FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ON THE MOVIE SHRINK
Whether from friends, colleagues, or the web, here are a few frequently asked questions about our film site.
Q. How does The Movie Shrink go about choosing the films it will comment on?
A. There are some accidental elements to choosing films we will comment on, although great care is taken in choosing our two films per month, our twenty-four films a year. We view several more films on which we choose not to comment on in detail. Some of them are briefly commented upon in our Bullet comments section of this site.
The films that are looked at closely in our main section are chosen among the ones that are accessible to us in our city, or on the web, or then again, in a film festival we attend. There is no pretense to say that the films chosen are the most significant current films. But they are part of them. Of course, a great many significant films, in fact, most of them, do not find their way into The Movie Shrink. There are more than twenty-four significant films a year on the planet, of course.
It is taken for granted that if we choose to comment on a film, it is that there is social meaning to it, usually implicit, meaning we try to uncover and understand. But the meaning we will try to understand will not be going in all directions, there will have to be some common thread, some unity to it. Most often, the meaning we will uncover will be related to the elements of understanding we presented in our section on The Movie Shrink’s toolbox. The sources mentioned there can be considered as our keys to understanding films, in this site. Interpretive sociology, Max Weber, Institutional economics, and Marshall McLuhan are, so to speak, the basic ingredients behind The Movie Shrink’s interpretations, along with some others.
Q. How does The Movie Shrink go about in identifying what it considers as meaningful elements within a given film?
A. Although we try to be as explicit and systematic as possible, the procedure is not amenable to the standard procedures of scientific inquiry. At the outset, let us recognize that the films are not chosen randomly, as stated earlier. There is a certain amount of intuition and experience involved. However, once the interpretation is presented, it must be defended and justified in the most objective way possible, it must be able to withstand criticism and contradictory opinions, much like in a court procedure.
The essential goal is the identification of a central theme, expressed in many ways.
This central theme is at the heart of what is looked for. If this central theme seems absent, there is no need for us to go further. In the cases we “come up empty” with, that is to say in most cases of the films we look at before making a choice, the film can have meaning and be socially relevant, even profound, but the hermeneutic method will not yield more than what can be gathered from casual observations. In some cases, the film director is very conscious of what he wants to say, to the point that his film is advocacy for some cause, often political, as in the Costa-Gavras films of the 20th century, intent on revealing governmental corruption in South America and other parts of the world. The hermeneutic method, as we understand it, cannot add much in those cases, as with the documentary approach, where the opinion of the filmmaker is paramount and in a sense self-sufficient.
Q. Are there not as many interpretations as there are viewers?
A. In the view taken here, there is room for different interpretations, and these interpretations, although different, are not necessarily in opposition to each other. In our interactive site (The Movie Shrink's Forum) there will be ample space for other interpretations, other elements of understanding.
However, not all interpretations are equal. There are some interpretations which are, in the words of hermeneutics, « more adequate to the object » or “more sensitive to the object”. Some interpretations are more enlightening. We are not, as suggested earlier, in a scientific procedure, but that is not to conclude that everything is relative. There is the necessity to demonstrate the appropriateness of the proposed understanding and, as stated earlier, to defend it, much like in a trial, where absolute certainty cannot always be attained, and where, yet, a decision is made.
And now, let us turn to some specific films from the home page!