from family...

PTSD always follows trauma. No traumatized person is “strong” enough to escape it. Yet, for complicated reasons, Post Traumatic Stress symptoms are too frequently off everyone’s radar, particularly the radar of the one suffering. The reasons are both straight out of the DSM-V and very individual. Jeff Bauman’s story in David Gordon Green’s powerful new film, Stronger, with Jake Gyllenhaal’s deeply moving performance as Jeff and Tatiana Maslany’s complex and engagingly real portrayal of his girlfriend, Erin Hurley, is a good place to start understanding what happens after trauma. ...

Leo Hurwitz (1909 – 1991), pioneer documentary filmmaker, was part of a small group who founded America’s documentary film and invented the social documentary form. According to his son, Tom Hurwitz, Leo’s films “exemplified a new way of making films about the real world, and about ideas that help us to understand it. He and his group saw these films as an antidote to the films of Hollywood that gave the audience dreams of escape.” Leo’s films spoke to various human rights concerns; problems he became aware of, early in his life, growing up in his socially conscious family. Leo...

The environment? Really? Narcissism is more like it. I’m sorry, Darren Aronofsky. I wouldn’t in a million years think Jennifer Lawrence’s character in Mother! is supposed to be Mother Earth if I hadn’t read an interview with you. But, even so, she isn’t exactly an earthy type of woman bountifully giving to everyone and then having her loving nature plundered and destroyed. She’s much more a naïve, undeveloped, easily replaced, beleaguered young wife trying to be good enough and self-sufficient; at the mercy of the self-obsessed poet/writer (Javier Bardem) she’s married to. Let’s not forget, we as the audience are watching the...

Leo Hurwitz (1909-1991) is responsible for developing the social documentary form in the early 1930’s with a small group of other documentary filmmakers. This creative work initially came out of his involvement with the Workers Film and Photo League in New York City. As a socially conscious documentary filmmaker, devoted to human rights and exposing the fascist forces that undermine basic human freedoms, Leo’s early films (Heart of Spain, Native Land, and Strange Victory) particularly addressed these concerns. The House Un-American Activities Committee blacklisted Leo during the McCarthy era for his affiliation with the Communist party and, although his filmmaking...

Where does Wind River’s Jane Banner, FBI Agent, (Elizabeth Olson) fit into the mix of marginalized Native Americans and a white Game Tracker (Jeremy Renner) with a significant loss of his own? And, who was she anyway, coming out of nowhere in all her conspicuously dissimilar blonde beauty? We never really know. The film, with all its poignancy, sadness, and brutality left me with this one big question (one I thought would be answered, but wasn’t): If Jane Banner was so passionate in her desire to find the killer, what happened in her own history to make that so? What...

Director Jean-Marc Vallee’s film, Demolition, stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Davis Mitchell, a man who tragically loses his wife in a sudden car accident. If you haven’t seen the film, Demolition is a must watch to understand the subtleties of this post and, more so, the intricacies of Davis’ reaction. This is a film about a man’s difficulty feeling grief and what it takes for him to finally get there. Clearly – Davis has a troubled response to the loss of his wife, Julia (Heather Lind). He feels nothing. He tells the doctor he’s numb and, in his daydream, his diagnosis is...

Trauma. We know it. We experience it. We're left with its aftermath - when Director Paul Verhoeven's "noir thriller," Elle, careens to its conclusion. Leaving the theater, my mind was spinning.  As Verhoeven says, the film has: "an enormous amount of ambiguity, gaps that are in the narrative on purpose for the audience to fill in.” He didn’t want to fill them in: “in a Freudian way.” As far as I'm concerned, the film is much too disturbing to be left without an understanding of exactly what transpired on the screen. That’s what I’m here to do. Elle begins with a brutal rape....