Category Archives: Shrink at the Flicks

What is the psychology behind the characters, plots, and emotional resolutions in popular classic and modern films?

The Times presents our guest columnist Dr. Alvin Burstein, Professor Emeritus, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, to help answer these questions.

Dr. Burstein currently serves on the faculty of the New Orleans-Birmingham Psychoanalytic Center where he moderates their Film & Discussion Series.

Undine/Ondine – A Double Feature

by Alvin G. Burstein Antedating contemporary concerns about extra-terrestrials, many cultures have some variant of fascination with sea-dwelling humanoids, and feature tales about interactions between them and earthlings. Often they focus on sexual allure and associated danger. Examples are the  sirens that require Odysseus’ crew to bind him to a mast to keep him from […]

Quo Vadis, Aida?

A Review by Alvin G. Burstein In Michael Ignatieff’s 1993 book, Blood and Belonging, he explores a phenomenon described by Freud in his 1921 essay, Group Psychology, i.e., the capacity for closely related peoples to hate one another. Ignatieff chose to examine that notion by interviewing individuals in several  contemporary warring groups, including those in […]

Words on Bathroom Walls

A Review by Alvin G. Burstein When I moved to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville to direct the graduate program in  clinical psychology, my wife, who had graduated from that program, was eager for me to meet William S. Verplanck. When she began her studies there, he was the department head; during  his tenure, the […]

Elephant Song

A Review by Alvin G. Burstein When I was a fourth grader, my favorite aunt came to stay with us, awaiting bed availability for her in a psychiatric unit. She was in the grip of an involutional paranoid psychosis and the change in her terrified me. A pearls and white gloves, sweet-talking southerner, she was […]

Come True

A Review by Alvin G. Burstein This movie, an indie, the second effort by Anthony Scott Burns, who co-wrote, directed and filmed it, won favorable attention at Canada’s 2020 Fantasia Film Festival, and a positive rating by the rating accumulator Rotten Tomatoes. Ever since my childhood encounters with the Gothic tales of Edgar Allen Poe […]

Two of Us

A Review by Alvin G. Burstein This subtitled French film, available on Amazon Prime,written and directed by Filippo Meneghetti, is a debut effort that packs a jarring punch. Its exploration of a passionate relationship between two women at an age some French would delicately call “certain” shatters any presumption of attenuated sexuality in the elderly, […]

Citizen Kane

A Review by Alvin G. Burstein A lifelong addict to Conan Doyle’s fictional accounts of Sherlock Holmes, I am generally intolerant of those adaptations that clash with my images of the sleuth and his trusted Dr. Watson. The bakers dozen or so of Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce were marginally acceptable to me. Their adaptations […]

Citizen Kane

A Review by Alvin G. Burstein In a search for an end of the year movie to review, the spate of Christmas releases didn’t appeal to me. Citizen Kane popped into my mind because of its frequent citation as the all-time greatest movie by both the American Film Institute and its British counterpart. It was […]

The Black Panther A Review

by Alvin G. Burstein Once upon a time, centuries ago, in sub-Saharan central Africa, a group of tribes discovered a miraculous source of radioactivity, Vibranium. The competition for control of the lode was resolved when the leader of one of the tribes imbibed a tea concocted from an herb that the mineral had affected, acquiring […]

Secret Window

Secret Window A Review by Alvin G. Burstein With conventional movie theatres still COVID risky, andhaving subscribed to a new dish based media provider, I havea plethora of movie options. A horror flick based on a StephenKing story and starring Johnny Depp tempted me, despite itsage—it is a 2004 release—and it turned out to be […]


Parasite A Review by Alvin G. Burstein Parasite, a South Korean film, premiered at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, becoming the first South Korean film to win the Palme d’Or. It went on to win four awards at the 92nd Academy Awards (the Oscars), winning Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best International […]


A Review by Alvin G. Burstein This is a brilliant, daring 2019 Russian film directed by KatimirBalagov. It takes the American viewer to a place that many ofus have never been, one in which survival is an openquestion. The circumstance of its actors being unknown to usmakes them more real, gives their anguish more bite. […]

The Plague

A Review by Alvin G. Burstein Any recommended reading list for the COVID-19 era wouldinclude Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year and Camus’The Plague. With theatre going still interdicted because of thevirus, I checked Google for on-line movies of either.Nothing for Defoe. A foreign language version of Camus’work was listed., But, for some reason, […]