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Short Takes on Film
Ben Nyce | Via Latina

 

Prescribing Trouble
Steven Soderberg’s “Side Effects” is a twisty, complicated psychological thriller about prescription drugs. Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara) accidentally (it seems) kills her husband after being prescribed a new drug by Jonathan Banks (Jude Law), a psychiatrist who attends her after an apparent suicide attempt. Using reflective surfaces and confined spaces Soderberg pulls us into Emily’s disturbed state of mind. We become convinced of her deep distress. Banks’s attempts to defend his shattered reputation begin to turn the film into a detective story, in which he gradually learns to distrust Emily’s representation of her condition. The seduction and dishonesty of Big Pharma are examined in passing. Banks nearly loses his sanity as he moves deeper into the maze. The viewer is apt to become as confused as Banks as the film’s quick fragments pile up. The film’s side effects could occasion spirited debate about “what really happened.”

For those who haven’t seen it, Stanley Kubrick’s “Paths of Glory” is one of the finest anti-war films ever made. Kirk Douglas plays a commander who leads his men in the trenches of WWI and then is compelled to defend them in a court martial proceeding occasioned by their failure to reach an impossible objective under murderous fire. The glory-seeking general who orders the attack then insists that three soldiers be shot as an example. We watch this slow, deliberate procedure as the men are marched to the stake – the slow beat of kettle drums accompanying the outrage. The casting is uniformly superb: Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou and Wayne Morris. It’s an unforgettable film.

Gretchen Schmidt at the Del Mar Library has generously offered to acquire a copy of each film mentioned in this column. The funds come from Friends of the Del Mar Library. Call 755-1666 to check availability.

Ben Nyce taught literature and film at USD. He is author of “Satyajit Ray: A Study of His Films” and “ Scorsese Up Close.”


 

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