The popular Searching the Psyche Through Cinema series returns to the Kansas City Public Library with four screenings devoted to the work of Kansas City native son Robert Altman.
Presented on selected Sundays at 3 p.m. from January through April, 2013, in the Truman Forum of the Plaza Branch, 4801 Main St., this series offers four of Altman's most provocative titles. Each film is followed by a discussion featuring experts in cinema and psychoanalysis.
Psychotherapist David Donovan, one of the organizers of the series, says Altman's emphasis on the interrelationships among several characters make his films particularly rich for psychoanalytic study.
"Plot and narrative were less important to him than the relationships between characters and achieving an individualistic and realistic experience of nuance and idiosyncratic personality," Donovan says. "He achieved this ... by often having characters talk over each other, engaging the audience in an effort to understand and interpret what's going on plot-wise. This style very much mimics the psychoanalytic idea that everything is relational and only through careful listening and interpretation can one really understand another person."
Altman (1925-2006) was born and raised in Kansas City and learned about cinema by making training films and other industrial shorts for the Calvin Company. While still in Kansas City he directed the independent features The Delinquents and The James Dean Story.
Relocating to Los Angeles, he found success directing for TV shows like Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Bonanza, Combat!, and the Kraft Television Theater -- though his attempts to make his episodes more challenging and artistic often led to conflicts with the studios and networks.
Branching out into features, he burst onto the scene in 1970 with M*A*S*H (later made into a long-running and wildly popular TV series), and followed it up with critically praised films like The Long Goodbye, Thieves Like Us, and Nashville. In later years he found both critical and popular success with titles like The Player, Short Cuts, and Gosford Park.
M*A*S*H (USA; 1970) on January 20, 2013
Altman became an overnight success with this black comedy about rebellious, wise-cracking Army surgeons working and playing at a field hospital. Though set during the Korean War, everyone who saw it knew it was really about Vietnam. With Elliott Gould and Donald Sutherland. Rating: R. 116 minutes
The post-film discussion will be lead by Alice Brand, psychoanalyst, and Thom Poe, professor of communications and film studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
McCabe and Mrs. Miller (USA; 1971) on February 17, 2013
Often referred to as Altman's "anti-Western," this dreamlike story follows a bumbling gambler named McCabe (Warren Beatty) as he settles into a remote mining town and establishes a bordello with the help of the English madam Mrs. Miller (Julie Christie). But his success attracts the attention of a predatory corporation that sends gunmen when McCabe rejects their offer to purchase his business. Rating: R. 120 minutes.
Post-film discussion with psychoanalyst David Donovan and Corey Antis, assistant professor of painting at the Kansas City Art Institute.
Vincent and Theo (USA;1990) on March 17, 2013
The mutually-supportive but tortured relationship between the troubled artist Vincent Van Gogh (Tim Roth) and his brother Theo (Paul Rhys) is the subject of this drama, which according to critic Roger Ebert "generates the feeling that we are in the presence of a man in the act of creation." Rating: PG-13. 138 minutes.
Post-film discussion with psychologist Barbara Baer and Julie Farstad, professor of painting at the Kansas City Art Institute.
Kansas City (USA; 1996) on April 14, 2013
Shot here in Altman's home town (look for footage filmed in Union Station and in the 18th & Vine and Ward Parkway neighborhoods), this Depression-era story finds a not-too-bright party girl (Jennifer Jason Leigh) kidnapping a drug-addicted society wife (Miranda Richardson). Her goal is to free her petty crook husband, who is being held by black gangster and nightclub owner Seldom Seen (Harry Belafonte). The film is noted for its detailed recreation of the mid-'30s K.C. jazz scene. Rating: R. 88 minutes.
Post-film discussion with psychoanalyst Bonnie Buchele and local jazz musician Tim Whitmer.
Searching the Psyche Through Cinema is presented in partnership with the Greater Kansas City and Topeka Psychoanalytic Center.
Admission is free for all screenings. RSVP at kclibrary.org or call 816.701.3407.