Friday, May 23, 2008


Spent last Monday in the city at poet Ray DiPalma’s, visiting with him and L. A. poet and translator Paul Vangelisti and poet and psychologist Nick Piombino (who had to leave early for an appointment with a patient).

The talk was good, about books and poets and authors and Hollywood and movies and art and Shakespeare and Fellinni and Beckett and Joe Brainard and L. A. and Manhattan and Brooklyn and Jersey and Italy and Ireland and all the interests that bind us beyond being close in age and poets.

Before Nick left, he mentioned the David Mamet movie HOUSE OF GAMES and said it was one of the best movies that deal with the field of psychology and wondered what I thought of it.

I couldn’t remember if I’d seen it or not. Mamet’s movies often hit me that way, their intricacies sucking me in and leaving me a little bewildered and wondering about them and what I think of them and then, not long after seeing them, they disappear into the recesses of my brain and I can’t remember what they were about exactly (with the exceptions of GLENGARY GLENROSS and STATE AND MAIN).

But I thought I hadn’t seen it at first, and Nick was passionate about it and about getting my take on it when I did. When Nick finished raving about it, I looked at Ray and knew we both had the same idea, that my next alphabet film list should be of movies with psychiatry or psychoanalysis as an integral part of the story.

So last night, unable to sleep because I ate too much chocolate too late in the day and it was playing my nervous system like “Johnny Ramone” played guitar, I came up with one (which includes HOUSE OF GAMES as I now remember that I did see it, but will have to see it again to be able to comment on Nick’s reaction to it, and could have included every Woody Allen movie but I controlled myself):

CLEAN AND SOBER and CRUMB (this documentary on R. Crumb doesn’t specifically involve psychologists or psychiatrists on screen as I remember, but the need for some help—and the reference to misused or not enough help—with mental problems is overwhelming)
DAVID AND LISA (the original black and white early 60’s documentary style independent flick proposing a different take on teenage mental problems other than the 1950s’ lock’em up solution)
EQUUS (Richard Burton as the shrink makes watching this at least once worth it)
FREUD (ditto Montgomery Clift)
GIRL, INTERRUPTED (ditto Angelina Jolie)
I NEVER PROMISED YOU A ROSE GARDEN (wasn’t crazy about this, but couldn’t think of any other “I”)
K-PAX (one of my top all time favorite actors, Jeff Bridges as the shrink)
NOW, VOYAGER (soapy but one of Bette Davis’s most fun performances as her shrink helps her break out of her ugly duckling spinster image and blossom into the glamorous Bette!)
PRESIDENT’S ANALYST, THE (pretty silly but fun)
QUILLS (not exactly dealing with Psychology in the modern sense, but this well told tale of De Sade;s imprisonment in an asylum shows how far we’ve come, or haven’t)
REIGN OVER ME (worth it just to see Liv Tyler play the therapist), and RAMONA! (at least that was the last name I saw it under, a very independent flick c.1990 in which I play a crooked, tennis playing, Bevery Hills bad guy shrink!)
SPELLBOUND (the surreal dream scenes in this Hitchcock flick haunted me as a kid)
VERTIGO (the therapy is minimal but the aftermath is maximally engaging)
WHAT’S NEW PUSSYCAT? (not great, but pretty accurate satire of certain ‘60s tendencies)
Z ?


Unknown said...

The Bell Jar movie? Sybil, wasn't it Sally Field?

Lally said...

You're right, and both good suggestions, which reminded me of another I forgot, SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER with Elizabeth Taylor as beautiful as she ever was and Montgomery Clift as her doctor!

AlamedaTom said...

Wow Lal -- you are getting old. Don't you remember that when you were living in Santa Monica and I was visiting you, you took me to the premier of "House of Games," midst loads of celebs? Rememeber on the way out of the theater, Goldie Hawn LITERALLY ran into me and apologized.

Anyway, I love House of Games, and Mamet. Looking forward to seeing his latest, "Red Belt."

Lally said...

Yikes! I am gettin' old. That and maybe having packed a lot of lives into this one, so far.

Anonymous said...

Lal--Here are some other candidates for your psycho film list:
"Psycho," of course. Then there's Brando as the shrink in "Don Juan DeMarco." Sidney Poitier is Stuart Whitman's shrink in "The Mark." There was a British sleeper in the mid 60s called "The Paranoid." And you have to include the two classics about psych hospitals, "The Snake Pit," and "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest." And how about the DTs sequence in "The Lost Weekend"? Bob Berner

Lally said...

I meant to put DON JUAN DEMARCO on the list. It did come into my mind the night I thought it up. I don't think I know THE MARK or THE PARANOID. I thought of THE SNAKE PIT and opted for SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER instead, and ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCOOK'S NEST I though of too, but couldn't remember if there actually was any psycholigists or psychiatrists in the flick, just "Big Nurse" etc. and PSYCHO I had the same reaction to, but they both should be on the list, you're right. THE LOST WEEKEND isn't a bad idea either. I wonder what Nick thinks.

Lally said...

Ray DiPalma emailed me three others I left off: A FINE MADNESS with Sean Connory, one of my favorites, can't believe I forgot that one, and DRESSED TO KILL, the Brian DePalma flick in which I was an extra, so should have remembered that one too. Also KING OF HEARTS, which I had thought of and several others mentioned, but which, as I remember it, didn't have much to do with shrinks and the whole idea of psychology/psychiatry treatment etc. But it was about mental patients, and made Alan Bates a star, at least in my household at the time (my first wife Lee loved the film and him).