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Like Someone In Love (#110 of 5)

Slant’s Top 25 Films of 2013

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Slant’s Top 25 Films of 2013
Slant’s Top 25 Films of 2013

From Budd Wilkins’s introduction to Slant Magazine’s Top 25 Films of 2013: “Reports of cinema’s demise, as it turns out, have been greatly exaggerated. Granted, celluloid is about as dead as the dodo, and delivery systems are in flux (pretty soon, audiences will be as likely to catch the latest Hollywood tent pole streaming on their wristwatches as in a multiplex), but the century-old urge to dream another life within the four edges of a frame, to transmute image and sound into something more potent than either alone, remained refreshingly untrammeled. Given the precarious position of the medium, beholden to the ever-shifting tectonics of finance, it’s perhaps unsurprising that many films took the constituent building blocks of their own construction as their theme.” Click here to read the feature and see if your favorite films of the year made our list. And see below for a list of the films that just missed making it onto our list, followed by our contributors’ individual ballots. Happy reading.

Understanding Screenwriting #108: Side Effects, Like Someone in Love, Point Blank, Downton Abbey, Parade’s End, & Smash

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Understanding Screenwriting #108: <em>Side Effects</em>, <em>Like Someone in Love</em>, <em>Point Blank</em>, <em>Downton Abbey</em>, <em>Parade’s End</em>, & <em>Smash</em>
Understanding Screenwriting #108: <em>Side Effects</em>, <em>Like Someone in Love</em>, <em>Point Blank</em>, <em>Downton Abbey</em>, <em>Parade’s End</em>, & <em>Smash</em>

Coming Up In This Column: Side Effects, Like Someone in Love, Point Blank, Downton Abbey, Parade’s End, Smash, but first…

Fan mail: David Ehrenstein, reacting to my comments on Cat Ballou, thought that all the things I liked about the writing and acting came together “thanks to efforts of that controversial new-fangled invention known as the Director.” I didn’t get around to mentioning the director, Elliot Silverstein, because this is one of those films, like M*A*S*H (1970), Chariots of Fire (1981), and Thelma & Louise (1991), that succeeds in spite of its director rather than because of him. Silverstein is very sloppy about where he puts the camera and the acting is all over the place. This was his only truly successful film, and he soon went back to television, where he started.

Side Effects (2013. Written by Scott Z. Burns. 106 minutes.)

Better than Hitchcock. Both Alfred Hitchcock and producer David O. Selznick were interested in psychiatry. In the mid-’40s, Hitchcock persuaded Selznick to buy a novel that was, according to Hitchcock’s biographer, Donald Spoto, “a bizarre tale of witchcraft, satanic cults, psychopathology, murder, and mistaken identities.” (The background material here is from Spoto’s The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock.) Hitchcock presented some ideas on how a movie could be made out of the material to Ben Hecht, who wrote the screenplay for Spellbound (1945). Hecht’s version deals with an amnesiac who replaces a man scheduled to become the head of a mental hospital. The amnesiac is accused of murder and with a helpful female psychiatrist works out his problems. Since she’s played in the film by Ingrid Bergman, he falls in love with her as well. The film was a commercial success, but it’s rather clunky, like many ’40s films about psychiatry. And like many Hitchcock films, it’s less about character than about giving the director a chance to show off. As befits Selznick, the film is a slick production with stars (Gregory Peck as the amnesiac) in a romantic mode.

New York Film Festival 2012: Like Someone In Love

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New York Film Festival 2012: <em>Like Someone In Love</em>
New York Film Festival 2012: <em>Like Someone In Love</em>

Of all the extant versions of the popular Jimmy Van Heusen/Johnny Burke American songbook standard “Like Someone In Love,” filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami goes with the Ella Fitzgerald version from 1957, playing the song twice throughout his new film of the same name. As ever, the divine Ella brings a thrillingly immaculate richness of voice to the song, enhanced by Frank De Vol’s lush full-orchestra arrangement surrounding her. In short, it oozes passionate yearning, which, by stark contrast, isn’t the quality one would take away from Kiarostami’s film. If anything, the emphasis in Like Someone In Love is on the “like” rather than on the “love.”

Whereas his last film, Certified Copy, managed an airy quality that elevated his intellectual concerns with authenticity or the lack of it in art and life into something genuinely soulful and sensual, this Japan-set, Japanese-language follow-up reworks those concerns into something just as visually scintillating but ultimately more downbeat. Instead of a quarrelling couple-that-may-or-may-not-actually-be-a-couple, there’s a young college student, Akiko (Rin Takanashi), who, through her side gig as a high-class escort, meets an elderly writer/translator/former college professor, Takashi (Tadashi Okuno). And the scenic Italian countryside of Certified Copy has given way to Tokyo’s chilly, impersonal metropolis.

Cannes Film Festival 2012: Like Someone In Love

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Cannes Film Festival 2012: <em>Like Someone In Love</em>
Cannes Film Festival 2012: <em>Like Someone In Love</em>

Continuing the international road show he began with Certified Copy, Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami transplants his customary techniques to the soil of Japanese culture with unquestionable success. Kiarostami’s latest plays polyphonies on the twin themes of simulation and dissimulation. Named after an Ella Fitzgerald torch song heard on the soundtrack, an equally appropriate alternative title would have been It’s Only Make Believe. Characters in Like Someone In Love step into various roles as whim and necessity dictate. What at first seems ingenuous, and even playful, grows progressively darker and more ominous, until the shattering finale reveals exactly what the stakes have been in this particular game. Like Someone In Love may bear some of the superficial markings of a comedy, even a romantic comedy Kiarostami-style, but make no mistake, by its final moments the film becomes a startling dissection of masculine jealousy and the capacity for violence.