Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

May 22, 2012


Filed under: Film,psychology — louisproyect @ 7:28 pm

From time to time I get complaints on my blog or on the Marxism list about my movie reviews that are supposed to be some kind of diversion from the really important topics like the declining rate of profit or torture in Bahrain, etc. In my own defense, as if any were needed, I write about popular culture because I am a student of CLR James who was not above writing a book on cricket. And there’s also Ernest Mandel, who wrote a book on spy novels. Plus, who wants to stay limited to the nitty-gritty of the class struggle? There’s more to life than that.

That being said, it is not like I am writing reviews of the latest Adam Sandler movie. Indeed, despite being hairshirt sectarians, the World Socialist website is not above reviewing something like “Titanic”, even though David Walsh dismissed it as “a bad piece of work—poorly scripted, poorly acted, poorly directed.” One thing I’ve learned after having written over 600 reviews in the past 20 years or so, there’s no need for me to weigh in on something like “Titanic”. Life is too short and I’d rather just ignore the “poorly scripted” and focus on offbeat, worthy material that I think lefties would get something out of.

That should suffice as an introduction to “OC87: The Obsessive Compulsive, Major Depression, Bipolar, Asperger’s Movie”, a documentary that opens on May 25th at the Village East. OC87 refers to the mental state of Bradford “Bud” Clayman, the subject of the film and one of its directors:

The title OC87 refers to a state I was in in 1987 when I tried to control my whole world. I literally tried to be independent of everyone and everything around me. If someone would go to make small talk with me, I would remain silent. If someone would try to help me, I would refuse that help. This film is my coming out party, so to say. It is a rebirth for me which I think everybody should have. It is a letting go of the shackles and demons that have haunted me most of my life. It is my personal liberation.

The OC stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, the “shackles and demons” that Clayman sought to overcome by working with a group of dedicated professionals to tell his story. OC does not cover all the bases, however. As indicated in the film’s title, Clayman also suffered from depression, bipolar, and Asperger’s, a Job-like assortment of ailments that kept him confined to a group home for 8 years. While the film is inspirational to the degree that it shows Clayman coming out of his shell, there is little expectation of a happy ending. Instead, the prevailing sentiment of all concerned, especially Clayman, is that life will remain a struggle—something to be expected given the brain chemistry that fate dealt him.

“OC87” follows Clayman around as he meets with medical experts, old friends and with fellow OC sufferers. When he is by himself, he talks into the camera about all the trials that daily life imposes, mostly trying to not give in to his symptoms. While the popular perception of OC–known to many through Martin Scorsese’s biopic about Howard Hughes, a Larry David episode or the detective series Monk—mostly consists of frequent hand-washing and the like, the variety that Clayman suffers from is far more insidious, as the press notes indicate:

Through video diaries, Bud reveals eye-opening glimpses of his inner world, including OC87, an altered state of mind named by Bud and his therapist. “My mind becomes filled with intrusive thoughts that over-analyze every action and idea,” he says. “As my awareness becomes dominated by themes of control and mental commands, OC87 causes me to lose touch with not only my feelings, but also social connection.” It also gets in the way of ordinary living: riding a bus, getting in an elevator, unclogging a drain. As a long standing struggle, OC87 is embedded in Bud’s pent-up confrontation of a former mentor—a moment that‘s been brewing for thirty years.

Clayman’s interaction with others suffering from mental illnesses is filled with both his and his acquaintances good sense of humor. Despite the burden imposed on them, they make the best of their lives, including a psychiatrist who had Schizophrenia (Dan Fisher, MD-PhD), a television daytime drama star with Bipolar Disorder (Maurice Benard, General Hospital), and a radio news anchor with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (Jeff Bell).

Despite the obvious focus on getting through life with a major mental illness, “OC87” is also about the redemptive power of art, specifically film. From an early age, Bradford Clayman was passionate about television and movies, enough so that this became his major at Temple University. After graduating, he moved out to Los Angeles to pursue a career as a scriptwriter or editor, an attempt that was hobbled by his disability. Finally now, after a quarter-century, he has arrived as a documentary director. One hopes that with his success, he will be able to move on to other projects.

