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Image Credit: Albert Finney in John Huston's Under the Volcano (1984)

How do Hollywood films inform and educate on two of America’s most critical issues?

This survey course explores the artistry of eight defining motion pictures that shape our views of addiction and its impact on the individual and the family, as well as routes to possible recovery. View and discuss the films and their casts, directors, novels and other sources, in both historical and contemporary contexts.

  • The Lost Weekend (1945)
    Oscar winner Ray Milland stars with Jane Wyman in Billy Wilder’s 1945 Best Picture/Screenplay. The classic, based on Charles Jackson’s harrowing novel of a chronic alkie.
  • Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
    Alcoholic pr exec Jack Lemmon pulls his wife (Lee Remick) into alcoholism. He finds recovery, she doesn’t in Blake Edwards’ powerhouse 1962 drama with Jack Klugman.
  • Under the Volcano (1984)
    Albert Finney is the alcoholic counsel, Jacqueline Bisset is his wife, in John Huston’s stark 1984 drama set in Mexico, based on Malcolm Lowry’s novel. With Katy Jurado.
  • Drunks (1997)
    Writer/director Peter Cohn’s riveting AA meeting in Times Square: Sharing are Faye Dunaway, Dianne Wiest, Richard Lewis, Parker Posey, Howard Rollins, Spalding Gray.
  • A Scanner Darkly (2004)
    Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, Robert Downey Jr. in Philip K. Dick’s chilling drug opus with a live-action/animation fantasy overlay. Richard Linklater directs.
  • Lou Reed's Berlin (2008)
    Julian Schnabel’s uber-artistic filming of Lou’s concert at St. Ann’s Warehouse (2008), performing his 1973 LP of the German model Caroline’s heroin addiction and fall.
  • The Bridge (2006)
    Eric Steel’s 15 cameras covered the Golden Gate Bridge 24/7 through 2004, catching 23 of 24 suicides. His heart-rending doc reveals 7 backstories of booze, dope, pills.
  • Julia (2008)
    The astonishing Tilda Swinton as a no-holds-barred drunk (and child abductor) in this bruising, virtually unseen 2010 drama. Swinton’s performance is utterly fearless yet hopeful.

Brief Bio

Kurt Brokaw is Associate Teaching Professor at The New School and senior film critic of The Independent magazine (

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