Review of Ken Fuchsman’s Movies, Rock & Roll, Freud: Essays on Film and Music (Ori Academic Press, 2021), ISBN 978-1942431169, 210 pages, paperback, $29.99.

One could marvel at the breadth and scope of Ken Fuchsman’s psychoanalytically and sociologically tinged explorations into cultural signifiers of film, music, and people in his new book Movies, Rock & Roll, Freud: Essays on Film and Music (2021). The essays may at first appear unrelated, creating a sense of wonder at how one places Sigmund Freud and 1960s counter-culture pop music into one volume. But, Fuchsman’s distinctive sensibility and knowledge of the various subjects take the reader on a journey of discovery and insight that enables the essays to feel more uniform and connected.

Fuchsman begins his new book with numerous essays dedicated to the depiction of Freud’s life through the lens of various filmmakers, most notably John Huston and his film Freud: The Secret Passion (1962), then backtracking into Jean-Paul Sartre’s

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rather obscure biographical screenplay about Freud that was to be directed by Huston, which Huston later abandoned in favor of a more commercial screenplay. Fuchsman felt that the Sartre screenplay was an overlooked treasure and deserved a re-analysis. One can only imagine what a better film could have been made if Huston and Sartre were able to come together on this project (both were notoriously difficult to work with).

Using various biographical films, Fuchsman discusses Freud’s rather complicated life and correspondingly his theoretical shift from the Seduction Theory to the Oedipus Complex (around 1895), suggesting that Freud was unable to cope with his ambivalence toward his own father. Fuchsman asserts that this theoretical shift ends up exonerating Freud’s father as well as most others as sexual abusers. Fuchsman sees this shift in Freud’s theory as “paradoxical” and an unreconcilable error in Freud’s judgment given the historical record, hence the chapter title “Greatness and Paradox.”

Pursuing film as the medium of biography, we see in David Cronenberg’s provocative A Dangerous Method (2011), created from John Kerr’s biographical book A Most Dangerous Method (1993), the battle for the future of psychoanalysis. The film depicts the fateful intersection of Freud and his disciple turned traitor Carl Jung as they hash out what it means to be a psychoanalyst. Fuchsman’s unique take on the film emphasizes the sexual power dynamics, Jung’s narcissism in his attempt to dethrone Freud, and Jung’s abusive affair with his patient Sabina Spielrein.

Fuchsman then offers both psychological and sociological analysis ranging from Polanski’s Chinatown (1974), a modern noir classic encapsulating the corruption of the Nixon Vietnam era, to Steven Spielberg’s quest to define what it means to be a “moral man” in films such as Jaws (1975) and Schindler’s List (1995), then more specifically to Spielberg’s often overlooked film The Post (2017), which covers the malignant corruption of the Nixon era and compares it to the Trump presidency. Thematically, Fuchsman finds his way to Arthur Miller’s The Crucible (1953). Although The Crucible is not a film per se, Fuchsman’s piece links to the general theme of the play’s first half: “authority becomes abusive when a mentality of hysteria overtakes a political community and destroys innocent lives” (2021, p. 91).

The second half of the book takes us on a magical mystery

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tour of the 60s counterculture rock and roll in Fuchsman’s standout essay “Forever Young.” This chapter is especially a delight where he searches through and synthesizes the lyrics of dozens of songs, from Dylan to the Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Who, and beyond, finding the heartbeat of the origins and cultivation of the American collective experience of what was to become the counterculture movement. From the broad perspective of “Forever Young,” Fuchsman moves to the singular artistic voice of Paul Simon, breaking down his lyrics exposing how Simon was able to crystallize and chronicle the rise and fall of the American dream. Fuchsman then looks back to the 1950s and the key voices of the rock and roll era, including everyone from Little Richard to Elvis Presley to Chuck Berry, pointing to the notion that rock and toll was a bridge that allowed the youth and people of color the freedom to pursue pleasure and romance. Simply said, rock and roll was “about having fun in a world alternating between conformity and restriction and liberty and opportunity” (Fuchsman, 2021, p. 160).

Fuchsman offers a carefully crafted tribute to the political activist and “eminent folksinger” Pete Seeger, who was at the vanguard of the 1950s Old Left becoming one of the key voices, demonstrating how music can facilitate a political movement. The book ends with another penetrating, comprehensive analysis of mostly post-WWII jazz music called “Jazz, Race and Politics.” Moving from Billie Holiday’s impassioned “Strange Fruit” to John Coltrane’s mournful “Alabama” to Gil Scott Heron’s satirical “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” and so many others, Fuchsman surveys the musicians and songs that in many ways embodied the voice and energy of the American Civil Rights movement.

Ken Fuchsman offers us a unique collection of essays in his new volume Movies, Rock and Roll, & Freud. His view is penetrative and encompassing, using psychoanalysis as a cultural investigative device through which he gracefully dissects, deconstructs, and reveals the hidden meanings behind familiar cultural icons, as well as exposes the thematic underpinning of significant musical trends. Written in a style that is both intentional and compelling, Fuchsman holds the reader’s interest long after the book has been returned to the shelf. A psychologically oriented academic, Fuchsman has found a patient to analyze, and that patient happens to be pop culture. Fuchsman has the audacity and unique skill to put pop culture on the couch. Along with his many other insights, you will never listen to pop and jazz songs from the 50s and 60s the

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same way again.

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Authors:

Jack Schwartz

Dr. Jack Schwartz, PsyD, NCPsyA, is a nationally certified psychoanalyst as well as a faculty member, lecturer, and control analyst for The Object Relations Institute and the NJ Institute for Training while maintaining a full private practice in Northern New Jersey. He is a contributor and writer for a variety of clinical journals and is the author of a psychoanalytic novel called Our Time Is Up (2007). Dr. Schwartz has been a regular presenter for ORI, NJI, and NAAP. He can be contacted at psyjack@msn.com.

How to Cite This:

Schwartz, J. (2022). Putting pop culture on the couch. Review of the book Movies, Rock & Roll, Freud: Essays on Film and Music, by Ken Fuchsman. Clio’s Psyche, 28(3), 384-387.

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