Hollywood movies as a microscope for family and intergenerational relationships

By Michael Fortes

A new six-week community education course on how movie directors and screenwriters deal with gerontological topics will begin next Wednesday, October 27, as part of the UCSF Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI).

Open to the public, the course is designed to stimulate and inform adult learners.

Class topics include familial relations and social interactions as one ages, financing health care and assisted living, and how the aging process is viewed in France. The “microscope” for examining these issues will be the medium of film. Selected films will be viewed for salient scenes that will form a basis for lecture and discussion.

Classes will meet from 7 to 8:45 pm on Wednesdays through December 8 at the UCSF Medical Sciences Building Lobby, 513 Parnassus Avenue, San Francisco. Tuition for the full course is $85. For more information or to register on-line, visit http://lifelonglearning.ucsf.edu, or call (415) 476-2557.

The title of the course is “Science and the Cinema: Hollywood’s View of Family and Intergenerational Relationships.”  Class topics and dates are:

* OCTOBER 27/ “Calendar Girls”—A group of middle-aged housewives agree to pose au naturel for a calendar in order to raise money for a worthy cause they want to support. The film examines the stereotypes we have about our bodies as we become mature adults, how those physical stereotypes impact us socially and psychologically, and the effect on our relationships.

* NOVEMBER 3/ “The Dead”—Based upon James Joyce’s classic novella, this treatment of the work was one of John Houston’s last films. We see the importance of family and friends as support systems among characters advancing in age, and reflections on “lost love” among those characters in middle age.

* NOVEMBER 10/ “King Lear, Part I”—Peter Brooke’s famous adaptation of Shakespeare’s master work stars Lawrence Olivier. The first session on this film will focus on the early acts of the filmed play, on the family relationships between the main character, the aging, despotic king, and his progeny.

* NOVEMBER 17/ “King Lear, Part II”—In this session, the deposed king loses his worldly goods through his own pride, but gains self knowledge and the realization that he is loved through trials and sufferings which he endures.

* DECEMBER 1/ “Harold and Maude”—This “black comedy,” starring Ruth Gordon, will examine uniquely American stereotypes about aging. The discussion will include intergenerational relations and friendships.

* DECEMBER 8/ “A Sunday in the Country”—This little-known French film released in the late 1980s is a work of art in terms of its visual beauty. It is the story of an aging painter who is visited at his home in the country by his family. The film begins with sunrise, ends with sunset, and looks at the artist’ s relationship to his family and how people deal with visions for themselves which they abandon as they age.

UCSF Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) is a community education program for adult learners sponsored by the UCSF schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy, the UCSF Medical Center, the UCSF Public Affairs department and the University of California Academic Geriatric Resource Program. The program is supported in part by a grant from the Bernard Osher Foundation.