Friday, January 25, 2008


At times—when I look back on my life—I feel positively feline. In one of my previous lives I was a full scholar for the San Francisco C.G. Jung Institute, helping out with their public programs and serving as Precolumbian consultant to the ARAS Archives. This opportunity lasted nearly 20 years and provided an education I could neither have anticipated nor afforded were it not for my scholarship status. I met and learned from incredible personalities at that time, not the least of which was Dr. John Beebe, whose psychological explorations of films and filmmakers taught me some of the tools I still use to this day in evaluating film. Specifically, he taught me the many ways one can "enter" a film and the role the psychology of a filmmaker has in their creative expression. I remember learning as much about the psyches of Alfred Hitchcock and David Lynch as teasing out psychological particulars in their films.

Committed to his professional practice, it's been a while since Dr. Beebe has taught on film in the Bay Area and I'm delighted to announce that the current Public Programs brochure for the C.G. Jung Institute includes not only a day seminar with Dr. Beebe but two equally intriguing programs in upcoming months.

Cinematic Expressions of the Anima: A Day With the Feminine in Film

Guy Maddin's The Heart of the World and Jean Vigo's L'Atalante are the two films Dr. Beebe has selected to be shown together. Both are recognized film classics possessed of abundant charm, humor, poignancy, and vitality and cherished by connoisseurs; yet since their first release neither has reached a mainstream audience. This is because they challenge conventions of narrative cinema to make room for an expression of the unconscious. They privilege the image over narrative, and they complicate the masculine hero myth with another archetypal pattern, the realization and revaluation of the feminine. Both have strikingly original soundtracks, and both draw anachronistically on silent film techniques. Both are unusually short for the archetypal ground they cover. The first, The Heart of the World, was prepared for the 25th anniversary of the Toronto International Film Festival, is only six minutes long, and purports to offer a founding myth on cinema itself. It was chosen by Vincent Canby of The New York Times as one of the 10 best films of the year 2000, surely a first for a film so short.

The second, L'Atalante, by the seminal French auteur Jean Vigo, is often selected as one of the 10 best films of all time. It tells the story of early days in the marriage of a provincial French woman with longings to sophisticate herself in Paris, to a river barge captain, who plies the river Seine. Her life aboard the barge, whose name is "L'Atalante", is complicated by the presence of a first mate, an old sea salt played by the great French comedian Michel Simon, who has a strong Breton brogue and a possessive attitude both toward the boat and the husband. His belated recognition of the value of a woman to this masculine set-up is one of the most moving transformations ever recorded. With Dita Parlo as the unhappy bride, who manages to survive the mother complexes of the sailors after leaving her own mother following the wedding that is filmed like a funeral.

John Beebe will introduce each film. After each film has been shown in full, he will lead the participants in a discussion of the psychological implications of its imagery, demonstrating what it has to tell us about the role of the feminine in ensouling and centering the self, and about masculine attitudes that block and enable the psyche's ability to manifest wholeness. Dr. Beebe is a member analyst of the C.G. Jung Institute of San Francisco. He has been teaching the Jungian understanding of film since 1981, when he gave his first weekend workshop for the Institute's Public Programs entitled "Film as Active Imagination"—which I attended. His reviews of movies have appeared in The San Francisco Jung Institute Library Journal and Jung Journal: Culture and Psyche, and his articles on film as a medium for psychological expression have appeared in numerous journals and books. This year, with Jungian analyst Virginia Apperson, he will be publishing his first full-length book applying Jungian concepts to the analysis of movies and the movie medium, The Presence of the Feminine in Film. Dr. Beebe's seminar will be held on Saturday, March 22, 2008 from 10:00AM to 5:00PM at the C.G. Institute located at 2040 Gough Street (between Clay and Washington) here in San Francisco. Cost: $125. For further information, phone the Institute at (415) 771-8080.

Chac the Rain God

Next on the Institute's Public Programs film calendar is a Sunday film matinee screening of Rolando Klein's Chac the Rain God, moderated by Jean Kirsch, M.D. This film opens up into yet another of my previous lives when I was a practicing Mayanist. Though enshrouded in academic controversy when it first came out, Chac the Rain God still retains an ethnographic charm and vitality. Several years back (in yet another of my lives) I actually collaborated with The Mexican Museum in bringing Klein up to the Bay Area for a screening of the film at San Francisco's Legion of Honor.

"Myth is our window to the dawn of humanity." These are the words of Rolando Klein, the Chilean director who followed the ancient Mayan creation myth, the Popol Vuh, in creating his film Chac the Rain God. Chac is the fearsome god of rain among the Mayan pantheon, often appearing as the four Chacs, one for each quarter of the universe. He gallops with the wind on a white steed, his sword slashes the clouds with lightning, his thunderous voice splits the sky asunder. With great sensitivity and a grasp of the mythical world of the objective psyche, Klein carries us into the liminal realm that is usually beyond the reach of our senses.