Returning to the question posed at the beginning of this review, I would say that I review films like OC87 for the same reason I have been involved with radical politics for 45 years. It is my way of connecting to interesting people whose values I share. While I have never had any interest in getting to know the directors of the garbage now playing at my neighborhood Cineplex, I am delighted to have found out about someone like Glenn Holsten, one of “OC87”’s directing team. In the press notes, he had this to say:

How have I changed? I have a deeper understanding of and sensitivity to the perhaps hellish journeys that fellow travelers in life may be experiencing in the most common of places—buses, elevators, diners. I have a heightened sensitivity to people I pass on the street who might not be able to look me in the eye when I greet them. I don’t assume to understand how someone receives a message, until they tell me. I have a greater appreciation for my own ability to navigate different social situations. And, as Buddy says in the film, I live with the risk. Working on the film has reminded me of how delicate life is.

Well said.


  1. Wasn’t Mandel’s novel a crime novel?

    Comment by KillBill — May 22, 2012 @ 11:20 pm

  2. I have always distrusted activists who have no interest in the arts of some kind, literature, film, music, something that gets them to integrate their ideology into a cultural perspective.

    Comment by Richard Estes — May 22, 2012 @ 11:44 pm

  3. Going back to the Bolsheviks, people like Trotsky, Bukharin, Lunacharsky. and even Lenin, were all very much interested in literature and the arts and they wrote extensively on these subjects. On the other hand, Trotsky’s habit of reading Proust while attending meetings of the Central Committee was apparently offputting to a lot of Party people and was used by Stalin to portray Trotsky as being too effete to be the new Party leader after Lenin.

    Comment by Jim Farmelant — May 23, 2012 @ 12:57 am

  4. I recently reviewed C.L.R. James’s book on cricket here:


    Comment by El Pelón — May 23, 2012 @ 10:07 am

  5. Film shapes culture. I’m a photographer who
    believes that photos opened up eyes during the Great Depression, wars abroad, poverty and exploitation here. Your reviews play a pivotal role when I take my wife and son to NYCity.
    Keep it up, comrade.

    Comment by Hugh Breyer — May 23, 2012 @ 7:17 pm

  6. Of course there’s nothing wrong with reviewing films. Jesus. One of the nicer things about the Trotsky legacy is the importance it assigns to culture–and films is certainly culture, ain’t they?

    Didn’t Trotsky have a formulation to the effect that what was wanted after bourgeois culture was not so-called “proletarian culture” but rather “socialist culture” which would synthesize both bourgeois and popular culture, going beyond both?

    Re WSWS: Walsh sometimes does very good reviews. He also spoke up with courage and intelligence during the most recent wave of prurient hysteria about Roman Polanski, when it seemed that everyone on the American Internet “left” was calling for Polanski’s assassination with a rusty shank following an ordeal of buggery by prison sadists.

    Comment by Joe Vaughan — May 23, 2012 @ 8:03 pm

  7. There’s nothing wrong with a good and objective film review that shows us what’s out there. Better than what’s on the telly nowadays like the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Orange County, NYC and Atlanta. Yeah that’s what I want to see the plight of arrogant, wealthy women and their so-called problems and claws coming out. Of course as a marxist I have to mention that I don’t understand why this bourgeois idiocracy is entertaining to so many? I’m open to opinions.

    Comment by Deborah Jeffries — May 23, 2012 @ 11:45 pm

  8. Why would anyone assume that Marxists and Socialists aren’t cultured? We just aren’t pompous, arrogant and BOURGEOISIE that’s all lol. Another notation to add is that we don’t spend every waking moment of our lives talking about politics. President Obama and Mitt Romney do that enough for all of us anyways.

    Comment by Deborah Jeffries — May 24, 2012 @ 2:20 am

  9. I don’t understand how a genius like Lou doesn’t get that a film about mental illness is highly political…just sayin’….:)

    Comment by Robert Allen — May 24, 2012 @ 5:13 pm

  10. Comment no.10 Robert I agree the topic is very political especially in the United States which has a bad track record nationally in the treatment of afflicted individuals. They wait until an afflicted person hurts themselves or others, jail them and only then they get the mental health services they need. I think it’s better to preventively treat than the wait and see approach we have here in America to save money (i.e. budget cuts).

    Comment by Deborah Jeffries — May 24, 2012 @ 9:39 pm

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