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.

Everything Everywhere All At Once

A Review by Alvin G. Burstein, PhD Spring break at the University of Texas at Austin has become the occasion for a conglomeration  of presentations of interactive media, music and films called South by Southwest. Five films  were featured at the 2022 festival. One, Everything Everywhere All At Once, dominated the  awards, winning Best Picture, […]


A Review by Alvin G. Burstein, PhD The heroic comedy Cyrano de Bergerac, written by Edmond Rostand in 1897, has had a  remarkable impact. Coquelin starred in the original 1897 stage version at Theatre de la Port  Saint-Martin in Paris. His performance was a triumph; the audience applauded for over an hour  after the final […]


A Review by Alvin G. Burstein, PhD From Ida Tarbell’s exposé of Standard Oil, to Upton Sinclair’s critical exploration of the plight of  packing house workers, to Ralph Naders’ blistering attack on automakers, America has a rich  tradition of what has become called “muckraking.” Some will see Andrea Arnold’s documentary  debut, the 2021 movie Cow […]

I’m Your Man

A Review by Alvin G. Burstein, PhD This self-described Rom Com surprises with its wit, and its depth. The frothy wit with which it  abounds is contrasted by flashes of tragic despair. German written and acted, with subtitles, directed by Maria Schrader, it more than merits its many awards. The female lead, Maria Egert, won […]


A Review by Alvin G. Burstein, PhD This 2007 film begins in pre-World War II Britain. It has two foci of action. One is Briony Tallis,  who bookends the film, appearing first as a thirteen-year-old, precociously involved in writing a  play, and again, three or four decades later, as an established writer. She is being […]


A Review by Alvin G. Burstein, PhD This is a film you should see. Don’t be put off by its eponymous title or by its starring Nicholas  Cage, with his predilection for operatic excess and personal foibles. I am not going to say much about the movie’s content, because it is a film to experience […]

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 […]