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Forrest Cardamenis’ Top 10 Films of 2013

Written by on December 31, 2013 

5. Before Midnight (Richard Linklater)

It’s hard to imagine that 1995’s story of one-time love would birth two of the most vivid characters in cinema. So well do we know Jesse and Celine that when they talk about events we haven’t seen, something seems to be up. And there is something up: Before Midnight, more than a continuation of a relationship, is a look at modern parenting and generational shifts and changes, an experiment on the way time and detail accumulate, and a pondering of the worlds that continue to exist even as the film that gave birth to it comes to a close. Richard Linklater’s direction is also at its strongest here — he finds ways to leave an air of mystery about our central characters, to create a world that bursts out of the frame with details, and to make the walk-and-talk more dynamic than it was in Before Sunrise and Before Sunset.

4. You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet (Alain Resnais)

From the opening scene, in which a group of actors receive the same telephone call through a series of dissolves, it’s clear that Alain Resnais has not lost his edge. Here, he continues to reckon with his common themes of time and memory, of the common and disparate ground of theater and cinema, but he also attempts to display the transcending powers of art. Resnais works from a pair of Jean Anouilh plays, but even when the film immerses itself fully in the theatrical world, You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet looks and feels like cinema.

3. The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese)

When was the last time a film this good came out of Hollywood? Above all else, this is an absolute tour de force in filmmaking craft: Martin Scorsese, with the very visible assistance of longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker, tells a brilliantly structured story that, through a great use of voiceover and flashback, calls our subject’s stories into question and places him both inside and outside the diegesis in a way that allows viewers to question not only his authority, but also his representation. All the Scorsese trademarks are here, from the stunning tracking shots to the brilliant use of pop music to the dark comedy, and it all amounts to the most fun you will have at the movies for quite some time—at a tick under three hours, this one doesn’t run a second too long.

2. Closed Curtain (Jafar Panahi)

I can’t say much more now than I did in my full review, but Jafar Panahi’s Closed Curtain is a thrilling meditation on—literally—the liberating powers of cinema, an exploration of where hope comes from, and a chilling cry for help. What begins as a fiction slowly reveals itself to be a visualization of one filmmaker’s creative process, as well as a more fleshed out exploration of what constitutes a film and how digital technology can impact filmmaking that Panahi examined in his previous work, This Is Not A Film. That this one still doesn’t have a distribution deal is a travesty.

1. Upstream Color (Shane Carruth)

Easily 2013’s most original film, Upstream Color combined the year’s best editing and sound design to create the most transcendent cinematic experience in quite some time. 10 years after Primer, a sci-fi film that was more concerned with being a mindbender than utilizing cinema’s natural language, Shane Carruth has moved forward by leaps and bounds, proving that he is fully aware how disparate elements, from sound to color to editing, can operate individually and/or together to craft an utterly unique and meaningful viewing experience. Trying to give a plot of even thematic summary of Upstream Color in a few short sentences is a fool’s errand, so in lieu of attempting to do so, I’ll simply say that you should watch it. Now.

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