Klein tells the story of a civilization on the brink of extinction, its old beliefs shunned, its ancient rituals forgotten. In a small mountain village populated by descendents of the ancient Mayans, the rains have not come. Without rain there will be no corn; without corn, the people will die. Even their shaman has forgotten what the old ones knew. In the crisis of a drought, the desperate villagers seek the aid of a diviner. "They say there is a man who lives in the mountains, knows the old ways, and speaks the language of the birds." While some believe he is a witch, the elders prevail upon the chief and his captains to summon him. And so they set out upon a journey into the unknown, which will test their courage and their faith, 12 men and one mute boy who is mysteriously drawn to "the one who knows the old ways." Still, there are the doubters, those men whose trust lies with "the white men in the North, who put steel eyes in the sky and see the clouds beyond and know when it will rain." Those incapable of trust in the old ways ultimately prevail, though not before we witness the remarkable motivating power of the myth, as the seer joins the villagers to direct them in a communal effort to re-enact an ancient ritual to summon Chac, the Rain God.

We can be grateful to Rolando Klein for his insight and inspiration, for what he was able to accomplish in 1975 would be impossible today. Shot in a small village in the state of Chiapas, Mexico, Klein drew upon the unschooled villagers to comprise his cast and wrote a script that would be familiar to each of them. Nominally Catholic, the inhabitants of the village of Tenejapa were still attuned to the ancient Mayan stories and were naturally at ease with their roles. Twenty-five years later, he drove on a road to the previously inaccessible village, to find its inhabitants watching TV and wearing jeans in place of their simple woven garments of the past. Thus, Klein has given us an amazing glimpse into a world that has only recently surrendered to our global civilization. This matinee screening will be held at the C.G. Jung Institute on Sunday, April 6, 2008 from 1:00 to 5:00PM. Cost: $25.

Fellini and His Film Satyricon: From Personal Event to Mythical Stories

After having graduated from the C.G. Jung Institute of Zurich in 1965 Peter Ammann spent four years in Rome, where he met Federico Fellini. The Italian film director became an admirer of Jung's work through the influence of Dr. Ernst Bernhard, the first Jungian analyst in Italy. Dr. Ammann met Fellini at a time when Fellini was in the middle of a serious creative crisis. Though not being his analyst, he had the privilege of Fellini's sharing with him at that time numerous dreams which throw a highly interesting light on the interrelationship of "the art and the psyche" of this eminent film director.

Fellini in 1963 had made , the story of a man's—in 1965 Juliet of the Spirits, the story of a woman's—midlife crisis. Both films are inspired by his own life and the world in which he lived. Fellini in 1966 was preparing a film called The Journey of G. Mastorna, which was meant to be the story of a musician who had lost his identity and had to retrieve it during a long and difficult quest. But with this project Fellini found himself at an impasse. It was not possible anymore for him to go on telling stories in the same way he had done in the past. He was full of doubts and uncertainties. He even fell seriously ill. It was in this period that Fellini had dreams that coincide with a turning point in his career as a film director. It was a painful period of transition, which led Fellini away from "personal events" to a realm we could call "mythical stories".

Fellini's Satyricon bears witness to this reversal in his artistic development. It no longer has to do with his personal life, it tells of two thousand years earlier. It was as if Fellini had to distance himself from his own problems. Forced by his destiny, he had to turn towards a more collective, more archetypal dimension. Satyricon is a representation of ancient Rome, a journey through a mythological, pre-Christian world, in which the cults of the Great Goddess played a dominant role.

In this presentation Peter Ammann shall illustrate this change in Fellini's work by showing the entire Satyricon plus excerpts of his films preceding his creative crisis. Fellini's dreams, which he will present and interpret, are no secrets; they are all published in his biographies. Dr. Ammann will discuss the content of Fellini's film which is inspired by two novels from the Roman Antiquity, Petronius' Satyricon and Apuleius' The Golden Ass.

Peter Ammann, having studied music and musicology, trained at the C.G. Jung Institute of Zurich. He is now a training analyst and a lecturer at the International School of Analytical Psychology in Zurich. After working with Fellini in Rome, he became an independent documentary maker. His documentaries include Hlonipa—Journey Into Wilderness; Sandplay With Dora Kalff; and Spirits of the Rocks. He is in private practice in both Zurich and Geneva. This seminar will be held on Saturday, May 10, 2008 from 10:00AM to 5:00PM at the Fantasy Studios in Berkeley. Cost: $125.

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