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Cheifetz, P. (2020). Terry Firth 1939-2019. Canadian J. Psychoanal., 28(1):133-134.

(2020). Canadian Journal of Psychoanalysis, 28(1):133-134

Terry Firth 1939-2019

Philip Cheifetz

Psychoanalysis and the movies have been strange but loving bedfellows. Psychoanalytic societies in Toronto, New York, Montreal, and Ottawa have all thrived and enjoyed an outreach program that has allowed psychoanalysts to reach out to people who might not have realized the value of clinical and academic psychoanalysis in the dream-like experience of film-watching.

And films are about looking and seeing, where the visual is a sensation that takes pride of place in the panoply of sensations. We do not smell and we do not only listen but we watch and see what is happening before our eyes. Lacan has written about this in terms of film theory when he talks of identifying with the presence that is viewed as well as its absence. Indeed Freud wrote about the importance of the visual in his essay on childhood sexuality in 1905. Sexuality is about seeing and witnessing the other and one's own body, with excitement. Terry Firth was well aware of the power of film and its significance for the psychoanalytic viewer and the non-psychoanalytic film aficionado.

Terry was instrumental in initiating the film and analysis program in Ottawa 20 years ago at least, and inspired meetings with Mary Eleanor Yack, Louise Carignan, Carlos Featherston, and others in order to establish a program that has endured. Terry also was a master at presenting films, not only from a psychoanalytic point of view, but also from a cinematographic and acting vantage point. Terry masterfully presented several films for the benefit of our society and its audiences. In one film, Starting Out in the Evening, Leonard—an aging author who feels that he is a has-been and is beset by his emotional constriction and narcissistic wooden-ness—is visited and seduced by litterateur Heather, who tries to offer him therapy and herself to show him that he is not dying.

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